Chenies, Rickmansworth • 01923 283301
Reviewed by Alan Cox
There’s something really rather tranquil about this country house hotel and restaurant. The Bedford Arms is nestled in the Chess Valley, where the sleepy village of Chenies proves the picture-perfect location for an establishment steeped in old worlde charm.
Eating in the handsome oak panelled dining room is like stepping back in time. With its magnificent fireplace dominating the room, I can just imagine the lord and lady of the manor entertaining guests all those years ago.
Its formal, yet relaxed, atmosphere is perfect for a traditional evening’s dining, and the menu reflects this, with classic favourites (such as roasts and pies) sharing the limelight with some more contemporary offerings. I like the jug of iced water on each table (a nice touch) and the generous dish of butter curls accompanying the fresh – though rather too hot – bread rolls. Service is friendly and pleasant throughout.
Joining me on my first visit here is my son, who chooses the oriental inspired Salt and Pepper Calamari, served on a bed of rocket with a cayenne mayonnaise dip as his starter. Not the prettiest of offerings, it’s nonetheless a generous portion, which is light and full of flavour. My Buttered Chicken
Liver Parfait with blackcurrant syrup, served with red onion marmalade and slices of toasted brioche, is lovely. Perfectly smooth and silky, its presentation is neat, simple and eye catching.
There’s a large choice of both starters and mains, and it’s great to see vegetarians so well catered for. Wine is also in good supply, by the glass and bottle. Both our chosen glasses of White (Sauvignon Blanc) and Rosé (Signal Cannon) are very drinkable, but could be just a little more chilled.
With four choices of fish on the menu, I continue my culinary journey with the Pan Fried Sea Bass Fillet, served with a tomato salsa, courgette frites and potato cake; my son decides on the Lamb Rump, served with Dauphinoise Potatoes, Ratatouille and Pesto.
Both dishes look elegant and are carefully plated. The lamb – pink, as requested – is succulent and tender and without an ounce of fat in sight. The tangy tones of the ratatouille and pesto complemend the meat well, and you can’t really go wrong with a creamy dauphinoise. Maybe a little sauce or jus could have pulled all these elements together a touch more, but a clean plate does speak volumes.
My sea bass, with its perfectly crunchy skin, is delicious, with some nicely balanced elements. The courgette frites are definitely more frite than flavour, but other than that, I’d eat it all again. Side dishes of mixed vegetables, just the right side of al dente, and a bowl of wilted spinach are ideal additions.
Summer Pudding, a particular favourite, doesn’t often find its way onto a menu, so there’s no hesitation on my part when it comes to dessert. Served with fresh berries and clotted cream, this is truly scrumptious. Whoever is responsible for this offering is clearly a Summer Pudding expert.
The Hazelnut Chocolate Bombs, three of them, presented on long white dish, look intriguing. With a nutty crunchy exterior, we half expect them to ooze a melted chocolate centre, but the middle proves to be a delicious ice cream. My son thinks them inspired.
Glasses of a particularly fine dessert wine hit the spot perfectly, and round off a sophisticated and enjoyable meal, among the trappings and Elizabethan Grandeur of this delightful country retreat.
STARTERS: £6.00-£7.95 • MAINS: £12.75-£27.50 DESSERTS: £6.75 • HOUSE WINE: £18.50