I was recently invited to check out the newly launched `Wine Press` restaurant at the Harpenden Hotel, a charming Georgian building nestled in a leafy Hertfordshire suburb. This grade 11 listed former convent school now houses the latest venture from Daniel Galmiche, better known as the chief exec of award winning Vineyard at Stockcross. Together with head chef Neal Searcey they`ve designed a French influenced menu complimented by 40 well-chosen varieties of wine – and all available by the glass.
Unsurprisingly the aim is to bring the attention of a good vintage to visitors – yet it`s not pretentious, cuisine is a simple classic affair and very reasonably priced, it`s simply quality without affectation. However, this doesn`t mean the informal dining experience doesn`t feel special; I was seated in a little alcove, able to survey the renaissance style dining room from my cosy pew. With high ceilings decorated with rococo finishes there is a faded glamour to the interior and most couples or families appeared to be celebrating an occasion or special evening together.
Portions are incredibly generous, my smoked salmon starter could have made for two and my Cornish whole sea bass main was exquisite: fresh, flavoursome, only lightly seasoned and cooked to perfection. I noticed ingredients were mainly seasonal and produce sourced from all over the UK, highlights included ham from Cumbria, Welsh lamb, Highland beef and even local Herefordshire pork belly. Everything is of the highest standard.
For those wishing to stay over there are very reasonably priced bedrooms too, mine came with all the mod cons and was incredibly quiet. They allow you to stay until midday, which means if you`ve enjoyed the wine too much you`re guaranteed a gentle start to the day. For grape lovers everywhere- go try.
Harpenden House Hotel
18 Southdown Road
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