Restaurant Review: Auberge du Lac at Brocket Hall, Welwyn in Hertfordshire
Housed in the old hunting lodge, in the grounds of Brocket Hall estate, is the gloriously decadent Auberge Du Lac. Nestled next to a serene lake, the restaurant overlooks the vast, picturesque grounds and is an absolute fine diners dream. The Hertfordshire estate itself is owned by Lord Brockett, the infamous Lord who was imprisoned for fraud in 1996. He sadly no longer stays at the estate and is currently in exile in London but his stately home, golf course, private dining rooms and restaurant are still in high demand. My dinner partner, Adam, and I had the pleasure of dining there on a gloriously sunny Saturday evening and we were in for a treat.
On arrival we accidentally went to the wrong entrance and ended up driving through the whole estate, which was truly magnificent. It has its own golf course, accommodation and stunning stables that have been renovated for corporate events and weddings (there was a wedding taking place that evening and the back drop for the photos was stunning).
We were warmly greeted by Pedro, the restaurant manager, and we were seated in the lounge area overlooking the lake and the hall where we sipped delicious cocktails, whilst salivating over the extensive menu. The lounge is traditional with leather high backed chairs, large ornate fireplaces, heavily gilded mirrors and antique art work. Whilst choosing, we were brought delightful aperitifs of caramelised cauliflower puree on a wild rice cracker with onion powder, and apricot puree on a curry wafer meringue with sesame seeds. Both were equally exciting with wonderful flavour explosions and they were served on a bed of pine, hand-picked from the estate that morning – a lovely touch. I chose the tasting menu whilst Adam decided on items from the a la carte and Pedro discussed with us at which point Adam would like his courses to be served in relation to mine.
We went downstairs to the restaurant and were greeted with a calm and relaxing ambience created by low lighting, soft music and a low buzz of conversation between contented diners. The restaurant has picturesque views across the estate and its décor is modern, with lots of natural light poring through the expansive windows. We were brought a selection of rolls, sourdough and rye bread with two types of butter; the traditional salted and an unusual yeast butter that tasted of marmite! Both were whipped until soft and creamy and the yeast butter was truly delightful (Adam did not agree however!).
Next was an amuse bouche of cured sea trout, dill mayonnaise and cucumber, simple yet divine and very fresh and light. I then had beetroot and goat’s curd, spiced granola, apple and Secret Farm leaves. This dish was my favourite, I adore beetroot and this dish did not disappoint. The goat’s curd was soft and creamy, against the sharp beetroot and apple and the savoury granola added texture, a real winner. Adam was served Weymouth crab, brown meat mayonnaise, kohlrabi, lemon and monks beard. This was beautifully presented, with quenelles of fresh, flavoursome white crab meat, accompanied by sweet purple kohlrabi, an assortment of gels and the delicious mayonnaise that was packed full of flavour.
I then had Barrowclough’s Farm rose veal, nasturtium, egg yolk confit, shallot and gherkin and it was superb. Soft, delicate veal dotted with gherkins, with crispy shallot onion rings and edible flowers and the element of the egg yok confit, which was more of a mayonnaise consistency, was a wonderful, unexpected twist. For Adam – Salmon mi cuit, avocado, rock oyster mayonnaise, fennel. Mi cuit literally translates as ‘partially cooked’ but that utterly fails to express the decadent texture of this salmon. The dish was truly beautiful, with blobs of oyster mayonnaise, cucumber slices and delicate notes of fennel and Adam remarked that it was very light and summery.
My next course was Portland scallop, white chocolate, horseradish, apple and chickweed, which was just heavenly. Perfectly cooked scallop, with a drizzle of white chocolate sauce (which was not too sweet), delicate undertones of heat from the horseradish and lovely explosions of flavour from an apple sorbet – yummy! Adam’s next dish was hay ash cod, roast chicken espuma, smoked cod roe with thyme oil. This dish was very interesting. A piece of black cod, with a large dollop of chicken espuma (Spanish for foam) was topped with crunchy chicken skin, which looked like rice vermicelli. Now, given Adam is averse to foam, he was very pleasantly surprised! Even more so when he delved deeper into the espuma to find a hidden gem of a glorious chicken wing! He did feel that the chicken flavour slightly overpowered the cod but that, all in all, the flavour combinations were very clever and all the elements worked well.
I was then presented with kelp wrapped belted Galloway fillet of beef, carrot, aioli, caraway and coriander. It was a beautiful piece of tender beef accompanied by a delicious garlic mayonnaise, juliennes of al dente carrot and was drizzled with a tasty sauce. Next, we were served a pre-dessert of kalamansi curd, earl grey, meringue. The kalamansi (a hybrid of lime and kumquat) curd was sharp and was a perfect palette cleanser and the earl grey meringue accompanied it well, with the sweetness breaking up the citrus flavour perfectly.
Lastly, we were served dessert (yes, I still had room!). I had Ivoire set ginger yoghurt, rhubarb, ginger, hibiscus. This was centred by a ginger cake with soft, sharp rhubarb, a delicious hibiscus jelly, a quenelle of rhubarb sorbet and pretty white chocolate shards. The combination of sweet and sour flavours worked in harmony and it was a very refreshing dish and a great end to the meal. Adam (not a dessert lover) opted for banana ice cream. This was served with a banana puree and topped with a crunchy biscuit crumb, and was very tasty and comforting. Finally we were served truffles and macarons but I must admit that I had to parcel these up for home as we were far too full!
During the meal, I was served a wine flight that matched the dishes perfectly (Adam was driving so only soft drinks for him) and Pedro was very attentive, knowledgeable and made us laugh throughout. He has only been at the restaurant for a short time and previously worked at many top restaurants including Galvin at Windows. He then kindly introduced us to the head chef and sous chef and we sat chatting about their thought processes and ideas behind the menu. We commented on the unusual pairing of fish and chicken and were told that in fact this combination has been served since the 1800s and was very popular in that era. They pride themselves on using as much produce from the estate as possible and the quality speaks for itself.
Auberge Du Lac is a truly wonderful dining experience, set in peaceful, picturesque surroundings that transport you to a bygone era. Overlooking the beautiful 543 acre country estate, seeped in history (and scandal!), Brocket Hall is the perfect location for a superb game of golf, a romantic night away from the hustle and bustle of the city or for a special celebration.
Prices are £80 per head for the tasting menu and £130 per head with wine flight. The a la carte menu is just as lovely and ranges from £11.50-£16.50 for a starter and £26-£34 for a main (limited vegetarian options). For those of you who love good value, there’s a 3 course lunch menu for £24.50.
Address: Brocket Hall, Marford Rd, Hatfield, Welwyn AL8 7XG / 01707 368888