Jo Rees quaffs Viper Gin in the company of 1950s pinups, dines to strains of Bohemian Rhapsody and breakfasts with squirrels at one of Dorset’s best (and least known) restaurants
To sit in Seasons’ restaurant on a Friday night and be one of just a few groups experiencing the beautiful cooking of MasterChef: The Professionals quarter finalist Matt Street, demonstrates just how difficult it is to get people to take a chance on a hotel restaurant – however good the cooking.
It’s a fear of commitment: people are scared to book a table in a restaurant which is hidden inside a hotel.
So consider this an excellent opportunity to get a table on a Saturday night, because the cooking at Peter and Lana de Savary’s boutique townhouse is so good there really ought to be a queue.
Screw up your courage and step inside the elegant Georgian facade, past the front desk and follow the strains of piano until you hit the bar. Here, a leopard-skin-patterned carpet, leather club chairs, 1950s pinup pictures, local gins and a young chap tickling the ivories (ask nicely and he might take your request – his Bohemian Rhapsody is pretty damn good) sets the tone for an evening of treats.
VISIT for seriously good cooking which is creative while staying the right side of crowd-pleasing.
A cheese ‘brûlée’ with pear, celeriac, chicory and caramelised walnuts observes classic flavour combinations, but fritzes all preconceptions when served as a smooth cream with a crisply brûléed top. Meanwhile, a starter of braised ox cheek ragu with homemade pasta, truffle oil and Old Winchester cheese is just as unctuous, rich and umami as it reads.
For mains, we took a trip to Greece for luscious rump of lamb with onion, yogurt, herby courgette and oregano, and tiptoed through a Scandinavian forest via butter-soft venison loin with salt-baked swede mash, spiced red cabbage, sage and almond pesto and juniper sauce.
The execution is immaculate and the restaurant just shy of bagging three AA rosettes (some casual dishes are about to be moved onto a separate, more informal, menu to fix this).
DON’T VISIT with trepidation: brave Reception and sail on through the building, secure in the knowledge that delicious things await.
WE LIKED the tranquil garden setting in the middle of town; eating outdoors on The Eastbury Hotel terrace would be heavenly on a summer’s evening.
At breakfast, the leafy surrounds brought wildlife up to the window; the inquisitive squirrels, robins, magpies and blackbirds almost as delightful as the thick-as-cream-cheese local yogurt, hunk of oozing honeycomb and toasted homemade crumpets.