We’ve enjoyed lunch and tea at West Lodge Park, so couldn’t leave it too long before returning for dinner.
West Lodge Park is definitely a local ‘destination’. However, the hotel rooms are good value and the dining options are sensibly priced. Personally, I find the décor a bit corporate but there are plenty of pictures and photographs evoking the history of the place. It’s traditional and comfortable, if a bit sedate.
The Mary Beale Restaurant is named after an ancestor of the owners who was apparently the UK’s first professional female painter. Our recent visit was on a Friday evening with the resident pianist Paul Jaffa tinkling away in the background. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly and the four of us were seated at a round table with views of the grounds.
We ordered from the à la carte menu and the set price table d’hôte menu (two courses: £20, three courses: £25). My starter of juniper cured salmon with lemon purée, horseradish crème fraiche (£9) was delicious, but the six small pieces of salmon were a bit mean, particularly as I felt as though I had ‘traded up’ to it. However one of our friends had the Scottish smoked salmon terrine from the fixed menu which was considerably more substantial. My husband’s Lincolnshire wild mushroom panna cotta (set menu) was very good and reminded me of a savoury brulée I’d had there previously for lunch – really tasty and interesting, although it was fridge cold which dulled the flavours. Another starter from the à la carte, Brixham crab with ciabatta toasts, radish, celeriac remoulade and pea shoots (£8) was a hit across the table from me (too far away to get a discreet photo). A tempting option for next time.
The mains kept up the pace with a couple of notably good fish dishes – sea bass with dill crushed new potatoes, spinach, saffron sauce (set menu) and pan roasted halibut with cauliflower purée, roasted kohlrabi, fennel ceviche, candy and golden beet (£17). The Dingley Dell pork with braised belly fritters, tenderloin, squash purée, pak choi and garlic fondant potatoes (£18) was another imaginatively constructed dish with a tasty range of flavours and textures. An autumnal duck ‘special’ also went down well.
Desserts were stylishly presented and had a lightness of touch. We particularly liked the crème brûlée – white chocolate and cherry with homemade shortbread, and elderflower and lime cheesecake with lime gel (both from the set menu).
Wine-wise we had Mâcon-Villages and Chinon, both sensibly priced at about £30. The first bottle of Mâcon was corked and it was replaced immediately without any further questions. The freshly balanced yet creamy Mâcon had some interesting complexity and was a great choice for the fish, and the Chinon, with its light tannins, red berry fruit partnered the duck and pork well.
We really enjoyed our meal, although next time I’d just as happily stick to the fixed menu as there didn’t seem to be much between them – the à la carte dishes are a little more elaborate – however both menus demonstrate the skill and flair of executive chef Wayne Turner. Our bill came to a fairly reasonable £45 per head although we didn’t have extra drinks or side dishes.