St Helenas is a small and intimate restaurant just outside Bedford in the village of Elstow. Junction 13 of the M1 and twenty minutes later you are in Elstow. Having gone past the ugly towers spewing waste gases on the local landfill site your mind isn't on the delights of a sumptous meal but when you drive through the gates of this small manor house it's all forgotten. The restaurant is just like the type of house you would have seen on Pride and Predudice (but on a smaller scale) with the hall full of beautiful pottery in old glass cabinets. The tables are set in small groups in medium sized rooms so there is no uniformity to the seating, no rows of tables and only two tables will seat 6 people. The rest are for two or four people only which adds to the intimate atmosphere. Drinks before dinner/lunch are served with crudites/petit fours and the menu and wine list's are extensive. We were there for a 'first date' and although I hardly ate anything due to - nerves/excitement/he drove us there in his Mazzerati and I thought he was the best thing since sliced bread - I did eat enough to report on the food!! :-) The wine list went from basic Poilly Fume whites Cote de Rhone reds priced at £10 a bottle to a dessert wine priced at over £3,000. But even at those prices the place was not pretentious and no one looked through their noses at us. We had a mid priced red wine at £24 which I drank too much of (nerves) and helped me decide at that point I was falling in love...... For a starter I had a mushroom risotto which was spot on, not too wet or dry (Michael Winner eat your heart out!) and my friend (loose term for him now) had a soup that was thickened with potato and had sooo much flavour my mouth is watering just thinking about it. For his main course my friend wanted a plain grilled dover sole, boiled potatoes and spinach. I tried the spinach, which melted in the mouth,
which for a girl who doesn't eat her greens was a red letter day! I had a fillet steak stuffed with gorgonzola cheese and wrapped in bacon. It was cooked to perfection and the combination was superb. Although I didn't want to look greedy I decided to have a pud (sorry sweet!). There is no 'sweet trolly', everything is prepared in the kitchen. I had a light lemon mousse (to cleanse the palate just in case we kissed) dusted in icing sugar. He had coffee. The bill including the wine was just under £100. It was pricey but the occasion warranted it and the ambiance was wonderful. The lunch menu is much more reasonable, froma fixed price of £15 a head, and a local chef I know admits to going there for lunch. He told me 'No chef is going to produce a bad meal whether it's lunch or dinner, and as lunch is much cheaper you get to eat the food at a fraction of the cost' Makes sense, so if you can steal a few hours and get over to St Helena's in Elstow then I strongly recommend it. Many people have been there since I have and no one has had a bad meal. Booking is essential, weekend bookings have to be mad at leat 3 weeks in advance. There are no bookings for the table again that night so once you are there you can relax. They have a system of booking you in half an hour before your table is ready so you can sit down, have a drink, order your meal and relax. You are taken to your table when your food is ready. Lunch is great for business meetings as the candles have not been lit and it's a little bit of class among the gas towers! Since I've been there I have gone off sliced bread and him but would go back to St Helena's tomorrow! Any takers :-)!!?