Review: New Al Fresco Menu at Paris House
Ready for a post lockdown lunch in the most sublime setting in Bedfordshire? Head over to the historic Paris House Terrace, sample the excellent new Al Fresco menu from top chef Phil Fanning, and, of course, take in the grandeur of the deer park.
Drive up through the estate – spotting stags and pretty white harts bounding about as you go – before approaching the unusual and hugely historical building that is Paris House. Built by William Cubitt and Son, this charming and unusual lodge (styled on on the renaissance half-timbered architecture of Cheshire) was originally constructed for the Paris Exhibition of 1878. The Duke of Bedford fell in love with the structure and had it transported back to Bedfordshire and erected on his estate. Now there’s a bit of history to go with your aperitif.
With that in mind, taking lunch on the terrace of this architectural gem is quite the treat – particularly with the modern statues and maze-like gardens leading you to your table. And then it gets even more exciting as you peruse the three course Al Fresco menu from award-winning chef, Phil Fanning.
It is a Thursday and the restaurant within the house is fully booked, with the spacious Terrace hosting quite a few jolly groups of diners. Couples sipped cocktails in the sun as we arrive, and a few minutes later families and a distinguished older couple take their seats. It’s a glamorous place – surveying the estate, it’s easy to imagine yourself a resident. It’s a post-lockdown tonic of a location.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The Al Fresco menu is a streamlined three course affair, with most plumping for an aperitif (the lovely, attentive sommelier brought me the most fantastic Champagne from small scale grower and vigneron, Pierre Gimonnet) to go with the establishment’s signature Sourdough Baguette with Marmite Butter. Having – like everyone else on the planet – become a bit of a baker in lockdown, I really appreciated this insanely good artisan bread – a crackly topped baguette with a pleasantly sour soft crumb which was bang on with the rich butter. I even had to ask Mr M to slow down on the bread basket for fear of appearing uncouth. It was that good. LOL.
Then it was on to Cheese and Ham Gougeres, served with delightfully fresh pickles, and not-at-all stodgey Green Olive Arancini with a game-changing pesto – fresh and creamy with strong almond.
For the main course offering there’s Butternut Squash and Coconut Linguine, Fish Pie, or (our choices) Bouillabaisse and Eye of Rib Steak.
Both were awesome – The bouillabaisse not too rich, and with croutons that perfectly contrasted the smoothness. And the steak? A wonderful thick, well-marbled cut served with slightly spicy beans and flavourful globe artichoke (note to self – start growing them!).
And to finish? An unusual Nectarine Eton Mess and a cracking (signature) lemon meringue pie – sharp, smooth, light and crispy all at once. There’s also an epic-looking Banana Split on the menu for those with a nostalgic bent.
OUT AND ABOUT
Woburn is a Georgian gem of village (see our Muddy Review of the Best Places to Live in Bedfordshire – Woburn).
Woburn Abbey, still the family seat of the Duke of Bedford, is just down the road. This glorious house, complete with its beautifully landscaped gardens is unfortunately closed for refurbishment until 2021. But, and the kids are going to love this there’s also Woburn Safari Park on your doorstep (not too close, no need to worry re. lions).
Sleek independents pepper the High Street – we recommend a visit to Minchin & May, an unmissable treasure trove run by two sisters, while you’re there.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR: Foodies, grown up families – anyone who really needs post-lockdown pick me up, and fancies an excuse to dress up a bit and play Duchess for a day.
NOT FOR: Noisy broods and those after a casual lunch. This place is more about grown-up tranquility, old-school slick service and, of course, the high-end menu.
Paris House, Woburn Park, Woburn MK17 9QP