An interactive fine dining experience that is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate, Àclèaf, the resident restaurant at the five-star Boringdon Hall hotel, is certainly one to watch.
I have visited the restaurant at the hotel numerous times over the years – when head chef Scott Paton had not long arrived, before the hotel built its stunning Gaia Spa and received its five-star status, and since – and I always look forward to seeing what has evolved in this fine dining establishment.
My most recent visit in late November proved that Scott and his team are, as ever, hard at work to create something truly special for their diners with the experience they provide at the 3 AA rosette restaurant, Àclèaf.
The old English word for oak leaf, the restaurant’s name reflects the turning over of a new leaf for the space, and the maturation of the experience that it now offers to diners. A four-course menu is presented to guests after they have taken their seats in the low-lit and comfortable space overlooking the Great Hall (the perfect spot for a pre-dinner tipple – try Boringdon’s own gin) and there are four choices for each course, each with a few words to entice the diner, and with wine pairings to complement as well.
Scott explained that when the former space, The Gallery Restaurant, became Àclèaf, he decided to throw out the rulebook on what constituted a typical fine dining meal and simply considered the aspects that he enjoys when he dines out for a special meal. Alongside his kitchen team, he came up with a range of ideas and they collaboratively decided on the four-course set up which, in actual fact, offers far more than that.
After being seated at my table for two along with my dining companion, I was brought out a glass of champagne to sip while I perused the menu. The day’s seasonal delights included pheasant, bacon and truffle; scallop, pumpkin and kaffir; Highland wagyu, beetroot and pepper; and hazelnut, pear and vanilla. Not giving much away, I did ask our friendly waitress for a little hint on what to expect so that I could make my decisions and was content with what I chose, though I’m sure that any dish I picked would have been a winning one, such is the confidence I have in this restaurant.
Before we could get started on our choices though, we were presented with a table full of canapes – my dream come true! Not only were these delicious bites in great supply, but they were utterly delectable too, a very positive sign of things to come. We tucked into a gorgeous goats’ cheese mousse ball with a tasty truffle glaze and gold leaf decoration; a game donut topped with sweet sauce; salami slices; breads; and a Normandy butter and beef fat with chive oil.
Next up was an amuse bouche of red mullet caponata and bisque, which was so delicious and bursting with flavour, and we still hadn’t made it to the four courses! I had opted for the wine pairing to accompany each course and was poured a glass of Gusbourne pinot noir rose to enjoy alongside my duck terrine with quince. It may not be the first wine that pops into your head to pair with duck, but the light and refreshing drink worked well to lift the dense, meaty terrine and it paired well with the sweet quince sauce. I really enjoyed the smooth duck and appreciated the crisp candied walnut that sat on top of the beautifully presented dish.
The sole with velouté and fermented grape was delicate, intricate and very tasty, I was informed, and this was served with a glass of Pouilly Fume, Guy Saget.
I had remembered seeing something similar to the exquisitely presented crab dish on the hotel’s Instagram page and I love curry flavours with seafood, so for my second course I chose the crab, curry and mango, which was served with a glass of Trimbach’s Gewurztraminer. The artfully and intricately presented dish (pictured at the top) with its delicate elements was a feast for the eyes and the flavours of the sweet mango puree followed by and then gentle curry emulsion paired so well with the Brixham crab and floral wine.
Venison, salsify and prune with a glass of Chateau Musar, Gaston Hochar was up next, and this was a dish fit for the season. A meat feast full of differing flavours and textures, there was venison loin, venison sausage, braised venison and a delightful stuffed prune and jus to devour alongside the scrumptious wine. I personally would have liked a little veg to balance out the meat, but it was gorgeous, nonetheless.
Earlier in the evening we had been asked to choose some items on a card, and we later realised this interactive element was to decide what pre dessert we would have. A very fun touch, and I wasn’t disappointed with my cherry mousse with cherry glaze and almond croissant ice cream.
The final chosen course on the menu was chocolate with bergamot and a glass of Domaine Cazes’ Banyuls Rimage. I have to say the wines were so well chosen for each course and they weren’t shy when pouring each glass! Another dish that was pleasing on the eye, the chocolate delice was rich and partnered so well with the fragrant bergamot ice cream and crisp tuille.
After a chat with chef Scott and a glance at the new kitchen that had been installed that week, I headed to the secret bar to devour some mouth-watering cheeses and chat to some friendly fellow guests that my dining companion and I had got talking to. It had been a night full of fantastic food, friendly faces and winning wines. Not only do you get a high standard of cuisine at Àclèaf, but when you dine here, you get such a warm welcome from those who work here, who are knowledgeable and strive to make the experience a wholly enjoyable one.
Extending the experience
In addition to dinner at Àclèaf, I made sure to make the most of my time at Boringdon Hall with a stay in the opulent, stylish and oh-so comfortable Lady Jane suite.
If you are here to make the very best of a special occasion and to fully enjoy what the location can offer, then a stay at the hotel is a must, and it offers quite the welcome as you make your way up the driveway and around the majestic building.
After devouring a delicious festive afternoon tea at the Spatisserie, I popped to the elegant Gaia Spa to make use of its fantastic facilities – I can certainly recommend a poultice massage. Once I had checked into the beautiful suite with its deep blue, blush pink, truffle, cream carpeted and exposed stone décor, I immediately felt at home. The comfort factor is high here, from the sofa to the bed to the large freestanding bathtub, which I hopped into for a long soak, and was thrilled to find a personalised and oh-so comfy bathrobe to wrap up in once I got out.
The unique layout of the suite, with the bathroom at the top of a flight of cream carpeted stairs and the bedroom off the hallway and up another few stairs, along with a range of lighting to set the atmosphere and a fully stocked minibar made for a welcoming stay, and I felt very relaxed here. In fact, whether I was in the spa, at the Spatisserie, eating breakfast in the Mayflower brasserie, sipping on a gin in the Great Hall with the Christmas tree twinkling, devouring cheeses in the secret bar or reclining on the sofa in my suite, I was content.
In a nutshell
Boringdon Hall and the team at Àclèaf are certainly doing everything they can to ensure that their guests are treated to the best when they stay and dine here. Àclèaf is a fine dining triumph that encourages interaction and aims to please the diner leaving them with a memorable experience for all the right reasons.
The four-course menu costs £95 per person, an extra £16 for the cheese course, and £55 for the accompanying wine flight. B&B rooms start from £161 in low season.
See snippets of my travels on Instagram @tashheard_food_travel