The French Horn
The French Horn (Sonning-on-Thames)
Member Name: tartlette
The French Horn (Sonning-on-Thames)
Advantages: Great food, good service, location
Disadvantages: Service a little too over the top and food a little cold
The French Horn is in Sonning-on-Thames. Sonning is not a big place and the restaurant is on the main road so you can't miss it (sorry I can't be more specific - it doesn't even give a road name on the website!). It's not the easiest place to get to as the approaches are all through small, busy roads. There is plenty of parking in the French Horn's car park opposite the restaurant. The restaurant's location is what really makes it. It is right on the Thames with the gardens leading down to the river. We went on a beautiful sunny day and the setting was perfect.
We didn't stay in the French Horn but just to alert you to the fact that you can stay there. From the website it looks like the rooms are beautifully decorated. They range in price from £160 - £215 per night for two. This includes full English breakfast. Pricey then but I would think worth it for a special night.
We sat outside on the terrace to start off with, where we had champagne. The restaurant has quite a few outside tables so you can really enjoy the setting. It was really lovely to sip champagne looking over the river (yes, I could get used to this life!).
Inside the restaurant is decorated quite traditionally. As you walk in there is an open fire which you can sit around in the winter and which is also used for rotisserie chickens!
The staff were pretty good throughout. All of the staff were French (although I will admit that I didn't check each of them individually!) which adds a nice authentic touch. They were constantly attentive. The one annoyance was that they were too attentive at times. They kept topping up wine glasses without checking if you wanted a top up first. This annoyed Mr Tart as he wanted to drink different wines with different courses and had to be constantly on guard of his glass. I as also annoying for Mr Tart's mum as she was driving and they kept filling her glass. We all wanted them to be attentive but asking would have been better!
We were shown to our table and had bread and butter (you can tell it's a classy place when they stamp the butter!). Then came the starters. I had asparagus with hollandaise sauce which was really good. You could tell that the asparagus was really fresh and it was perfectly cooked - al dente. It was served with the plate tilting towards me resting on a napkin - I have no idea why! Mr Tart had the foie gras, which he said was really good, but there was a lot of the pate and not quite enough toast. Other starters included soup of the day, scampi and a quail stuffed with foie gras.
For the main course I had the roast beef. This was very tender and very tasty but quite rare so may not have been to everyone's taste. Mr Tart had the duck. This was a half duck which had been spit roasted and was served with apple puree and sage stuffing. He said this was really good and that the duck was perfectly cooked (and he's quite fussy about how his meat is cooked). The mains came with lots of potatoes and veg which were served by the ever helpful staff. The only complaint I had about the main course was that by the time everyone's plate had been put in front of them and then the veg had been served the food was not as hot as it should have been. This would have been better if they had heated the plated up more of if they had used some of those big silver domes (hehe, always wanted to be served with one of those!). I do have a thing about cold food and like food to be hot if it's meant to be. Mr Tart usually moans about me making a fuss (although I kept quiet obviously this time - I wasn't paying and it wasn't that cold!) but this time he actually agreed with me that they could have done more to keep the food hot. Other mains included chicken, Dover sole served with banana and mango chutney and lamb. The French Horn is not the place to be if for Sunday lunch if you're a vegetarian as the menu doesn't offer any veggie options (although they are very willing to be helpful so they may make a dish if you ask).
Time for desserts - although we were all pretty full! I went for the pineapple. This was caramalised pineapple slices, with pineapple crisps and pineapple sorbet. It was a small dessert but it was really tasty and it was refreshing after quite a big meal. Mr Tart started off by saying that he didn't want a dessert but as soon as he heard what everyone else was having he called the waiter back and ordered the crème brulee. He was very glad he did! The desserts on offer included crepe suzette, panacotta and a choice of cheese and biscuits.
I don't drink very much so I only had a glass of the champagne (well, when in Rome) but didn't have any wine. However, the wine selection at the French Horn is supposed to be excellent and their wine cellar is well stocked with vintage wines.
The cost of the Sunday lunch was £48.50 per person for three courses and that included a service charge. I'm not sure on the prices of the drinks as I wasn't paying but I would hazard a guess that they were pretty hefty prices as the wines were very good ones. Considering the setting, the quality of the food and the high level of service I don't think the prices are too bad. It's not a place for a quick bite to eat but it is perfect for a really special occasion. I didn't see any children in the restaurant and I wouldn't really say it was suited to them. I can imagine a few glares from some of the diners if the little darlings made too much noise! Also there was no children's menu. Again, I'm sure they'd have children there but it's definitely more of an adult atmosphere.
Mr Tart's family chose the French Horn because they'd been there many times and always had excellent food and service. This time was no exception. The location was stunning and the food was delicious. The service was also excellent. Everyone was impressed with the food including a member of Mr Tart's family who is a chef. The constant wine pouring and the main course not being piping hot were niggles which lose the French Horn one star, giving it four overall, but in general I can highly recommend a visit.