How much for a glass of wine? Never mind the quality, I am not paying £8.25 for 250ml of Chenin Blanc. It’s extortionate.
I am mumbling this under my breath to The Husband when Dave the fabulous restaurant manager arrives for our drinks order. I give him a diluted, politer version of the complaint. And amazingly, he says he understands where I’m coming from (Rotherham?) and kindly offers to reduce the price. Told you he was fabulous. And he knows the intricacies of every dish we ask about. We settle for large glasses for the price of small (£6.75, still pricy but it’s buttery and floral so I’m happy).
Pricing is something this restaurant, which I’d go so far as to describe as a hidden gem, needs to address. Maybe most hotel guests are on expenses and don’t mind, but Dave says they want to attract more local diners. We reckon each dish needs trimming by a quid or two if the 18fifty5 hopes to compete with the likes of Marco’s at Hampton By Hilton. It’s not as glamorous as Marco’s, either. I’m told the tables and chairs are being upgraded and I like the illuminated yellow acrylic ‘wall’ that separates the bar and restaurant and gives a sunshine glow. But they really ought to screen off the breakfast bar.
You can’t complain about the food, though. The à la carte, featuring local produce, changes seasonally, cooking is done with imagination and dishes are beautifully presented. The chef, Mark Jones, once worked at Marco Pierre White’s Criterion and at Petrus under Marcus Wareing.
My chorizo balloutine was more like a deconstructed terrine but it was fabulous; nuggets of meltingly soft, sweet ham hock and chorizo came scattered with fresh peas, salad and wonderful fennel bread. His lobster and lemongrass bisque, an Oriental twist on classic French with a drizzle of truffle oil (also £6.50), was clever. It’s not easy to get three such strong flavours to work in harmony.
Desserts were equally stunning. My £6.50 chocolate mousse encased in a teardrop-shaped chocolate case and accompanied by delightful little treats like freeze-dried raspberries and chocolate-coated popping candy was so good I would have licked my plate clean if I could. Husband’s £6 apple and raspberry crumble, had been done with finesse. Fruit hitting that perfect balance between sweet and sharp was topped not with clarty crumble, but a disc of crisp, light pastry, on which an ice cream ball balanced. A little bowl of vanilla custard provided the comfort factor,
Our mains let things down a tad (maybe because it was Mark’s night off). Sea bass (£16) was perfectly pan-fried but the pappadelle pasta was a bit tough and the chilli-spiked spinach and sauce a little oily. Char-grilled chicken £16 was tender and smoky but was disconnected from its pungent base of tomato, onions and lime potatoes. Our bill was £68.50.