“ Food Type: / City: Hampshire „
A special occasion demands a special celebration and so my annual hunt to discover something special for my beloved partner, this year to celebrate our 27 years together, was on. What I found came highly recommended but required an overnight stay as it was sufficiently far from where we live to make a return trip after an evening of culinary indulgence, undesirable. In 36 on the Quay in Emsworth, Hampshire I found both.
36 on the Quay enjoys a sensational location overlooking Chichester Harbour, just feet away from the shore, across the road. Approaching, as we did from the direction of the M3, you take the M27 eastwards towards Portsmouth and keep on going. You want the A27 but resist all temptations to take any of the signposted directions off of the M27 that indicate the A27. You don't want any of them. Patience will be rewarded when the M27 eventually turns into the A27. Shortly after here you want the A259 and to get to it you follow the junction under the road, heading in the direction of the Emsworth.
Emsworth is actually quite a large town, spread out along the coast. For a really spectacular approach to the restaurant, resists also the urge to continue to the roundabout signposted Town Centre. Instead look out on your right, in a dip in the road, for an expanse of water. You will see a road immediately before it (Bath Road) and within feet after it, another road marked as a one-way street. This is Bridgefoot Path and a path it might almost be but it is in fact wide enough for a vehicle.
This road is somewhat disconcerting because of the complete absence of any barrier separating you from a plunge into the water, the Mill Pond, filled by a stream and prevented from simply draining into the harbour by a retaining dyke that also provides a promenade. Be careful also of the dozens of swans who have made this pool their own. The strut about as though they own the place and, in sense, I suppose they do.
Finally the road bends round to the left and, as it starts to head back inland towards the town centre, there on the corner is 36 on the Quay, facing the harbour. The road here becomes South Street and, unlike Bridgefoot Path, is two-way so approaching from that direction means you have to turn around and go back the way you came. Immediately on the left, behind the building is a small courtyard where up to five cars can park. You will probably be greeted there, as we were, by Karen Farthing who, along with her husband Simon, are the owners of 36 on the Quay.
The entrance to the restaurant is, however, on the other side of the building through a small garden gate and up a passageway between their property and the next door Flintstone Cafe. However, if you are staying overnight, as we were, the entrance to your room is via a doorway, confusingly numbered 47, which is on South Street. This entrance is right next to a tiny museum that actually attaches to the building. It's easy to get the entrances confused, as we proved.
The provision of accommodation is a relatively recent but inspired development. So often we have had the enjoyment of what could have been a really memorable evening spoiled by the prospect of having to get home somehow, afterwards. At 36 on the Quay the problem is solved.
There are four rooms, all named after herbs, Vanilla, Nutmeg, Clove and our room, Cinnamon. All are on the floor above the restaurant. The owners also have available a small cottage (Cardamom Cottage, to preserve the herbal theme) which is suitable for families.
Our room was beautifully decorated, with exposed beams and a decent amount of space. The En Suite is creatively fitted into the space above the stairs but entering this room requires some care. The door is only about 4 ½ feet high, due to the supporting roof beam separating the bedroom from the shower room. It has a warning above the door to Mind Your Head!
The double bed is extremely comfortable. A duvet is provided, which is what we are used to at home. A TV is situated in a niche in the wall opposite the end of the bed and, if you have nothing better to do, will provide the limited entertainment provided by the terrestrial analogue channels. A small sidetable here contains bottles of still and sparkling mineral water whilst a tray with with tea and coffee making facilities will be found in the built-in wardrobe by the window.
If I have a complaint about the room it is that there is no mirror and that all of the usable electrical sockets are in the corner of the room. How often have I found this? My wife always wants a mirror when drying her hair! Still, this is perhaps being a little picky. There was little else about which to complain. The bed was extremely comfortable and, due to the lack of traffic, a quiet night was enjoyed.
Breakfast is included with the accommodation and is served in the common area around which the bedrooms are arranged, rather than in the main restaurant downstairs, if the weather is inclement. If the weather is brilliant as it was during our stay during the recent spell of hot, sunny weather, breakfast is taken on the terrace above the entrance to the restaurant. To get there you have to duck through a window! From this rooftop position a view of the harbour is possible though limited by the roofs of the adjacent buildings, but enjoyable nevertheless.
But, we were not here to spend time in bed, attractive though that thought may be. We were here to enjoy a celebration meal.
The restaurant is tastefully decorated with tables snugly fitted in. On a Friday evening the place was full but there is just enough space between the tables that you don't get the feeling that you are eavesdropping on other's conversations. We had a table for two in the corner where I felt we had, perhaps, a little more privacy. We even had a window through which we could watch the world go by. One of the world I saw walk by was a colleague from work and his wife! Neither of us live locally and neither had mentioned we were dining there that night. Now, what were the chances???????
One thing is for sure, you are here to enjoy yourself for the entire evening. Once you are seated you need not leave until you are totally satisfied. No one is hurrying you to get out and vacate your table for other guests.
