Chef: Phil Fanning
The food – well it is really very good. Interesting and excellently cooked. The venison was superb, although situated where it is, in Woburn Estate’s Deer Park, it could be considered a crime if the venison wasn’t at its best here. The venison heart was notable by being unusual and delicious. Other courses, including lobster and a playful snail ‘garden’,were excellent too. As such this isn’t a restaurant for the food-shy (I mean fussy) and that’s fine by me. This is the sort of small plate dining you expect from a Michelin starred restaurant so don’t expect a large plate of anything but you will not be disappointed on the quality of the food.
When comparing restaurants it is perhaps worth noting that what Paris House refer to as an eight-course taster menu is what many London restaurants would call a five course taster, including as it does the amuse bouche, pallet cleanser and coffee. Maybe that doesn’t matter but it feels that they are exaggerating the extent of the taster by doing this. I notice that more recently to have changed their menu and this appears to no longer be the case.
We paired wine to our taster menu and the wine was nice enough. (Seeing as there are really only five real courses, having wine ‘paired to each course’ actually means five wines, not eight. Again the current (February 2017) menu appears to be much cleared now.) Regarding the wine itself there was nothing particularly noteworthy – there was one red wine none of our party of four liked but being typically British we said nothing and drank it anyway.
The setting is more interesting than most originally having been a house in 1878 in Paris. The 9th Duke of Bedford, having taken a shine to it, had it dismantled and rebuilt on his estate. As you do. Well, we all like to bring back a souvenir from a successful city-break. The house is certainly pretty and inside maintains what feels like a cosy home layout.
What lets this restaurant down is the service. I appreciate it must be difficult to find and keep the same level of staff which an equivalent London restaurant might enjoy (the restaurant is in rural Bedfordshire) however you will pay a comparable amount to eat here, maybe even more, than in London and the staff appeared inexperienced and completely uninterested. The maître d was good but not good enough to compensate for the rest of the staff. The most disappointing aspect was the sommelier whose knowledge appeared to extend to the sort of narrative which can be found on the back of the bottle and who stated that the Champagne was from the champagne region (gosh – how unusual) and had been sourced from a famous vineyard maker (I still don’t know what one of those is).
In summary this certainly deserves its Michelin star as the food is excellent but it is difficult not to feel a little let down by some nondescript wines and inadequate staff. Definitely the best restaurant in the area but when compared to London it hasn’t quite got the same class.