Featured Restaurant: St James

19th May 2017

30 High Street • Bushey • WD23 3HL • 020 8950 2480

Reviewed by Alan Cox

It’s a couple of years since I last had the pleasure of reviewing this delightful and sophisticated restaurant. I had been impressed previously, so I had my antenna on red alert to see if I was to be equally ‘knocked out’ on this return visit. And move over Masterchef, I say, as St James is giving you a run for your money…

The menu (concise, but with plenty of vegetarian and fish options) is daring and innovative and delivered with such panache it is really hard not to applaud the exceptional culinary skills of this prestigious Bushey eatery.

I start with the Grilled Scallops served with Roast Butternut Squash, Pancetta, Pickled Shallots, Toasted Seeds and a Red Wine Glaze. Presentation is eye-catching and the tastes are divine. The teeny delicate cubes of butternut squash add sweetness to the soft and juicy scallops, which are cooked to perfection and bursting with fabulous flavours of the sea.

My wife’s choice, Roast Medallions of Monkfish served with Vegetable Escabbage and micro herbs, is equally delicious. Sitting in a pool of creamy sauce, in a striking white bowl, these fleshy and dense pieces of fish are truly succulent. Two glasses of a refreshing Savignon Blanc, perfectly chilled, make an ideal drinking partner to our fishy beginning, to be followed by a Shiraz for my wife, and a Merlot for me, to complement our meaty mains.

And just when I think it can’t get any better, the main courses come along to upstage the starters.

My wife’s Roast Loin of Venison, served with Potato Sponge, Buttered Kale, Red Cabbage Jam and Spiced Chocolate Jus is stunning. The melt-in-your-mouth game, the unusual texture of the fluffy, and almost bread-like potato, the swirls of deep dark blackcurrant and chocolate jus, and the vivid green of the kale make a bold and vibrant impact. It tastes, and I quote, ‘like heaven on a plate’.

I can’t resist the Grilled Medallions of Beef, and I’m so glad I chose it. Served with Portobello Mushroom, Savoy Cabbage, Celeriac puree, Parisienne Potatoes with Red Onion jam and a Thyme jus, it is all so good. Cooked medium rare (to my liking), this meat is so tender it’s like cutting through butter. I love the little scattering of crispy and golden, tiny potatoes, and the dark crinkled, blistered cabbage leaves, in this carefully constructed, elegant and well thought-out dish.

On my last visit I overlooked a sweet dessert in favour of cheese. I do, however, recall eyeing the Toblerone Cheesecake with lingering regret – so, as it is still on the menu (it is the St James signature dessert, after all), I succumb. It delivers everything I’m expecting…rich, intense, creamy, and with those oh-so-familiar hints of that infamous triangular chocolate bar.

Nestled beneath a golden, crunchy caramel lid, the Vanilla Brûlée has a terrific thick and creamy custard, hitting the spot for my wife perfectly, and proving a lovely sweet finale.
The charming Alfonso is a perfect host throughout, and his friendly team of staff ensure that the evening is well-paced with nothing too much trouble.

I am, as you’ve guessed, ‘knocked out’ again. The sheer passion and flair for food, coupled with the seeming ease and confidence with which St James deliver is, quite simply, outstanding. The restaurant is celebrating its twentieth anniversary next month – the perfect excuse to raise one final glass, and toast their continued success. Here’s to the next twenty.

STARTERS: £5.25 to £8.95 • MAINS: £16.95 to £23.95
DESSERTS: £5.95 - £6.50 • HOUSE WINE: £16.95

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