Dine on history and haute cuisine
For Forester and Vurriner alike, the ultimate dining experience in the Dean has to be within its historic and spiritual centre, the Speech House Hotel.
At the prestigious home of the Verderers’ Court, cuisine of the finest quality is what you expect, and it’s what you get to the nth degree.
OR several hundred years, Verderers have been meeting at the Speech House to deliberate on the Forest of Dean’s vert and venison – so it’s only fitting that both the beasts and fruits of the woods should be served on a platter to paying guests of this fine establishment.
Head chef Brent Price tells us that as winter takes hold, deer and other game will be increasingly on the menu in the Verderers’ Court (since 1696) restaurant, fittingly adorned with 19 pairs of antlers and old hunting scenes. Lighter fare is on the menu in the Orangery and bar, although both À la Carte and Table d’Hote dishes served in the restaurant are available there.
Brent, a Forester born and bred, who trained at the Royal Forest of Dean College before further learning his craft in Bermuda, combines a woodman’s know-how with his own exotic twist. He unearths, for instance, historic recipes such as the sponge-based Speech House Pudding, from Charles II’s era, and livens it up for our more discerning modern tastes with a few tangy raspberries.
It was a balmy autumn night when my partner and I dined at Speech House, the first time with Brent in charge, and the zest and zing of summer still seemed to tickle our palates. The ever-changing Table d’Hote offered four choices, and we both went for sweet starters. My partner’s chicken liver parfait was complemented by a hearty dollop of sweet onion chutney and sweet brioche, while I opted for honeydew melon slices in a large fan shape, upon which a scoop of lemon sorbet speckled with mint rested, with a streak of strawberry sauce underneath.
Our taste-buds were given many more flavoursome treats: I’ve ordered sea bass in seaside pubs and found it grilled beyond repair, but in this case it tasted as if I was sitting in the dock of the bay, and its bed of creamy pesto-infused mashed potato was to die for. To top it all, a crayfish sauce made it the food of dreams. My partner tucked into a great tongue-shaped joint of pan-roasted pork, arranged like a drawbridge to an intact castle of pave potatoes, with a red-peppery moat of romesco sauce.
I had to try the recently rediscovered Speech House Pudding, served with custard, and found it pleasant but fairly unremarkable, while my partner’s exquisitely finessed lemon posset filled me with mild envy.
For a sensual, seasonal experience with the zestful feeling that spring and summer are never too far away, book yourself in at Speech House. If you fancy a classy treat, make a date for the special Gourmet Dinner on November 11 – cost £35 for three courses, plus a different glass of wine to go with each course, and coffee and petit fours.