Alison Jee samples the delights of The Beehive currently creating a buzz in Berkshire.
It was high time the editor and I had another jaunt out west to look at a venue; one near enough for RiverTribers to get to in half an hour but set in idyllic countryside.
I’d heard a lot of buzz about The Beehive, the pub and eating house owned by Dominic Chapman (of Great British Menu TV fame). His cast-iron credentials at the stove include stints at Kensington Place, The Fat Duck and The Hind Head in Bray, and latterly the Royal Oak Paley Street, gaining it a Michelin star.
Well, The Beehive is Dominic’s own business, and it is a real family affair. It’s set in glorious Berkshire countryside, overlooking a village cricket pitch. We were surprised to find the car park packed on a Tuesday lunchtime and after walking in to find the place humming with happy groups tucking into Dominic’s food, we know why!
This place is fab; very professional and welcoming. Dominic’s sister-in-law Alicia runs the front of house smoothly and she suggested we try some of Dominic’s signature dishes from the a la carte menu. That said, the set ‘PDQ’ lunch at £19.95 for two and £24.95 for three courses looked tempting and great value.
A tiny Scotch egg was brought as an ‘amuse bouche’. This quail’s egg encased in sausage meat was delicious, and while we both said we might only eat half (to save our appetites), two clean plates were collected!
With Alicia’s recommendations, we tried Dorset snails with garlic butter, Gorgonzola and grilled sourdough (£9.95), and a lasagne of wild rabbit with wood blewits and chervil (£10.95). The snails were divine: served out of their shells, piping hot, they were tender and sweet – ‘soft as butter’ was how the editor described them. The use of the cheese was subtle and boded well for things to come. My ‘lasagne’ was more a large ravioli, a paper-thin coating on a little mountain of meltingly delicious rabbit meat. The sauce was divine and I found myself wiping my plate clean with a warm bread roll which had been baked on the premises, and had a clever hint of treacle.
Next, we had peppered haunch of venison (£26.00), which was served with sauce Poivrade and spinach and celeriac purée. This was an accomplished plate, with the venison cooked perfectly and the sauce complementing it well, being almost chocolaty in its depth of flavour. My main was sea bream with tarka dhal, cucumber, red onion and coriander salad. It was light, fresh and amazing! The lentils were cooked ‘al dente’ and the result was more like a risotto. The flavours were balanced and my last mouthful had an explosion of coriander seed, giving the dish further length in the mouth.
You won’t be surprised to read that after such a fabulous feast we decided to share a dessert. The banana and toffee mille-feuille was perfect. Layers of wafer-thin pastry with banana parfait and a ‘dulce de leche’ style filling plus a quenelle of sorbet, to take the edge off the richness.
We enjoyed wine by the glass (at least five options available and starting at a very reasonable £5.50). In particular the venison paired beautifully with an interesting Shiraz Viognier from South Africa. We finished the meal with smooth espressos and a chance for a quick chat with Dominic. I’ve been fortunate to eat at lots of Michelin star establishments during my food career and I am sure it won’t be long before Dominic wins a star for The Beehive.
The Beehive, White Waltham, SL6 3SH. 01628 822877