Michelin-starred chef André Garrett has taken over the kitchens at Cliveden. Victoria Birch samples the fare.

I FELT a rare pang of pride as I drove along the cobbles and caught a glimpse of the elegant and imposing Cliveden House.

There’s nothing quite like this view to encapsulate the splendour and beauty of England, with the manicured lawns, grand gold gilt clock tower and line of immaculate trees. My mum, on the other hand, sitting next to me gasped as she spotted the house and summed it up nicely: She said she felt like Mrs Bucket.

But Cliveden is something special. From the impressive array of supercars and the like parked in the gravelled entrance. The impeccable attention and manners from the door staff and waiters, the traditional, yet cosy, interior with warming fire and giant arrangements of flowers. It feels every inch the five star luxury hotel that it is.

And it’s all change at the hotel. Michelin-starred chef André Garrett has just taken over as Executive Head Chef of their restaurant. André was formerly Head Chef at ‘Galvin at Windows’ in London, and had also worked for Nico Ladenis across his three award-winning restaurants.

But also changed is the décor , taking it from strictly traditional, to traditional with a plush, comfortable edge. Velour sofas with cushions, low chandeliers and warm, rich colours.

To start my mum chose the cured and grilled salmon Japonaise, wild sea vegetables, seaweed tuile and granny smith apple. She loved this dish, she said it was very light and lemony and the fish was succulent. She remarked at how fresh the ingredients tasted. I had the tartare of south coast mackerel, smoked eel beignets, black radish, cod roe and English caviar. It was delightfully presented, and included something I didn’t expect - tiny pieces of battered fish which worked perfectly with the fresh ingredients elsewhere on the plate.

Onto the mains: My mum chose another fish dish - the Dover sole Veronique, verjus, salted grapes, fennel, chicken jus gras. She said it was extremely rich, with a creamy mash included in a side pot. She loved the consistency with a slightly crunchy topping. The asparagus added to the flavours on the plate. I chose the saddle of west country venison Grand-Veneur, braised shoulder croquette, quince, red cabbage. If I could have had this for starter, main and dessert I would have. I loved this dish. The venison was beautifully cooked and a delightful pink colour, which was added to with a sauce containing a surprise ingredient of chocolate. I enjoyed the braised shoulder croquette, which was a little square of heaven. But surprisingly, I also fell in love with the red cabbage. It was so moreish that I would have asked for seconds if I hadn’t have felt it impolite. Despite feeling full, we couldn’t resist the lure of the dessert. However the 72 per cent chocolate ganache would have been too rich for me.

Instead I chose the slow-cooked cox’s apple, rosemary caramel, raisin puree, beurre noisette crumb, walnut icecream. I was staggered when it came out: I expected a giant roasted apple to be thrust in front of me, yet instead it was arranged as a tasty slab of soft apple, with a biscuit base. There was also a very thin slice of apple that could be sold as a snack by itself. So tangy and tasty.

My dining companion plumped for the baked fromage blanc, granola biscuit crumb, blueberries and lemon balm - or in common terms, a deconstructed cheesecake. Mum commented it was the best meringue she had tasted, chewy and light. The lemon balm was slightly tangy and accompanied the biscuit crumb incredibly. I had actually planned to go shopping after this lunch, see a friend for coffee, wash some clothes… However, I felt so full and content that I actually went home to sleep - at 4pm in the afternoon.

Cliveden is the perfect place for dinner, for afternoon tea, for drinks. Its ambience and attentive, friendly staff make it an occasion to remember.

Contact Cliveden at Phone: 01628 668561or see www.clivedenhouse.co.uk