The Barn Hotel • Ruislip • HA4 6JB • 01895 636057
Reviewed by Lisa Botwright
Although The Barn Hotel is slightly unassuming from the road – it’s situated conveniently right in the centre of Ruislip, after all – once inside, I find myself utterly transported to somewhere that can only be described as a ‘better place’. Would I like to take a seat in the lounge to peruse the menu? Why not!
Perhaps I’m in an episode of Downton Abbey? With the dark oak panelling, some of which dates back to the sixteenth century, and the elegant upholstered seating in which I settle back to make my choice, I’m feeling wonderfully spoilt. This is compounded further when ‘Carson’ comes along to take my order and brings a surprise plate of mixed canapés, a perfect accompaniment to my G&T.
As a jeans-wearing-steak-n-chips-down-my-local type of person – who isn’t these days? – I find I really miss this level of service. Instead of having my order taken by a slightly scatty, but well-meaning teenager, I chat through the choices with the Maître d’, who is knowledgeable and charming (and then, afterwards, politely unobtrusive). The menus themselves add to the slight formality of the occasion – they are big, heavy and detail the most delicious dishes. Oh, what to choose? Since I’m eyeing a rather rich main course, I decorously opt for a light starter of Baby Vine Tomato and Berry Salade, with watermelon, goats cheese and basil oil. The Husband (H) has no such compunction and happily orders Caramelised Orkney Scallops, with apple purée, strawberry salsa and orange emulsion.
We saunter on into the equally comfortable dining room to await our starters – and we’re impressed. The menu descriptions and the decor may be traditional, but the food presentation is thoroughly modern, and bears witness to plenty of care and attention to detail. H says his huge, plump, perfectly cooked scallops are the best he’s ever tasted, and my salad is far too tasty for me to feel at all sanctimonious: the salty tang of the goats cheese works perfectly with the sweet berries and cherry tomatoes. Oh, I and forgot to mention the bread, and particularly the fact that it comes with four choices of butter (four!); perfect for mopping up my berry juices and stealing a little of H’s fish jus.
Next we’re on to our mains, and H continues with his fish theme, selecting Pan Roasted Sea Trout, Lobster & Risotto, mange tout & girole with champagne sabayon foam. I’m too busy gazing in awe at my Sous-vide New Season Best End of Lamb, with garlic purée, zucchini moussaka & minted lamb jus: the big steak-like medallions of meat, atop the deconstructed layers of zucchini, prove just as impressively tender as they look. H’s trout is the pinkest I’ve ever seen: the seared crispy skin, a perfect foil to the luxurious risotto.
We’ve asked the Maître d’ to select a glass of wine for us each, based on our choices, and they don’t disappoint. A crisp Sauvignon Blanc cuts through the creaminess of the fish and my Cabernet Sauvignon has that delicious smoothness of a jolly good red.
I’m not much of a dessert person and although I’m full (no meagre fine dining portions here), I’m still tempted by the cheese platter. It’s delicious, of course, but my husband’s dessert looks much more exciting: Trio of Apple Crumble, Granny Smith Apple Tart, Granite & Calvados Crème Brulée. He’s smitten with the crumble, but I feel the star attraction is the vivid-green granite, with its refreshing apple tartness.
We’re so contented and relaxed by the end of the meal, that only one thing would make it even better...a room for the night. Carson!