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NINE Visits: Great Fosters

Written by Timmy Coles-Liddle

Built as a royal hunting lodge in 1550, Great Fosters is a magnificent Grade One-listed Tudor mansion providing a hasty retreat from nearby Heathrow airport and the city of London, which is just 41 minutes away by train.  The delightful approach at sunset casts a blue/grey dusk over the proud, imposing pile.  Frequented by Henry VIII and Queen Mary, it offers a rich history, while retaining the homely atmosphere of a private residence.  

Upon entering the Great Hall, a huge fire crackles in the hearth providing a splendid country house embrace from the chilly March air.  Exquisite mahogany furniture and lavish interiors adorn the many rooms of the hotel.  Beautiful oil paintings hang in gilded frames harking back to the grandeur of past.     

Our room for the evening, the Nursery, was beautiful.  Originally occupied by Charlie Chaplin’s children, it offers a large living room with bureau, en-suite bathroom and delightful triple aspect views to the driveway, the outdoor swimming pool and the manicured gardens to the rear.  Having settled in, we make our way back along the corridor (creaky floorboards de-rigeur) and downstairs.

Great Foster’s offers two dining experiences, both having re-launched last year.  The Estate Grill, a modern, informal brasserie-style venue featuring locally sourced ingredients.  And our destination for the evening, the Tudor Room, a stunning, panelled dining room overlooking the gravel drive.  Seven tables thoughtfully arranged offer a pleasant, intimate experience.  Exquisitely British fine dining with an evening choice of either a six-course (£60 p/p) or eight-course (£75 p/p) tasting menu. 

My companion and I chose the six-course option, which started with sweet and pungent Guinness and rye bread that hit all the right buttons.  Bold and joyful Cornish sardines, accompanied by sweet melon, feta and aromatic fennel delighted.  Roast quail excited with light morels, wild garlic and punchy shaves of dark truffle.  A lightly poached lemon sole, also served with garlic and fennel, was pleasantly buttery and agreeable.

The bold and nutritious breast of wood pigeon provided a perfectly fresh and creamy game experience.  Served with wild leek and the little known chervil root, which set off the meat nicely.

The exciting wholegrain mustard and goat’s cheese macaroon titillated and thrilled.  Accompanied by a neat collaboration of tomato and balsamic, it provided an elegant juxtaposition.

A luscious white chocolate pave offered just the right balance of luxury with a velvety texture accentuated by a combination of cool passion fruit and pineapple.

The hotel’s house Champagne, Ayala Brut Majeur, pale gold in colour, offers a delightfully crisp, richly aromatic experience.

Fifty acres of formal and informal grounds feature a Japanese garden, a maze, Saxon moat and surely the most well-tended topiary in all of Surrey.  

Should time have afforded, we would have indulged in the much-hyped afternoon tea, or even a Pimm's on the terrace, but this only gives us an excuse to return! 

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