The three course meal has been perfectly judged by Simon both in content and quantity. Not the meagre portions of Nouvelle Cuisine that leaves you feeling unsatisfied and ripped off nor the mountains of food that some serve up, mistaking quantity for quality and leaving you either bloated or else guilty at the waste.
The wine list is also extensive and full of quality but a touch on the pricey side though, I suppose, no more so than many. Though we are not slaves to convention, we both had decided on a fish course for the starter and a meat dish for the main course, we did decide to enjoy a white wine first followed by a red. I am quite prepared to ignore these rules but with such a range of choice we decided to go with the flow.
For the first course we chose a half bottle of a Chablis that was just superb. I can't remember what it was called but it's the only one on the menu in half-bottle size. We could easily have chosen a full bottle but that would maybe have been just a touch over-indulgent.
For the main course we picked one of our all-time favourite regions, Irouleguy, from the foothills of the French Basque Pyrenees. You so rarely see this wine in the UK; the last and only other time I have found it is at The Witchery in Edinburgh. This succulent wine, bursting with natural flavour, perfectly complemented our main course dishes.
Whilst waiting to commence our meal we were provided with the usual nibbles, consisting in this case of some crisp bread sticks, not the sort you get in most Italian restaurants but short and flattish and little salty to the taste. A bowl of olives were also provided as well as a small basket of their speciality breads that are amongst the best tasting you will find anywhere. I especially loved the poppy seed bread and putting any of the French butter on it seemed almost criminal.
For a starter my wife chose the Seared Scallops. These are served with a salad of apple, ham and pea shoot dressed with a passion fruit and beetroot sauce. Despite the fact that she is not great fan of beetroot she pronounced this the finest dish of scallops she had ever tasted, praise indeed. I had a slice of Sea Bass served on top of a potato salad with crab, olives and spring onions.
Between courses we were served with a small (think eggcup size) bowl of cold cucumber soup. This made for a very pleasant palate cleanser in preparation for our main course.
For our main course my wife chose the Spring Lamb. With this you get not just a meat serving but also sweetbreads and liver. It is served with creamed potato mixed with garlic and shallots and flavoured with a rosemary gravy.
I had the Venison, one of my favourite meats. Served in small medallions, it came with sliced potatoes, carrots and beetroot slices plus, most unusually, on the side a small (I think it was the same size as the dish for the cucumber soup) side-serving of a game pie. This was so small that you had to eat it with a teaspoon! However, the flavour perfectly complimented the venison.
And so, on to the desserts. My wife had the Iced Peanut Parfait which came with various chocolates plus some tiny butterscotch doughnuts. If anything she felt that this was the least impressive part of the meal though enjoyable none the less. I had the Fresh Peaches, cooked in a vanilla sauce and served with caramel ice cream and covered in a caramel sauce. It was delicious and my wife said she wished she had chosen it as well.
At this point we both felt that we had enjoyed an almost perfect meal and whilst she finished with a coffee (I don't drink coffee), I signed off with a malt whisky. I asked for a Laphroig but they didn't have any so instead I had an equally acceptable Lagavulin.
The meal is priced at £45 per person and at that is very good value for money. Of course, the wine and drinks come extra. I all it came to around £150 for the two of us. The room was £95 for the night and that includes the breakfast.
I have to say that this was one of the best restaurant experiences I have ever enjoyed and that include comparison against The Waterside at Bray, Michel Roux's establishment. I can give it an unreserved and unqualified recommendation.
Oh, and many thanks to raehippychick for pointing us in this direction.
At the bottom of South Road in Emsworth Hampshire nestles a little piece of heaven. 36 on The Quay is one of the most divine restaurants I have ever been lucky enough to be taken to. And about a year ago they opened their upper floor as hotel rooms and advertise themselves as a restaurant with rooms. This indicates that they still place more emphasis on good food above accommodation, however whilst the food is still utterly divine the room I stayed in came a very close second!
Mid morning on Friday the 17th September 2004, the first day of Emsworth Food Festival the army barriers were raised at the top of the high street in Emsworth to allow our car to process down the narrow South Street. This was a very apposite beginning to a divine evening I felt like royalty or at the very least a Hollywood star. A moment of slight panic as we arrived at 36 On The Quay; their car park was full. Luckily the helpful staff shuffled various vehicles around and we managed to squeeze and go off to indulge ourselves at various tastings around the festival
At 4 o clock sharp we were back ready to check in to Vanilla Suite, chosen specifically because on their website they suggest one can: relax in the large bath whilst watching the boats from the window in the bathroom. We checked in and entered the accommodation area via a door hidden behind a bookcase in the restaurant very Famous Five! The room was even better than I had hoped and definitely better than it looks on the website. A large, light airy room in natural colours overlooking the harbour with a corner cut out to make the bathroom.
