Neil Thrift at The Capability Restaurant at London Syon Park Hotel, Syon
Adrian Seal eats at The Capability Restaurant at London Syon Park Hotel, Syon Park TW8 8JF. Telephone 020 7870 7777 wwwlondonsyonpark.com
When a restaurant sits on the edge of one of England's finest country estates and takes its name from the man heralded as the 'greatest gardener' you expect the cuisine to be special and The Capability certainly did not disappoint.
The Capability Restaurant is part of the impressive London Syon Park Hotel which sits on the edge of the 200 acre Syon House Estate, home to the Duke of Northumberland for more than 400 years.
The only thing that tried to put a damper on my visit was the great British summer which thwarted hopes of combining a leisurely Saturday lunch with a walk around Syon Park. The park and its lake was designed by Capability Brown, regarded as one of the finest ever landscape architects, in 1760.
The Capability is a relaxed restaurant in which to take lunch, with its design lifted by splashes of soft green furnishings, brightly coloured flowers and plants on the crisp white tablecloths. We had a view looking out onto the stunning terrace with its 400 year old Bonsai tree and walled gardens – the only thing missing was the sun beaming down and we longed to be there under one of the giant sunshades.
Executive chef Neil Thrift, who joined in May, has constructed an imaginative and well matched seasonal menu using ingredients grown in the grounds of the estate and others locally sourced and delivers on preparing his food as simply as possible to allow the flavours to shine through.
And with a two course lunch available for £22 or three for £28 this represents tremendous value for money to eat good food at a quality restaurant.
We decided to treat ourselves and order off the main menu. Fiona started with a delicious spider crab risotto, delicately poached quail eggs sitting on top and bronze fennel (£10.75). Served in a copper dish this was a well constructed dish bursting with a great combination of flavours
My grilled sardines on toast with pickled Lancashire asparagus was a simple yet stunning starter. Every mouthful of the delicious fish was a delight, with the asparagus and perfectly dressed leaves adding to the flavours. I could have eaten it all over again.
We enjoyed a glass of Spee'wah Murray Darling Houseboat Australian Chardonnay with our starters and it is good to see a restaurant offering a decent choice of wines by the glass, giving you the opportunity to savour something different with each course if you so choose.
For mains we both went for fish dishes and they certainly lived up to expectations. We also broke slightly from tradition by ordering glasses of a full bodied red 2010 Bordeaux Château la crox de Queynac, which went down well with both plates of food.
Fiona's perfectly cooked seared scallops with a lovely fresh pea and mint purée and spicy wild boar sausages (£23.95) tasted off all the things it said on the menu, making for a great plate of food. The spice from the sausage was a great addidion, without being overpowering, and added a different dimension the dish.
I loved my Newlyn monkfish tail, with seashore vegetables, surfed clams and braised baby fennel (£20.75) a dish of immense freshness and delicate tastes which all complimented each other perfectly, particularly the bite of the juicy clams. A side of immaculately seasoned spinach added colour and taste to both dishes.
We still had room for two delicious puds, like everything lovingly presented on plates bearing butterfly motifs, a reminder that the iconic Syon butterfly house once occupied the site before making way for the hotel complex.
Fiona woofed down her pavlova with summer berries and raspberry sauce declaring the crunchy meringue as 'just perfect'and didn't even offer me a taste. The smile on my face said everything about the rich glazed chocolate cake lifted by a mouth watering caramel ice cream, chunks of honeycomb and a splash of orange marmalade (both £7.50).
It was a triumphant way to finish off a highly pleasurable lunch and although the stroll around the park will have to wait for another day I am sure it will not be long before we are tempted back to The Capability.