Featured Restaurant: Hawtrey's

8th March 2019

The Barn Hotel • Ruislip • HA4 6JB • 01895 636057

Reviewed by Lisa Botwright

The Barn Hotel is a delightful contrast of old and new. Made up of three historic Grade 2 listed buildings, it combines the traditional decor of a stately home with a modern, relaxed boutique vibe; and so when you visit its restaurant, Hawtrey’s, an advantage is you also get to enjoy the added ambience of the hotel’s cosy lounge…

…which is where we are now, plonked on an elegant but gloriously comfortable settee, enjoying large G&Ts and reading the heavy menus that exude ‘quality’. It’s Friday night and the stresses and strains of our week are quickly melting away.

As we make our choices, the maître d’ surprises us with some astonishingly pretty amuse-bouches. Here are two balls of arancini served on spoons – we bite through the hot crisp breadcrumbs, to find them full of light, tasty cauliflower, instead of rice; plus balls of goats cheese topped with heads of grapes, and scarves of fresh herbs –they look like little snowman. There’s also a huge prawn for my husband (H), served in a shot glass, with sweet chilli sauce and lemon – and, since I have a shellfish allergy, I’m offered morsels of incredibly fresh salmon, gin-cured to the chef’s secret recipe and served in a tiny pan, placed inside another little pan full of ice. The attention to detail is exquisite; a concept that continues throughout the evening.

Once the waiter takes our order, we’re led next door into the oak-panelled restaurant. It feels very grown-up in here – all white linen tablecloths, upholstered furniture, resplendent chandeliers and classical music – but in a good way. I feel a pleasing sense of occasion. Staff are impeccably professional, but friendly and chatty too. It’s far from stuffy.

I’ve chosen Jerusalem Artichoke Soup to begin and H opts for Wild Mushroom Risotto with truffle oil. My soup is delicate, yet flavourful and velvety smooth – it’s the perfect, light starter; while H’s risotto is much more rich and decadent. The truffle oil and mushrooms give his dish an earthy, umami hit, elevated further by the tangy parmesan, and a hint of mustard powder for heat. A good risotto like this is a heady, savoury combination, and I’m glad that H accepts the maxim that what’s mine is mine, and what’s his is mine.

We move on to Seared fillet of North Sea Cod in herb crust served with truffle mash, crushed peas, chives and butter sauce (H) and Pan-seared Venison Loin served with squash pure, kale, wild mushroom and blackberry jus (me). The venison – the fillet steak of game – is delectably good. Two perfect, plump medallions are served on a colourful bed of autumnal-orange root vegetables, vivid green kale and bright, plump blackberries: each mouthful brings a different flavour combination. I question something I can’t quite identify and the maître d’ tells me that the meat is rubbed first with a little bitter cacao to add contrast to the sweetness on the plate. Inspired.

H’s main tastes dreamy too: his generous portion of perfectly cooked fish is embraced by soft breadcrumbs (from the restaurant’s home-cooked bread, of course), mixed with fresh scented herbs, including dill and parsley. With the sweet peas and the silky, lemony, buttery sauce, it makes for a hypnotically comforting dish; the kind that makes the world abate.

Because that’s how we feel here at Hawtrey’s: as if we’ve been transported to another place, one full of charm and refinement.

We finish up with a shared portion of Chocolate Fondant – pausing every few moments to say ‘ooh’ – and remark on the staggeringly good food we’ve enjoyed. We really don’t want the evening to end. Shall we retire to that inviting lounge?

STARTERS: £9.95-£13.99 • MAINS: £23.95-£36.95
SET DINNER: 2 x Courses: £25.95 / 3 x Courses: £29.95
DESSERTS: £7.50 • HOUSE WINE: £18.50

Find Your Local