The slightly ritzy plush of Frederick’s entrance cocktail bar, the surprising spaciousness of the dining room beyond, the striking 1980s artwork, the lofty conservatory and pretty hidden garden alongside – all come together to convey the idea that a meal here is a bit of a treat. Very proper, attentive and enthusiastic service adds to the feel of pampering brio, a well-polished style that has long made this a favourite spot for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and other celebrations.
Food has sometimes come second to the overall experience, but lately the kitchen seems to have picked up extra verve. Starters – pan-fried scallops with black pudding and cauliflower purée, and prawns with garlic butter – stood out for the quality of the ingredients, the seafood deliciously sweet, the black pudding delicately rich.
To follow, pork loin, also pan-fried, with crisp belly pork and Gascon cabbage, was a great combo of heartiness and refinement; and a generous slab of organic salmon, with mint hollandaise, was grilled just right. Desserts are part of the treat too, and, as in the lovely ginger panna cotta, feature imaginative variations on standard favourites. The wine list is extensive, prestigious and, like the food, a little pricey, but then, it’s a special trip out.