Kent BR6 8NF
Tel: 01689 854848
Food type: Modern European/ Eclecctic
Food rating: 5/10
Nearest tube: Orpington Station (Overground) + 5 mins Bus Ride
Website: Chapter One
Editor’s Note: In the 2009 Michelin Guide, Chapter One regained its 1 Michelin Star status
As mention in my previous blog, I am currently placed at Princess Royal University Hospital (PRUH) at Farnborough. The general population here are upper middle class and makes a huge change from London for sure. Located directly across the hospital is an unassuming restaurant called Chapter One. On our first day arriving at PRUH, D and I had a good laugh at the fact there was a ‘fine-dining’ restaurant in the middle of nowhere. Note the inverted commas because I thought this was another of those pretentious restaurants which would eventually be featured on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Then again, it is unfair to label Farnborough ‘middle of nowhere’ as, despite it being officially located in Kent, it is still within zone 6. Plus it takes roughly 17 minutes to travel from London Bridge to Orpington.
Further research on the internet and my trusty Good Food Guide (2009 edition) revealed that Chapter One was indeed a pretty decent restaurant with 4 AA Rosettes to its name. It also previously held a Michelin star for 5 years which it lost in 2007 shortly after re-opening after a facelift. Even with its highly acclaimed food, their pricing remains relatively affordable with an a la carte of £28.50 for 3 courses. The lower pricing (as opposed to restaurants in central London) does not exempt the inclusion of more luxurious items such as lobster, foie gras and truffles on the menu, although this often comes with a supplemental charge. There is also a fixed price menu at £19 as well as a brasserie menu during lunch service. This was also mirrored in their mark-ups for wine and drinks. For example, a cup of coffee here costs a reasonable £2.50 as opposed to £4-5 you’d expect to pay in London.
We arrived to an empty restaurant for our 6.30pm booking. The restaurant is a relatively large house with ample parking space. Divided into the main dining area as well as a bar area, the restaurant seats up to 120 people. Tables are spaced quite far apart unlike most restaurants in London. The decor is modern and minimilistic with a few paintings adorning the cream coloured walls.
The menu serves up some very interesting and inventive dishes alongside some safer options. For example, options for starters include Salad of Wood Pigeon served with apple, walnuts, green beans, roasted figs & parma ham and Jugged Hare with truffle potato espuma & hair satay. Mains were generally safe, staying along the lines of classical cooking techniques.
Bread on offer was either white or brown, served with salted butter. Bread was fine with a nice crunch to it and a light, airy interior. (During a seperate visit for lunch, the bread was less good with an interior which was too floury and heavy) (4/10)
No amuse bouche was on offer but our starters were whisked to us relatively quickly after placing our order. My starter of Seared Diver Caught Scallop with Cod Brandade, Cauliflower Purée & a Light Curry Véloute consisted of a single, large, caramelised king scallop with a small sprinkling of parsley sitting on top of a spoonful of cauliflower purée. This was accompanied by a Cod Brandade formed into a cylindrical beignet and a shotglass of curry véloute. The scallop was correctly cooked but the dish as a whole seemed like a mish-mash of ideas. In particular, the curry véloute was both conceptually and technically flawed, tasting more like a hot and sour soup you would get a local chinese takeaway. (3/10)
Raviolo of Lobster & King Prawn with Spiced White Cabbage & A Veloute of Lobster & Cognac
J and B’s starter of Raviolo of Lobster & King Prawn with Spiced White Cabbage & A Veloute of Lobster & Cognac was slightly better although again, the pasta was not as silky smooth or thin as it could be. This was accompanied by the veloute of lobster & cognac which could have had a more intense lobster flavour. (4/10)
D had a starter of Risotto of Iberico Chorizo, Cockles, Local Squid & Saffron with Creme Fraiche & Parmesan which I did not try.
My mains of Braised Oxtail & Winter Truffles with Pancetta, Sauteed Spinach, Parsnip Pure, Baby Beetroot & Oxtail Jus was enjoyable. The oxtail was braised until melting tender, infused with the smokey flavours of the pancetta. This sat atop some bitter spinach which accompanied the strong flavours of the oxtail very well. The sweetness provided by the beetroot and parsnip also matched well with the oxtail and married well with the rich oxtail jus. The only let down was the ‘winter truffle’s. Winter doesn’t begin until November the 1st so the truffles were by definition not winter truffles (my meal at Chapter One was on 24th October). Even, allowing for the fact they were autumn truffles, they were still disappointing and lacked the earthiness associated with truffles. (4/10)
J had the Pot Roast Belly of Berkshire Free Range Pork, Cider Glazed Silverskin Caramelised Apple Puree, Savoy Cabbage & Pork Jus. This was a more successful dish, with the juicy pork interspersed with layers of fat. Don’t get me wrong, this was a take on roast pork, apple sauce and roast potatoes albeit a very good one. (5/10)
D had the Poached & Roasted Quail With Foie Gras, Smoked Bacon, Red Cabbage & Raisin Jus.
