Cheshire Life Luncheon - Carden Park
PUBLISHED: 13:48 30 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:39 20 February 2013
Diners at this Cheshire Life lunch were impressed by attention to detail and the use of local produce on a large scale at this premier hotel
It's a long and winding road from the gates of Carden Park estate to the front door of the impressive modern hotel in its midst. The drive, best part of a mile long, which meanders through the estate's lovely undulating countryside and discreetly laid out championship golf course, means that the hotel enjoys a delightful setting and enviable seclusion.
It's the ideal setting for conferencing, corporate events, golfing breaks and increasingly get-away-from-it-all leisure weekenders discovering this most beautiful corner of Cheshire nestling between the sylvan Peckforton Hills and the Welsh border.
But there's no passing trade. And when ambition burns as bright as it does at Carden Park to establish the hotel's restaurant as a dining destination in it's own right, that means first building a reputation for top-notch hospitality.
As guests at this Cheshire Life luncheon can attest, they're well on their way. Paul Bayliss arrived as deputy general manager specifically charged with driving forward the food and drink operation just as a major refurbishment of the restaurant was completed. Redmond's Restaurant - named after the son of Carden Park's owner Steve Morgan - now sports a chic and stylish conservatory offering panoramic views across the vale of the River Dee towards the Clwydian Range on the horizon.
Some may think that catering for over over a quarter of a million diners in 2008 was no mean achievement, but Paul and his boss, general manager Hamish Ferguson, remain determined that Redmond's should be acclaimed as 'a restaurant, not just a hotel restaurant'.
Their modus operandi - greatly enhancing the local provenance of the food - is admirable. While it's one thing for the ambitious chef-patron of a small restaurant or gastropub to source ingredients from local suppliers, it's quite another for a large hotel catering for more than 250,000 guests a year; nevertheless, they have pulled it off with aplomb.
The luncheon menu expressed pride in the hotel's relationship with the 'range of suppliers, producers, growers, gatherers, makers, musicians and menders' on which it relies and reproduced a cast list of food heroes to rival the credits of a Cecil B de Mille epic. Moreover, in executive chef Rob Price and his brigade, Carden Park boasts the wherewithal to make best use of prime ingredients.
Guests gathered in a comfortably appointed corner of the hotel's smart see-and-be-seen Morgan's Bar for welcoming flutes of Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut NV Champagne and a trio of wittily-crafted canapes - mini shepherd's pies, dainty little filo cones filled with miniature fish, chips and mushy peas and Vernon's own black pudding from nearby Holt with mustard mayonnaise before taking their seats in Redmond's conservatory.
We started with a generous fillet of flavoursome Scottish smoked haddock served under a lovely cheesy rarebit glaze made with Connolly's Crabtree, sourced virtually next door in Malpas, garnished with a salad of plum tomatoes and a macedoine of pickled cucumber.
The accompaniment, an excellent, vibrantly fruity, Viura-Malvasia white Rioja - supplied by Bibendum and eloquently described by Rob McIntosh representing the producer, Bodegas Dinastia Vivanco - was a prime example of new wave, high quality Spanish winemaking.
The main course epitomised everything that's most desirable about basing cooking on location and season. Loin eye medallions of venison from the Duke of Westminster's estate and supplied by Andrew Vernon of Holt, came carved thick, pink and deliciously tender alongside a morsel of braised venison providing contrasting taste and texture.
The 'trimmings' - celeriac puree, dice honeyroast root vegetables, sauteed spinach and perfect, crispy garlic and rosemary roast potatoes, all procured from local Cheshire farms, and aromatic juniper and Port sauce - were exemplary. And the depth of flavour offered by the red Dinastia Vivanco Rioja Reserva - concentrated berry fruit and sweet harmonious oak - made the perfect marriage.
The plate of mini desserts comprising a 'citrus shot' of lime jelly and lemon posset with an orange shortbread biscuit, mini toffee apple tart, sugared almonds and wafer-thin roundels of milk chocolate sandwiching blobs of the 'king of pralines', Gianduja parfait would have provided the grandest of finales were it not for the platter of superb Cheshire cheeses that followed.
There was Cheshire blue, Cheshire white and Golden Cheshire from Mike Heler, brie from Laurel Farm, near Nantwich, Kate Hollinshead's Raven's Oak Goat's and Crabtree from Malpas accompanied by lovely beetroot and apple chutney. As golfers might say: top hole!