Celebrating 60 years in business, Le Talbooth continues to please diners with its classic, accomplished cuisine. Janie Manzoori-Stamford went to visit
Le Talbooth is a hotel restaurant with a difference, in that it's a three-minute drive from boutique luxury property Maison Talbooth, otherwise known as the building with all the bedrooms in it.
The fine-dining restaurant, part of Milsom Hotels and Restaurants, is this year celebrating an impressive six decades in business, having been discovered by the company's founder, the late Gerard Milsom, in 1952, when it was just a modest tea room.
The latest in a long line of talented chefs to take charge of Le Talbooth's kitchen is Zack Deakins in his first head chef role. He joined from the Bildeston Crown in Suffolk and prior to that he worked at Edinburgh's Michelin-starred Restaurant Martin Wishart. Deakins says he is enjoying the challenge of working in such an established and busy restaurant.
"When I came in it certainly wasn't the case that we had to change everything, because the restaurant has been so successful for so long," he says. "It was more about putting my own spin on the customers' expectations."
Deakins describes the culinary ethos as a simple one: fresh, well executed food. "We try to be a little creative where possible, but I'm not here to reinvent the wheel and do flavours that will confuse people. It's all pretty classical in combinations."
It seems to be paying off. The restaurant has seen all 90 seats in the main dining room fully booked every Saturday night since he took over in January, and often the 30-seat private dining room is opened to accommodate more guests.
Classic starters such as LeTalbooth smoked salmon and poached Colchester oyster, served with caviar and watercress (£12.75) sit alongside aromatic flavours in the likes of cumin roasted scallops, cauliflower, almonds, curry and Sauternes velouté (£15.95).
There are some dishes that are mainstays at Le Talbooth - such as fillet of dry aged Dedham Vale beef rossini, rosti potato, spinach and madeira jus (£29) - but Deakins has been adding new dishes to the mix as and when he adjusts the menu every couple of months, according to the passing of the seasons.
Fillet of brill and braised pork belly, served with palourde clams, carrot gnocchi, carrot consommé, bok choy and pork crackling (£25) is one such creation that has been particularly well received.
The desserts include some house-tweaked crowd-pleasers, such as banana soufflé with caramelised banana crumble and vanilla ice-cream (£9.25) and Le Talbooth tiramisu, amaretto ice-cream and 75% Venezuelan chocolate ganache (£8.75). More exotic tastes are catered for in the form of mango and passion fruit cannelloni, with pineapple and sweet chilli salsa, and coconut ice-cream (£8.50).
Le Talbooth boasts an impressive wine cellar that includes top end wines from the major estates of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany and California alongside a carefully chosen house selection to ensure all tastes and budgetary needs are met.
In an industry that sees food trends come and go, Le Talbooth's focus has remained on track with little temptation to deviate too far from the path that has led it to enduring success.
SAMPLE DISHES FROM THE MENU
Colchester crab ravioli, pancetta, spring onion and sweetcorn velouté £11.75
Ben Rigby venison carpaccio, muscat pumpkin tortellini, Parmesan, king oyster mushroom £9.50
Confit cod cheek and roasted langoustine, carrot and cardamom velouté £10
Breast of Creedy Carver duck, red cabbage, parsley root, apples and dates £25.95
Portobello mushroom and globe artichoke en croute £18.75
Pan-fried fillets of John Dory, crayfish and anchovy, saffron potatoes, olive tapenade £28
Indian vanilla bean panna cotta, apple, lime, coriander £8.95
Plum and almond cheesecake, orange sorbet £8.25
Chef's selection cheese board, homemade pear chutney, biscuits, grapes, celery £9.95
â" Le Talbooth
Gun Hill, Dedham, Colchester, Essex CO7 6HP