“ Address: 1 Market Square / Old Amersham HP7 0DF / Buckinghamshire „
To celebrate our birthdays, my then boyfriend's parents took us out for a meal and chose a restaurant about half an hour away from them in Amersham, called Gilbey's. The old building looks like it may have been a pub or several houses in a past life, but in fact was a 17th Century Grammar School and latterly a tea shop until the Gilbey family (who already had a successful restaurant in Eton) took it over in 1989. The cuisine in 'Modern British'
The restaurant is in a low ceiling building, with lots of old wood and dried flowers in the space that was no doubt occupied by a fireplace in the original building. In spite of these original features, the restaurant has been well maintained - there is no peeling paint or signs of wear and tear. Each cloth covered table (linen topped with paper) is well laid out and the wire-like metal chairs all have a soft modern cushion to keep your derrière comfortable.
We ordered some wine, tap water and sparking mineral water whilst we perused the food menu. The wine we selected was a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (£26), which was not as dry as I expected, but a very pleasant wine. They also offer English wines from their own vineyard when available. Wines start at £16.60 and go up to £50 for champagne.
The menu is very appealing. There is a set menu at £18.50 for two courses and £24 for three. This offered three options per course, a fish, a meat and a vegetarian and I was tempted by the veggie option but was ultimately swayed by the starter on the A La Carte menu. This menu was more extensive and there were two veggie starters and main options amongst the varied selection of meats and fish. We commented that it made a change for the veggie options to be at the top of the selection, rather than stuck at the bottom as an afterthought.
For my starter I discounted the soup of the day - broccoli and asparagus - as although I liked both vegetables, I find green soup quite unappetising. Instead I went for English asparagus, with salt-roasted beetroot and pistachio salad and a poached quails egg. This was delicious, a good mix of flavours, the asparagus was perfectly cooked (served warm), as was the poached egg and the roasted beetroot was not overly salty. The pistachios gave a crunch to the meal and sat amongst some baby salad leaves. It was beautifully presented as well. The others had the scallops with chorizo crisps and pepper purée (£9.50), again beautifully served, lined up on a rectangular plate, and they were declared to be cooked just right.
As a main course I selected the poppy seed pancake with roasted butternut and ricotta, rocket and pesto (£15.75). The pancake wasn't particularly seedy, and was served as a 'bun' stuffed with the butternut and ricotta, with a 'foam' on top. The foam was tasteless however, I am not sure what it was. The rocket and pesto garnish was subtle, and didn't over power the dish, which is always a risk with pesto. My ex and his mum had the corn-fed chicken supreme (£15.95), which was also well cooked and well presented, with a tomato mousse 'smear' and fondant potato with cabbage. His dad having the Cornish lamb with pan-fired kidney (£19.95). All dishes were enjoyed and our plates went away clean.
I don't always have a dessert but the others were keen, so my arm was twisted. I went for the warm chocolate brownie with a white chocolate mousse and beetroot sorbet. The brownie was lovely and moist, chocolately without being overly rich, the mousse being runny, rather than set, and served at room-temperature in a lidded glass jar and an individual spoon, served alongside a scoop of beetroot sorbet. I didn't like the sorbet on its own, but I'd ordered the dessert for the brownie anyway, although they did complement each other better when eaten altogether. The cappuccino crème brulee was declared to be very nice also. Desserts were £7.35.
I visited the Ladies' lavatory which was outside by the cloakrooms as you came in. There is only one cubicle, but it is clean and tidy and well stocked. However, I went immediately after another diner and the tank didn't re-fill in time. Service was excellent, the staff were polite and attentive without being overly effusive. As it was an old building, the layout is quite cramped but the staff seemed expert at getting to corner based diners without leaning over anyone too much
I didn't see the final bill as it was a birthday treat, although I garnered from the menu prices that it isn't cheap night out. Saying that, the food was of an excellent quality , well cooked and presented, so I do think it is worth treating yourself to should you be in the area. If anyone wants to treat me again you are more than welcome!
1 Market Square Old Amersham Buckinghamshire HP7 0DF +44 (0)1494 727242
I recommend booking, as it is not a large restaurant. I noted that they offer high chairs and booster seats so no doubt welcome younger diners. Due to the traditional building, the restaurant can be cramped so I would suggest this is mentioned at booking, to allow them to position the high chair in the most convenient location rather than manoeuvre it through a packed restaurant. There are also tables outside if the English weather is on your side.