Review: Mother's Day Lunch at Stoke Place
It was a cold winter morning in 2008. Rich and I were stuck in traffic on the M4. This wouldn't have been that much of a problem if I hadn't been in the throes of established labour. We were barely moving and the hard shoulder was closed due to road works. I hung onto the roof handle inside the car for dear life and winced through each painful contraction with my eyes shut tight, expecting the baby to appear at any moment.
The 30 minute journey to Wexham Park Hospital took an hour and a half that day. I was relieved to have not given birth in the front seat of our Vauxhall Aguila and somehow made it to the birth centre on my own two legs, running between contractions. It was my first baby and I was certain that delivery was imminent.
"Help me, the baby's coming" was all I could mumble to the midwife on arrival. I was wearing flip flops and a t-shirt in the winter, but I was sweating and make-up free, which wasn't in my birth plan. She quickly sorted me out with a room and some gas, which took me to a happy place. "You're doing great" she encouraged during the examination "6 centimetres"
"6 centimetres?!" I puffed in horror, taking the nozzle away from my mouth briefly to speak. "You mean this is actually going to get worse?!" and then quickly went back to the gas, my happy place. It sure did get worse, much worse and I will spare you all the gory details. However, by the afternoon I was cradling our 9lb 3oz baby boy, Joshua. He was just perfect - with a mop of black hair and a squishy button nose. I had only just met him but I loved him more that I can begin to explain or imagine.
It seemed quite fitting on Mother's Day this year to celebrate somewhere a stone throw from Wexham Park Hospital. Set back from the main road in beautiful grounds, Stoke Place is an elegant 18th century manor which is now a 4 star hotel and restaurant. There were 8 of us having lunch together that day - Rich & myself along with our boys Joshua (who's now 8), Daniel (6) and Isaac (he's just turned 1) together with my mum & dad and my heavily pregnant sister.
The entrance and front of the building is grand, rustic and inviting with lots of nice little touches like the pile of neatly chopped logs to the side of the main doors. With an open fire and cosy armchairs, the reception has a warm and homely feel. All the staff we met were helpful and friendly.
The King & Lamb restaurant at Stoke Place is newly refurbished. It's regal and slightly eccentric, with gold walls, plush velvet seating and marble features. It's striking, bold and stunning, and it's different and unique. The restaurant pays homage to Patrick Lamb, who built Stoke Place in 1690 and was also chef to several kings and queens for 50 years in his life. The interior of the restaurant is a nod to Lamb’s regal clientele of times past. That extra bit of history makes it a bit more special.
This restaurant is set in 26 acres of spectacular parkland, and the view from the back of the restaurant is stunning. Double doors open onto a stone patio area with steps that lead down to beautiful, far-reaching picturesque gardens with leafy trees and a lake. It was a glorious sunny day and we were able to admire the view while we ate, as well as popping out to enjoy the charming surroundings in between courses. After lunch, we walked down to the lake with the boys who were happy to see the geese and ducks.
The tables were set with flowers and cards wishing us a happy Mother's Day. The staff were helpful and friendly and quick to replace one of the chairs with a highchair for little Isaac.
Bread was served, three varieties of warm crusty rolls - white, wholemeal and granary. Cubes of unsalted butter and little piles of sea salt were on pieces of slate on the table to go with it. The waiter brought the bread basket round a total of three times during the meal, which was nice. My kids were crazy about the mini white baguettes, as was I.
There were four choices for each of the three courses on the menu. For starter and main there were meat, fish and vegetarian options. Unfortunately the menu in the restaurant did not explain all the lovely dishes in detail. However there was a menu on the Facebook page which gave more details of each dish.
The kids menu had a great selection of main meals that kids love such as a chicken & fish goujons, burgers & spaghetti bolognese. This was nice because it meant we could all enjoy food we love! The kids mains arrived along with the adult starters, as requested. Most of the kids main courses were £6 which I thought was very reasonable.
Joshua had the cheese burger & chips. Unfortunately the bun was a little over toasted, but to be fair we didn't bother sending it back. The tomato ketchup came in a cute little jar perfect for dunking chips into. He wolfed it down and said it was delicious.
Daniel had the kids spaghetti bolognese which came with a little pot of parmesan shavings which he was able to sprinkle over his lunch himself. It was another nice little touch, and he very much enjoyed doing that. He's a bit of a fussy eater, but loved his lunch and cleared the plate.
For starters we ordered the beetroot & goats cheese salad, the ham hock terrine and the smoked haddock croquettes. The beetroot & goat cheese salad consisted of beautifully arranged colourful beetroot pieces, pickled carrot shavings and goats cheese rolled in a pine nut crumb. It tasted as good as it looked and I was very pleased I had ordered it.
The ham hock terrine was served with sauce gribiche, pickled shallot rings and toast. I tried some and it was easily one of the best ham hock terrines I have tasted. It was meaty, full of flavour and not overly salty. The haddock croquettes were served with curry mayo and salad. The presentation wasn't as striking as the other two dishes. I didn't get the opportunity to taste them but my sister said they were delicious and had the right balance of fish and potato.
For main course we ordered the rib of roast beef, roast chicken breast and pan fried fillet of black bream. All the dishes arrived at the same time and they were all hot. I ordered the bream which was beautifully presented and cooked to perfection with a crispy skin. It was served with red wine salsify, parsley mousseline and fish veloute. All the elements of the dish were perfect and worked very well together. It was really lovely.
Both the beef and the chicken were served with roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables and a red wine jus, and the beef also came with a Yorkshire pudding. I didn't get to try either of the other main dishes but I was told that both the beef and the chicken were very good and cooked to perfection. The potatoes and vegetables were also cooked perfectly and the sauce was very tasty. The portion sizes were generous and there were clean plates all round.
I could have happily ordered anything for dessert they all looked lovely. I was torn between the pannacotta and the salted caramel tart but in the end, I went for the pannacotta as it was served with lavender ice cream and I'm a sucker for trying something new. It didn't disappoint. The pannacotta was bang on - not too rubbery, not to limp and not too sweet. Sharp berries are always a good partner for creamy pannacotta and the herby shortbread was a crunchy contrast of texture as well as flavour. The lavender ice cream was fabulous. I loved the different flavours and it looked stunning as well, served on a rectangle slate. It was a sensational dessert, worth every calorie.
My mum and my sister had the sticky toffee pudding, which they very much enjoyed. It was served with vanilla ice cream and the portion size was generous. It was certainly a very good dessert. The presentation lacked the creativity of my pannacotta, but no-one seemed fussed about that!
Rich always orders the cheese board when we go out - I have a serious sweet tooth and he's Mr savoury. The cheeseboard was generous, served with three types of biscuits, quince jelly, celery and grapes alongside a good selection of cheeses. It was nicely presented on an unusual plate and there was a lovely mix of flavours, shapes, textures and colours. I particularly liked the heart shaped crackers.
The boys very much enjoyed their desserts from the kids menu Joshua had a chocolate brownie and Daniel had chocolate ice cream which came with chocolate chips on top. They have both inherited my sweet tooth!
The set menu was £30 per person and the kids food worked out at around £10 each for a main and a dessert without drinks. Drinks were not included, we ordered a bottle of wine which was around £20 and had jugs of water on the table.
We had a truly wonderful experience at Stoke Place – the food and service was excellent, and the venue stunning inside and out. I thought the food was very reasonably priced for adults and kids alike, and will unquestionably be going back for another special occasion.
Disclosure: I was given four complimentary adult meals in return for an honest review. Words and pictures are my own.