Dining out with Pauline Quirke
PUBLISHED: 16:01 24 June 2008 | UPDATED: 15:17 20 February 2013
Actress, Beaconsfield resident and self-confessed foodie Pauline Quirke reviewed The Three Horseshoes at Radnage exclusively for Berkshire & Chilterns Life...
My husband Steve and I seem go to restaurants less and less these days. Usually the food is disappointing, the waiters grumpy and more importantly the bill is invariably more memorable than the meal! So, it was with some trepidation that on a wet Wednesday evening we set off to west of West Wycombe to the newly refurbished Three Horseshoes in Radnage.
We learnt from the web site that The Three Horseshoes kitchen 'is under the supervision of Simon Crawshaw'. Simon started his career at the prestigious Connaught Hotel in London, spending 10 years with his mentor Maitre Cuisiner Michel Bourdin. Simon also spent a year at both the Gavroche with Michel Roux Jnr and at Chez Nico under three Michelin starred chef Nico Ladenis. Apparently Simon has cooked for many dignitaries including The Queen of England and The Maharaja of Jodphur at his palaces in India.
Well, if his food is good enough for them it will surely do for us... or did it?
The restaurant (and pub) are small but with sliding windows all along the back wall. It seemed homely yet spacious, and the view of the beautiful garden and beyond is quite fabulous. (Well it would have been if it weren't for the rain...) The dining room is cleverly lit so you can actually see the meal you have ordered and Simon has resisted the temptation to load in the tables, which means the space between the eating areas allows you to have a conversation without feeling you are sharing your meal with complete strangers.
Our waiter was attentive without being intrusive and quite unusually asked if we would prefer to wait to order our main course until after we had actually finished our starters. This made us feel relaxed and not rushed. I hate the 'order, eat, and get out quick so we can turn the table' regime that some restaurants adopt. I recently took my daughter to a famous restaurant in London (much frequented by celebrities etc...) which managed to serve us three courses in 50 minutes. They obviously wanted the table more than they wanted us! Anyway, back to the Three Horseshoes...
The menu was a surprise; not too 'clever dicky' and not a bit of 'foam' or'jus' to be seen anywhere. In fact I understood every word of it, and yet with only five dishes in each section, it was still a difficult choice - a perfect start (unless you are a vegetarian as there is no visible vegetarian option although the waiter said that Simon will accommodate any vegetarian requests).
Eventually Steve went for the 'warm salad of pan fried scallops with chorizo & celeriac purée' (see, purée not foam). He didn't offer me any, so I can only assume it must have been delicious. I plumbed for the crab, avocado and tomato tian with gazpacho which looked fabulous and tasted even better.
The main courses were equally impressive. Steve enjoyed the sea bass with bok choy and Thai chilli dressing, while I devoured duck breast with mushrooms, bacon lardons and dauphinoise potatoes accompanied by the most wonderful yam purée. All the vegetables were included in the price of the dish. Now maybe I'm old- fashioned but I expect my dinner to come with vegetables and not as an expensive array of side dishes which, along with expensively priced wine and water, can bring your bill up to roughly the cost of bringing the Olympics to London! Talking of water and wine, the Three Horseshoes has its own purification system so the water is charged at a £1 per head regardless how many bottles you have. The wine range was, as we were beginning to expect, reasonable and varied, with house wine under a tenner and the Marques de Caceres that we chose priced at £15.50.
Owner and chef Simon was actually in his kitchen and not in a television studio screaming obscenities at someone. He also visited all the tables to make sure his customer, and there were plenty for a Wednesday, were enjoying their meals.
Steve and I are renowned for to choosing the cheese board above desserts but the vanilla and yogurt panncotta (not terra cotta that Steve thought it was called - men eh!) with poached blackberry compote sounded and in fact was delightful. Still avoiding the cheese, Steve had the crème bruleé with fresh raspberries and redcurrants - once again a clean plate!
So, to sum up, I thought the location was beautiful, the restaurant and staff were delightful but more importantly, the food was delicious. This restaurant is where I will take my children and friends who come to visit for honest, well priced and interesting food. So next time you get on the M40 to go to London for dinner - DON'T. Head towards Oxford, come off at Stokenchurch and carry on to Radnage to find The Three Horseshoes - a real jewel in the area's culinary crown. I guarantee you won't be disappointed!
The Three Horseshoes Inn
Horseshoe Road, Bennett End, Near Radnage, High Wycombe HP14 4EB
Tel: 01494 483273