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Restaurant Review: Wernher Restaurant At Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf and Spa, England

Joanna Hall

Luton Hoo is one of those quintessential English country estates with a long and impressive history, a place which has welcomed heads of state and royalty, and has passed through a number of esteemed hands in terms of ownership. In more recent years, the estate has been owned by Elite Hotels, opening in 2007 after a long and painstaking restoration. The hotel has been featured in a number of famous television programs and movies, including Four Weddings and a Funeraland Eyes Wide Shut, and today, it's a retreat ideal for anyone seeking a romantic getaway in the Bedfordshire countryside.

Along with extensive leisure facilities, a major part of the modern day Luton Hoo experience is fine dining, whether you are enjoying casual fare after a spa treatment or a game of golf at the laid-back, country style Adam's Brasserie, or relaxing with a high tea experience in the elegant drawing room, complete with silver cutlery, crisp white linen and the clink of fine bone china. An experience not to be missed, however, is dinner in the resplendent Wernher Restaurant, named for Sir Julius Wernher who bought Luton Hoo in 1903 and transformed it into a historic residence befitting one of the richest men in England. Today the kitchen is under the direction of esteemed Executive Chef Kevin Clark, and has been awarded two coveted AA Rosettes, serving cuisine which uses British sourced ingredients offered with a modern twist.

The location and decor:

Just entering this glamorous venue is a feast for the eyes, and while the menu may have contemporary modern accents, the decor is all traditional; it's a delicious fusion of floor-to-ceiling marble panels, thick rich red and gold carpeting underfoot, magnificent chandeliers, and lavish gold accented drapes framing windows which afford sweeping views of Luton Hoo's beautifully manicured grounds. The venue is extremely spacious, the generous gaps between tables adding to the feeling of romance, and tables arranged in combinations from intimate two's to sociable fours. Even when busy, which it was on the Sunday night when I dined there, it didn't feel crowded. There's plenty of natural light too from those large windows if you're dining in daylight, you're embraced in soft light if it's dark, there's enough hushed conversation without it being awkwardly quiet, and there are plenty of art pieces and antique furniture to enjoy, should your attention wander from your companion or the food.

During our fine dining experience I ascertained that the guests were a combination of locals, and guests at the hotel. Everyone had dressed for the occasion, and seemed to be having an enjoyable experience; it was all about quiet glamour, with the feeling that a Sir Julius, or VIP could arrive and be seated any minute. Along with an arresting dining environment befitting a hotel of its stature, the service is as you would expect in a five-star, award-winning establishment; friendly, efficient and precise, with even the slightest look of curiosity or raised eyebrow attracting subtle and polite attention from the wait staff.

The menu:

Having already enjoyed a pre-dinner cocktail at the bar, we began our culinary journey at Wernher Restaurant with a glass of Champagne, then perused the menu and the impressive wine list. It took a while for us both to decide such was the scope of choice. There are a number of menus on offer here depending on when you are eating, including a Sunday lunch menu, a tasting menu with five courses which can be paired with specific wines, or you choose from a specialty menu as we did. Chef Clark changes the menu regularly, depending on what products he can source and what's in season. Starters can range from pan fried scallops with cauliflower and grain mustard puree, chestnut bubble and squeak, compressed apple and Granny Smith foam, to wild mushroom, ricotta and tarragon tortellini with cep espuma, wilted rocket and a sesame and poppy seed tuille. Other offerings include foie gras, goats cheese and smoked salmon. It was a difficult choice.

Mains were a little easier to navigate, although they ranged from a delectable pan fried halibut and poached turbot, to Gressingham duck breast. For my niece the choice was roast fillet of Casterbridge beef, served with a butternut squash puree, truffle and mushroom croquette and a merlot butter.

Anyone who knows me knows that I rarely make dessert, even at an award-winning restaurant, but encouraged by my niece the chocolate dessert caught my eye; it was a white chocolate semi sphere and cake with rich chocolate mousse, caramelised banana and chocolate ice cream. We shared it, along with some fresh strawberries. And dinner was done. If you're staying at the hotel, you have to set aside at least one night to "eat in". The food at Wernher Restaurant is superb, and the service right up there with the best that the top establishments in London have to offer. Best of all, you can eat yourself into oblivion without having far to go home; and the next day there's always the spa, a round of golf, or a host of other activities you can use to work it all off and start over.

Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf and Spa is located at The Mansion House, Luton, Beds LU1 3TQ,

To get to Luton Hoo, fly Cathay Pacific from Sydney to London via Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific Airways is the 2014 Skytrax Airline of the Year and offers flights to over 190 destinations in 42 countries and territories. From Australia the airline has over 70 flights a week to Hong Kong from six major Australian cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Cairns and Perth - with a choice of flying in economy, premium economy or business class.

There are four flights daily from Sydney, three flights a day from Melbourne, daily flights from Brisbane, four flights a week from Cairns and Adelaide, and ten flights from Perth. All flights provide connections over the Hong Kong hub to the airline’s worldwide network, including eight European destinations (from March 2015 Zurich will be added, taking the number to nine). From Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific offers 5 daily flights to London, offering a choice of flying in economy, premium economy, business class or first class.

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