I try and avoid superlatives most of the time, but occasionally they are necessary. Our meal at the Japanese Grill at the Beaverbrook near Leatherhead warrants quite a few. Before I start with the plaudits, I must kick off by admitting that this is an expensive restaurant. We are possibly talking bucket list, certainly major celebration.
The Beaverbrook is the former home of Sir Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook, erstwhile owner of the Daily Express and minister of aircraft production under Churchill in WWII. Originally called Cherkley Court, it was bought by Beaverbrook in 1910 and he lived there for half a century. After the death of Lady Beaverbrook in 1994, it was owned by the Beaverbook Foundation until they sold it to its present owners in 2010, who have restored it beautifully and turned it into a fabulous hotel and private golf club.
A long driveway leads you past fields, a few golf holes, two gated entrances and The Garden House, which accommodated Beaverbrook’s aunt before becoming an Italian-themed restaurant with rooms. Finally you arrive at The House, to be greeted by wonderfully friendly staff. The house is eclectic in style, with Tuscan columns and French-style mansard roofs. The entrance is what used to be the rear entrance, which frees up the front to make the most of some quite splendid views towards the North Downs.
We came in early August, along with the return of the sunshine. Our table was outside, off the dining room, taking in the aforementioned vista. The menu offers much choice, including tempura, sushi and sashimi. We opted for the more expensive of the two chef’s selections, chosen mainly for the inclusion of Wagyu beef amongst the 10 dishes. At £90 per person, this is serious money.
Spicy edamame got us all started before a salmon taco with lovely flying fish roe, very pretty and enjoyable. Then came crispy rice, with a tuna tartare. Who would imagine fried squares of rice could be so wonderful? Light and crisp, terrific with the tuna. To follow, Yellow Tail tiradito with yuzu foam, so fresh, so soft and flavoursome, served along side the Beaverbrook salad, a work of art with edible flowers, avocado and crunchy shallots.
And then. The Beaverbrook special Nigiri. Nigiri is a type of sushi and these five were all out of this world. Sea bass with crispy ants (yes, and from Kent, slightly sour), fatty tuna with truffle, Wagyu beef, Loch Duart salmon, slightly smoked, and wild native eel, a touch charred. All exceptional.
Grilled Koji Halibut followed, with mushrooms and miso sauce, delicate yet meaty. Then came the Wagyu beef and boy it did not disappoint. The flavour of this meat was incredible, its tenderness quite amazing, matched perfectly with a Hoba Miso sticky sauce. This was served alongside cabbage with truffle with a Sake butter. Who knew it could taste this good?
Regular readers will know that desserts are not usually my favourite, but I have started making exceptions. A green basil sorbet was intense, zingy, served with a lemonade foam that tasted fizzy. Then a smoked chocolate and uisuki cream, with its warming whisky flavour, and a malt mandarin sorbet. A terrific end.
When I read that the main restaurant in this quintessentially English hotel was Japanese themed, I was a little surprised but now I understand. The symphonies of flavour, the cleverness of the cooking, the delicate touches and the sheer quality make this a destination dining experience, one that I cannot imagine finding outside of the world’s capital cities. We in the Surrey Hills are extraordinarily fortunate to have it here. SR
The Japanese Grill
Beaverbrook, Reigate Road, Leatherhead KT22 8QX
T: 01372 571300 www.beaverbrook.co.uk