London dining on a Herts weekend
The Buntingford Kitchen has only been open for 8 months so far, and has already attracted lots of praise and customers who are prepared to drive a long way to eat there. Intrigued, and always up for dinner out, I called my foodie friend Helen and we met there to check it out.
The menu is small but perfectly formed. Even with just four choices for each course – and them all priced exactly the same – it’s actually quite a tough decision. We both agreed we could have quite easily ordered any of the combinations and been perfectly happy. She went for roasted gurnard, then herb-crusted lamb; I plumped for caprese with compressed watermelon (which sounded strange but was delish), followed by teriyaki pulled pork. The wine list was similar – short, but plenty of choice, with recommendations about which might go well with particular dishes. There’s a real sense of it all having been very carefully selected.
Puds were delish, too. The chocolate ganache, topped with a triangle of brownie, was almost too much – in the best possible way – and Helen’s mulled pear and apple crumble had her ooo-ing and ahh-ing.
The team behind The Buntingford Kitchen comes from The London Kitchen – a serious city catering company who work in some brilliant London venues: the Shard, the Roundhouse, Old Billingsgate and so on. Two of their chefs whizz out from the city every weekend to produce the same quality of food at the Buntingford restaurant – which is only open Thursday evening through Sunday lunchtime.
The restaurant has a very grown-up feel to it. It’s comfortable, classy and not at all pretentious (which it could well be, given its pedigree). They’ve done an incredible amount of work on the Grade II listed building itself, making it look right up to date at the same time as exposing the ancient beams – definitely check out the little lounge upstairs which puts you right up in the rafters.
And the modern chairs to lounge in up there if you’re waiting are like works of art in themselves. (I had a quick sit down, purely research you understand, and they were actually really comfortable.)
The Buntingford Kitchen isn’t huge – but, like its menu, it’s beautifully put together and there’s more going on in the space than you might expect. They have an almost private dining area – the Bourne Snug – where up to 8 (or 10 at a pinch) can sit down to eat together. There’s the tiny lounge upstairs in case you’re early, or want to linger over your coffee. And the tables feel comfortable and uncrowded.
We loved it. It’s worth driving to – a proper destination restaurant – but make sure you book. It’s only open at the weekends, and it’s getting popular. It manages to combine really classy with genuinely friendly – as well as an interesting menu, a wine list to keep you happy (rather than leave you confused), and a feeling that it’s rapidly going to become one of my favourite places to go for a treat.
The Muddy Verdict
Great for: grown-up foodie nights, celebration dinners, classy date nights (I’ve reminded Mr C our anniversary is coming up), and – so I’ve heard – Sunday lunch.
Not so great for: well, I’m not sure I’d take my children (mostly because they wouldn’t appreciate it, mind you), but other than that, I’m there.
££: all the starters are £7, all the mains are £14, and all the puds are £6 – easy peasy – and the wine is about in line with that.