It’s a peculiar choice for their first Home Counties fine-dining restaurant – at an exclusive golf club off the long road from St Albans to Hemel Hempstead. But the Michelin-starred Galvin Brothers have a habit of making a success of things (Jeff Galvin is chef patron here), so they must have had their reasons. It’s in pleasant surroundings for starters, with nothing but a pristine golf course and Hertfordshire countryside as a backdrop; plus the club house itself is nice to look at, with its symmetrical design, glass frontage, sparkling lake and elegant illuminated driveway.
Inside it’s just as refined – an airy, 84-cover room that comprises both the bar (made from smooth wood and complete with rose gold beer taps) and dining room. Curved golden lightshades that look like tuile biscuits decorate the room, there’s a pale wooden floor, modern leather chairs, a stone fireplace at one end and chill-out music in the background. All together a relaxing atmosphere, and one reflected by the sommelier that evening, whose dulcet tones and calming presence made us feel at ease and in no way rushed (he can also whip up a mean ginger spritz cocktail).
Crab linguine to start, a signature dish here, comprised thin, almost see-through layers of pasta and soft Dorset crab – a dish so delicate that it immediately disappeared in the mouth. A pressed terrine of ham hock and corn-fed chicken was juicy and textured, but the accompanying piccalilli, though vibrant, was more ensemble of diced vegetables than glossy condiment.
By far the stand out dish of the evening was a bowl of fine, almost crispy couscous, made moist and creamy with melted tomato butter. It came studded with plump sultanas and almond slithers, and on top was a perfect fillet of juicy red mullet, bold in colour, and crispy, tempura-like sage and parsley leaves. The kind of dish that you’d love to recreate at home. Another main, ballotine of Peterhead cod, was just as well cooked and came with pea shoots and slightly sour roast baby artichokes. We were disappointed by the complete lack of vegetarian main course options on the night we visited, but were assured that that was an anomaly.
Dessert was a generous slice of apple tarte tatin with crème fraiche – buttery pastry and tart apples, but we’d have preferred it a little warmer. Prune and Armagnac parfait was a clever way to make the most of such a winning combination, enjoyed in front of a blazing stone fire.