After a relaxing soak in the corner bath watching the world go by we dressed and sauntered down for our dinner, not going through the hidden passage this time as didnt want to knock down other diners! To the rear of the restaurant is a delightful lounge area where there is plenty of room to sit with a glass plate of large olive and homemade crisps while you peruse the menu.
Be warned this restaurant is not a fast food joint, dinner here really does take all evening as each meal is made individually. Personally that is a great bonus for me as I have always enjoyed the French style of eating; if food is good it is worth lingering over
Making a decision form such a mouth watering selection was not an easy task, especially as the menu has a set price of £42.00 a head, so we did not even have the help of cutting our choice down by price! Luckily my lovely fella and I always share bits of our food so we were able to select choice we both liked, as we knew we would be able to experience more that way
After choosing from the delicious menu and extensive wine list we sat with a drink enjoying the ambience and admiring the small courtyard garden visible through patio doors whilst we waited to be taken through to our table. The décor in the restaurant, in contrast to the simplicity of the rooms, is sumptuous with layered drapes on the tables and at the windows. One wall is almost covered with large award platters showing just how good this resteraunt really is for food. The crockery is attractively patterned and the silver and glassware sparkle and shine beautifully.
Our table was tucked away in a romantic corner, but not squashed as although the Food Festival was happening and the restaurant was fully booked, the owners did not attempt to cash in by packing their customers like sardines just to get another couple of tables worth of money in. Our choice of wine was brought promptly to us as we sat down and was poured along with chilled water. Before the starter arrived our young waitress proudly presented us with a complimentary appetiser of wild mushroom broth flavoured with truffle oil, presented in a tiny espresso cup. This heavenly little touch is an excellent idea as it stimulates your taste buds so that you really get the most from the flavours of your ensuing meal
Our starters arrived looking like works of art. I have a great love of scallops and when they arrived I was initially disappointed to see only two. However this really was sufficient, as they were decent sized ones nestling gently on a tangy apple and asparagus reduction and accompanied by a melt in the mouth tart of buttered leeks. I was so enamoured with my scallops that I forgot to ask to sample my partners quail but he pronounced it sublime. It certainly looked wonderful; the meat had been carefully separated and piled into a neat construction topped with the drumsticks and a fried quails egg
We lingered over the starters enjoying the subtle tastes and sensations, then enjoyed they gap before our main courses were brought to us. At all times the staff were excellent. Although mainly young they have clearly been very well trained and take great pleasure in their jobs. They all seem very happy and proud to be working at 36. Our wine and water glasses were unobtrusively kept topped up at all times and when we wanted to order more wine we had no problem in attracting the attention of our waitress.
If we thought the starters were good the main course almost put them to shame. I had ordered a fillet of beef, cooked bleu, which stood in a small pool of scrumptious piquant sauce, accompanied by the freshest, crispest vegetables. I prefer my meat cooked bleu, but few restaurants can actually manage this, as expected 36 On the Quay cooked it perfectly; they dont get all those awards for no reason! The meat was so tender and moist that I could have cut it with a butter knife. The duck that arrived opposite me looked (and tasted) just as perfect; slightly pink, very tender with a gentle crisp to the skin, it was perfectly laid out in a fan shape on a subtle jus that smothered the tongue with a gentle citrus zest.
Before the dessert was served we received a pre-dessert of passion fruit mousse served in a dollhouse-sized tureen to prepare our mouths for the sweetness to come. Although a complete chocoholic I was unable to resist the idea of a warm strawberry soufflé, this was accompanied by fresh strawberries and a tiny dish of homemade vanilla crème anglaise. It was an amazing experience; the warm soufflé was so full of real fresh strawberries that it took me right back to when I was a child and we used to go strawberry picking in the summer holidays. The chocolate mousse was also delectable, smooth and creamy without being too sweet, but I am still glad I opted for the soufflé.
The size of all the portions is not vast, just perfect. If they were any bigger they would ruin the meal, as it is at the end of three courses we were left feeling completely satiated yet comfortable and not overstuffed. Just very ready for our bed upstairs overlooking Emsworth harbour.
The finish to our stay here was every bit as perfect as the beginning. While we sipped our liqueur coffees we had been asked what we would prefer for breakfast and had been offered a choice of being served in the elegant lounge area with terrace upstairs or in our room. Being a naturally lazy person I chose to have it served in the room rather than have to extend myself to walking the few feet to the lounge.
At nine in the morning as requested our breakfast arrived as I was sitting curled up on the large window seat watching the harbour and the stall holders as they set up for another day of the Food Festival. This last meal was of the same high standard as every mouthful the night before. A selection of warm bread, brioches and pain au chocolat washed down with freshly brewed coffee and tea and freshly squeezed orange juice. A nice touch was dishes of natural yoghurt, fresh raspberries and sliced nectarines.
Our total bill was an eye watering £250.00, but that included the price of the best suite with breakfast at £110.00 so realistically it was what we would expect to pay for one of our extra special treat dinners. And we're already booked in for the another trip this coming Food Festival 2005!! Can't wait!!