B had the Roast Loin of Charts Farm Sika Venison with Crushed Ratte Potatoes, Girolle Mushrooms, Baby Artichokes & Bordelaise Sauce.
For desserts I settled for the Assiette of desserts which consisted of 7 miniature desserts – Hot Chocolate Fondant, Bannofi Pie, Baked Cheesecake with Exotic Fruits (Kiwi and Pineapple), Pavé of Valrhona Chocolate & Honey Comb, Organic Lemon Tart, Lime Sorbet and Peanut Parfait with Raspberry Compote. The desserts were in general pretty good (especially the Pavé), but were not memorable. (5/10)
My other fellow diners settled for full versions of individual desserts.
Petit Fours: Chocolate & Walnut Brownie, Raspberry Jelly and Rolled Chocolate Truffle
We finished off with coffee of petit fours which consisted of some very well made Chocolate & Walnut Brownie, Raspberry Jelly and Rolled Chocolate Truffle. Though lacking in imagination, they were still a very solid 6/10.
Dinner was overall a pleasant experience although the Front of house (FOH) could do with some spiffing up. For example, the waitresses were happy chatting to each another when the restaurant was relatively empty. They only brought a portion of the butter which was not only inadequate for the 4 of us, but was also made sharing very difficult with a pot of flowers place right in the middle. They eventually noticed it and brought us another portion of butter. Additionally, there was very little enthusiasm by the staff when I asked a few questions particularly about the food. Also, they were overly keen to move us from our table to the bar to have our coffee despite the restaurant only being half full and we had only been dining for 1.5 hours. (A table turn-over time of 2 hours is generally the accepted minimum in this industry, and this is still frowned upon).
Chapter One lost its Michelin Star in 2007 because many thought the menu had become stale and boring. I felt that the food was pretty good for the price we paid. At times though, the restaurant seems to be trying too hard to be inventive and win back their Michelin star. There is after all, no harm in sticking to tried and true classics prepared well.
Below is a recent visit to Chapter One where D and I tried their Brasserie Menu.
Pan-fried Bream served with Pomme Puree and Green Beans
We both settled on the Fish of the Day which consisted of a simple Pan-fried Bream served with Pomme Puree and Green Beans. Despite its simplicity, the fish was perfectly cooked, with a perfectly crisp skin and a hint of lemon lifting all its flavours. This was served with an extremely smooth and creamy pomme puree and crisp green beans. (5/10)
My dessert of Pain Perdue with Orange Marmalade & Vanilla Ice Cream was less successful. The chef in charge decided that it was a good idea to be extremely liberal with the use of marmalade resulting in a cloying dessert. Case in point, the vanilla ice cream was drowned out in the sea of marmalade. (2/10)
D had a Warm Chocolate Brownie with Clotted Cream.
Here is another review of my most recent visit where we tried their Menu du Jour. They are currently running a promotion of 2 course for £13.50 and additional courses at £3.50.
My starter of Véloute of Button Mushrooms was served with all the theatre of a copper pot and poured at the tableside. However, at the end of it all, it was still a bowl of mushroom soup which was slightly overseasoned. (3/10)
D’s starter of Braised Oxtail, Carrots, Pancetta & Truffled Potato Espuma was a humorous take on a trifle. Served in an interesting fish bowl, it consisted of layers of shredded oxtail, pancetta and carrots topped off with a frothy layer of the potato espuma and a small shaving of black truffle. A very ingenius idea matched by its taste although again slightly oversalted. (4/10)
The mains were very disappointing however. My plate of Pan-fried Salmon, Crushed Potatoes and Chorizo featured salmon which was slightly overcooked and as such dry. The chorizo simply overwhelmed the delicate salmon (3/10).
D also complained that her Roast Pheasant with Chanterelle Mushrooms was dry and tough. While this is a common problem when it comes to pheasant, in my experience, with more careful cooking, pheasant can take on a much more tender texture.