£75 per head, exc wine (tasting menu)
I thought it safe to assume that the restaurant in a 19th century country hotel would serve up traditional fare. Not so the Oak Room at Danesfield House, in the magnificent Chiltern Hills. Here, young chef Adam Simmonds has been attracting plaudits for his creative and modern cuisine. The 2009 Good Food Guide ranks the Oak Room 19th in the top 40 UK restaurants, no small achievement considering its location outside London.
There is good reason for all the acclaim. Simmonds's seven-course tasting menu is a culinary treasure trove, mostly brilliantly flavoursome and executed to perfection. But there are hints of misguided innovation. Four of the courses included some kind of savoury ice cream or sorbet when more conventional accompaniments would have done the job.
The high point, a poached fillet of brill with artichoke risotto, clams and nettle foam, was fleshy and delicious and I would have happily eaten a full portion of the breast of mallard with chocolate polenta. But disappointment arrived in the shape of puddings that were far too challenging.
White chocolate and blackberry millefeuille served with truffle ice cream was overwhelming to finish a meal. It was too much and I couldn't finish, although my companion loved the bold flavours.
Sticking to the unconventional, the wines, designed to complement the food on the tasting menu, come from Germany and Austria as well as France and Italy. I welcome all the innovation flying in the face of tradition at Danesfield House and, despite some quibbles, we haven't heard the last of Adam Simmonds.