It was indeed a pleasure to be invited to the Aubergine Restaurant, an independent restaurant with a modern English and European influence situated within The Compleat Angler Hotel, positioned on the bridge in the fine riverside town of Marlow.
This attractive restaurant, decorated in aubergine and browns (as in its namesake) with a modest 12/13 tables setting, has a fine dining room overlooking the weir on the banks of the River Thames.
We were greeted by Arnaud, the Restaurant Manager, who has been working at the restaurant for the last year. Arnaud’s passion and professionalism was second to none and he began to educate us about some of his background career and training. He had previously worked at the Ritz Restaurant from 2004 to 2006 and then at L’Oranger, St James’s (Gordon Ramsey’s first Restaurant and now part of the London Fine Dining Group) and certainly has brought key skills to this beautiful restaurant.
We were seated in a lovely cosy corner, the seating arrangement facing out to the weir with a fine view of the Thames, with attractive mosaic coloured glass detailed windows, and in the center of the room sat a fine aubergine/plum flower arrangement, giving the room a feeling of both warmth and charm.
Arnaud announced that there were to be three menu choices; firstly A Taster Menu, the Lunch Time Menu and the à la Carte.
Decisions! This was a difficult choice but one that had to be made and à la Carte it was to be. Firstly, we were served freshly baked rolls − these are baked freshly on the premises each day. We were then served Leek & Potato Soup with Garlic as a prestarter. This was followed by Pan Seared Scallops with carrot purée, Braised Duck Tongue and orange cake and my colleague chose the Beetroot, which consisted of three different types of beetroot fondant: pickle, Taleggio cheese and pine nuts.
Well, these were definitely two top choices and it only seemed polite to sample each other’s! And for that main dish I have to confess to being a bit of a Venison Girl, the dish consisted of Roast Loin, Cocoa Nib, Dark Chocolate Ganache, Parsnip, Red Cabbage and Venison Jus. I chose mine to be medium rare and the contrast in flavours was absolutely mouth watering! After some serious thought my partner opted for the Beef − Aged Fillet of Beef with Ox Cheek, Truffle & Foie Gras Cromesquis, and Spinach Purée with Madeira Jus. Both dishes were cooked to perfection and delightful.
Our main meal was tastefully accompanied by some exquisite red wine. I was recommended the De Saint – Alimans 2009 Rasteau Côte du Rhône Villages which apparently comes from near Avignon and this was delightful to accompany my venison, and my companion was served the Château Petit Gravier Saint Emilion 2008 to accompany her chosen beef dish – again Arnaud selected a superb choice,
and the restaurant has an extensive range of wines and champagnes on the menu.
We had the luxury of being given a predessert Lemon Sorbet accompanied with Raspberry Coulis and this was very refreshing.
I did not have any trouble selecting my dessert as, being a bit of a chocolate fiend, it had to be the Dark Chocolate Fondant with Blood Orange Jelly, Cocoa Nib, Cardamom Ice Cream and Orange Sherbet, oh wow it just got better. Tim the Chef had certainly excelled and my colleague chose the Passion Fruit Soufflé, with White Chocolate Ice Cream, and as girls do, we had to sample each other’s choices –
We completed our fine meal with coffee served with Petit Fours and start to look forward to meeting the restaurant’s Head Chef, Tim O’ Shea. Born in Burton on Trent, England, this young man has certainly shown his creativity and passion for cooking.
Firstly, on introduction, we had to congratulate Tim on a superb lunchtime menu and then we were very fortunate to be given the opportunity of asking some questions about his career and background:
Q: How long have you been working at the Aubergine?
A: A year and a half.
Q: What inspired you, Tim, to become a chef?
A: Definitely my Mum. By watching her and learning from her from an early age.
Q: Have you personally put the menu choices together?
A: Yes, I have selected everything on the menus.
Q: Is there a Celebrity Chef whom you aspire to?
A: It would have to be Simon Rogan – he is my favourite.
Q: Have you travelled or have any European influences?
A: I had the privilege of working in Brisbane, Australia, for four and a half years. This was a great experience and I started as a head chef.
Q: How many staff do you have in the kitchen?
A: There are currently seven of us.
Q: Who have you worked with in the industry?
A: I’ve worked with Dave Watts, who was based at Le Manoir for nearly nine years, and Adam Simmonds also − an amazing chef who I worked under at Danesfield House.
Q: Tim, what are your long term plans?
A: My wife is from Brazil and it would be amazing to open my own restaurant there in a few years’ time.
This charming restaurant attracts both regular and new visitors and truly offers both attentive and excellent service, and all the staff are trained to a very high standard and we will certainly be returning there again very soon.
By Janine Connolly