Adam Simmonds, Danesfield House Hotel and Spa, Henley Road, Marlow-on-Thames, Bucks

 

Late-night visitors to Marlow have often been shocked by the chilling apparition of the Grey Lady of Danesfield Park, a solemn-faced ghost holding a lantern, who glides around where the chapel once stood, before disappearing. We had a broadly similar experience on driving into the hotel grounds – seeing the chilling apparition of Danesfield House, a great white whale of a late-Victorian Gothic folly looming in front of you like Moby Dick. It's an extraordinary sight, with its tall chimneys, its clock tower and elaborately terraced gardens, and it carries an air of melancholy – the result, perhaps, of too many owners, speculators and changes of use. It was built in 1899 by the heir to the Sunlight soap fortune, who sold it the moment it was finished. It housed evacuees in the war and was requisitioned by the RAF. It was once home to the Hellfire Club of Medmenham, a bunch of crazed desperadoes from the nearby village. Since 1991 it's been a hotel. And in the past four years, it's picked up a reputation as home to one of the country's finest chefs, Adam Simmonds.

He has an impressive pedigree. Having survived an apprenticeship-of-fire under Marco Pierre White at Les Saveurs, Simmonds worked for Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir for three years, and picked up a Michelin star at Ynyshir Hall in Wales. On his watch, Danesfield now has its own Michelin star, and is listed as the 12th best UK restaurant in the 2012 Good Food Guide.

The dining-room is as ghostly as the spooky revenant in the park. The walls are limed wood panelling, originally designed by Anouska Hempel, the carpet a hideous patterned beige, the mirrors are pure Ikea, the lampshades mild yellow, the chairs acid-bathed thrones with monogrammed antimacassars. Wherever you look it's white, flesh, peach, blond... You're amazed that "A Whiter Shade of Pale" isn't issuing (murmurously) from discreet speakers.

The food mostly matches the monochrome décor, but from start to finish is full of vivid flavours. An amuse-bouche of rum jelly with granita whacks your tongue with cold mint and vanishes. Another, of goat's cheese with red pepper and black olive, is a tiny gazpacho with a hint of Milk of Magnesia. Crab salad is a girlishly pretty mosaic of tiny crab molecules, dots of avocado purée and transparent squares of kohlrabi – subtle and pungent but gone too soon. Angie's roasted chicken oysters, lightly battered like a Platonic ideal of chicken nuggets, came with three kinds of potato – Jersey royals, a button of mash and wraith-like crisps.

Her main-course brill, cooked sous-vide in a water bath, was the whitest fish I've ever seen and came arrayed with oysters and fabulously soft batons of cucumber, under a section of what looked, at first, like green floor-covering but turned out to be a nasturtium meringue. The salty-and-sweet combination was stunning. "I've never had such a thing in my life before," said Angie. "So fresh and healthy and full of surprises."

As though to buck the prevailing colourlessness, my pork dish was almost aggressively dark and butch. Flagged as 'Confit jowl, pork oysters, black pudding, salt baked Jerusalem artichokes, hops' (not a combination you find every day), it was an invasion of flavours from the world's dark underbelly. 'Confit jowl' was basically pork cheeks, but from lower down the porcine fizzog. They were surprisingly pale and fibrous, compared with the blacker-than-Hades pork oysters that sat, like the Lord of the Flies, upon a Satanic but darkly satisfying combination of black pudding purée, apple purée and pork gravy. I couldn't identify the hops in this wrestling-match of tastes and textures, but the artichokes held their own and tiny balls of crackling added grit.

We finished with a gorgeous (though pale) caramel pudding involving banana panna cotta, a cigar shape of caramel mousse and a spindrift of popcorn granita – a bit of a fiddle, but charming – and a cheese board accompanied by apple and celery sorbet. The homemade biscuits were sublime (we agreed with another couple that Adam Simmonds's bread and biscuits are among his most memorable creations) as were the chocolate petits fours on a bed of choc flakes.

Perhaps you think I'm exaggerating the pale ghostliness of the Danesfield dining experience. I'm not. It's a vestal shrine to minimalism and frictionless efficiency. Our German waitress, Karolina, could explain any of the meal's components, and recite the cheeses like a coloratura soprano, but never strayed into friendliness. The maître d' warned in advance that sous-vide cooking can leave some dishes looking a bit bland and unfinished, but wouldn't affect the taste. That's Danesfield all right. The food's delicious – but you can't help feeling you've strayed into some absentee monarch's very pale kingdom.

Adam Simmonds, Danesfield House Hotel and Spa, Henley Road, Marlow-on-Thames, Bucks (01628 891010)

About £200 for two, with wine

Food ****
Ambience ***
Service ****

Tipping policy: "Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary, of which 100 per cent goes to the staff; all tips go to the staff"

Side orders: Country stars

The Latymer

The Michelin-starred restaurant is located among Surrey parkland and the beautiful Pennyhill Park and Spa. Starters include loin of Loire Valley rabbit.

London Road, Bagshot, Surrey (01276 471 774)

Holbeck Ghyll

With views of the lakes, Holbeck Ghyll, awarded a Michelin star for 12 consecutive years, offers visual and gastronomic delights.

Holbeck Lane, Windermere, Cumbria (01539 432 375)

Boath House restaurant

Try the pheasant, pistachio and quince mix at this Michelin-starred restaurant, located within a luxury Regency-house hotel.

Auldearn, Nairn, Scotland (01667 454896)

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering