Restaurant Review: Paris House, Woburn in Bedfordshire
Paris House is one of those buildings you would expect to have been fathomed within the imagination of a child. The detached mock Tudor building within the Woburn Estate deer park is quite the juxtaposition although sits snug amongst its grand and historical surroundings. Grasping a story of its very own, originally I was baffled how the obvious French connection came about with its quintessentially English surroundings. As expected, the location of Woburn has not been the influence for its name, but instead the building’s colourful and rather surprising past. Originally built in 1878 Paris House was constructed as a temporary instalment for an international exhibition in Paris, ‘Rue des Nations’. Its journey over to the UK started when the 9th Duke of Bedford fell for the building and had it shipped wall by wall, beam by beam over to Bedfordshire; residing as Paris House. Over its time the Tudor inspired building has had links with royalty, been transformed into a wartime hospital and now, as it can be found today, is the only Michelin starred restaurant in Bedfordshire owned and run by Executive Chef Owner, Phil Fanning.
Starting with an aperitif of a spicy Bloody Mary and a classic Kir Royal, the manager enthusiastically briefed us on the history, prior to informing us that we were set to have their ten course tasting menu. Although neither of us being fussy eaters I find a tasting menu perfect for someone with gourmet intrigue. Effortlessly diverted from our comfort zone, the appropriately French manager seemed intent on taking us on the full culinary tour of Paris House. Although predominantly serving classic, British fine cuisine, Paris House is keen to encourage a Japanese influence into their menus, with the leadership of Chef Owner Phil Fanning’s enthusiasm for Asian cuisine.
Charismatic and engaging, the collection of dishes Paris House guided us through was an intricate tour of Phil Fanning and his team’s culinary capabilities, each thoughtfully paired with wine to complement. Diving in (satisfactorily menu-less) we began our first course of Smoked Halibut with Leek and Cardigan Bay Prawn, served with a Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. In addition to the consideration of textures and flavours, the consistent application to the intricate presentation from start to end made a significant impression. Moving forward, next was their Tom Yum, the first Asian imprint of the afternoon; Pork Gyoza, Tom Yum, Pork Cheek and Squid Noodles; this was served with another New Zealand 2013 Milton Vineyard. Our gourmet excursion continued to lead us onto something of slight more familiarity, Ravioli with Yukon Gold, Truffle and Sage, (Ravioli being the aspect of familiarity); smooth with the complement of the truffle, this concluded in a personal highlight of mine. This was served alongside a 2013 Cabernet Franc, Domaine de la Noblaie from the Loire Valley.
A cut of pork that I am unaccustomed to is the neck area, Paris House endeavour to make the very most of this fatty and flavoursome cut with Mangalica Neck with Cauliflower Cous Cous. Despite holding a tougher texture, this cut held a depth of flavour and was served with a 2014 Pinot Noir from Chile. As with a majority of my reviews, a cheese board is present more often than not, and Paris House was not one to miss this out, revealing their Artisan Cheese course. One standout was a stunning English gruyere; not to be forgotten anytime soon, served with their ‘funky’ Port Rose. Moving over to the sweet side, Phil Fanning’s Japanese influence came back into play with his Mandarin Trifle with Black Bean, Coriander & Sake. This served with a Moscato d’Asti from Italy. A pick and mix with acute detail, the contrast of bitter and sweet flavours made this dessert a sensory performance; setting a high dessert standard. A Horlicks Cheesecake with Citrus and Pistachio was elegantly presented to us to finish, alongside a Chateau Loupiac-Gaudiet from Bordeaux.
Paris House portrays an importance of working with fresh, seasonal ingredients which as a whole underpins their whole gourmet philosophy. From across the globe, Paris House source the finest produce in order to construct beautiful dishes for both detailed presentation and flavour. Having placed themselves as one of the finest dining establishments in the region, and the only Michelin starred restaurant in Bedfordshire, Paris House; as I found out is worth the journey (although conveniently only less than an hour from London). Unrivalled locally for their menus and wine selection; the history of the building and the Woburn estate hold as much significance down to the very garnish on your plate.
Address: Woburn Park, Woburn, Bedford MK17 9QP / 01525 290692