Anything But Simple

Rosalind Sack discovers modern, elegant and memorable food in the period surroundings of the beautiful Forbury Roseate Hotel, Reading

I never trust a restaurant with a large menu; if they are preparing reams of dishes that span endless pages, they rarely execute any of them particularly well. Which is why the menu at Cerise restaurant at The Forbury Roseate Hotel – under the command of executive head chef Craig Van der Meer – was particularly tempting. Six starters, six mains and five desserts (as well as a tasting menu with wine pairing), all simply named – and every one sounded enticing. 

Housed in the listed Edwardian former Shire Hall for Berkshire County Council, this Reading townhouse hotel feels rather special and the service was ultra-friendly. Chic and simple in decor, the intimate dining room sits next door to a buzzing bar and overlooks the garden terrace beyond. There are also private dining rooms upstairs. 

Seated in a cosy corner, we started with a refreshing pre-starter of sweet yellow pepper sorbet with sorrel gazpacho and diced cucumber. For my starter, I chose a richly flavoured warm wild mushroom ragout served with a creamy and earthy mushroom ‘panna cotta’ on a sweep of pine nut emulsion, with slivers of pickled onion and sweet leeks, pine nuts and shaved truffle. It was a wonderful blend of textures and every element was fantastic. My partner was equally happy with his starter of pan-fried scallops with caramelised cauliflower, crushed peanut, wasabi gel and raisins.

For the main I chose fillet of brill with an Asian twist, served with shimeji mushrooms, cucumber, miso foam, a sharp kick of pickled ginger and sprinkled with Japanese-inspired bonito flakes – paper-thin fish shavings flavoured with umami. This light and fresh dish was also bursting with the salty flavours of the sea from the accompanying dulse seaweed. My partner went for the venison served with braised red cabbage, parsnip purée, crisp chocolate shards, a sharp physalis chutney and a red wine jus. He happily finished every morsel.

We were presented with a pretty pre-dessert of milk sorbet with lavender honey and raspberry, before having dessert. My partner chose the rich chocolate and olive oil tart with peanut butter ice cream. The cheese menu looked intriguing but I chose the mousse, which sounded simple yet was anything but. 

Two discs of white chocolate mousse sandwiched between crisp hazelnut tuile, served with an assam tea sorbet, a sharp lemon jelly, poached blackberries and two pieces of a sweet, slightly malty  sponge. It was a beautiful balance of sweet and sour; a lovely end to a thoroughly enjoyable meal. 

theforburyhotel.co.uk; 01189 527 770

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