Acanthus Restaurant, housed in the 4-star Macdonald Berystede Hotel & Spa in Ascot, opened towards the end of last year following the refurbishment of their old restaurant, giving it a new name, a more modern ambience and ensuring it could compete with the many other good quality restaurants in and around wealthy Ascot.
Large windows overlook a Royal Enclosure Patio, ideal for those warm summer days we are sometimes lucky to get here in England, filling the restaurant with plenty of natural light during the day.
As well as the large main dining area, with its decorative centre piece created by a local artist, that can seat up to 90 people, Acanthus also has two smaller private dining rooms, ideal for small gatherings of up to 18 people or larger parties of up to 50 people can take over The Library and Drawing Room. There is also a bar adjacent to the restaurant, perfect for grabbing a nightcap after dinner.
It was a dark late November evening as I stepped off the train at Ascot Station and made my way to the Macdonald Berystede Hotel & Spa where I was staying the night and having dinner at Acanthus. As I entered the hotel I was immediately struck by the pretty Christmas tree and festive decorations adorning the reception area. The hotel had a welcoming feel to it and I was warmly greeted as I checked in.
Feeling refreshed from my journey I wanted to get a little background to Acanthus and chatted with head chef Ramneek Chugh who has created the new menu along with Macdonald Hotels & Resorts Regional Chef Raj Chakraborty.
All the suppliers, I was informed, have been carefully selected, as Mr Macdonald, the hotel group’s owner, is fanatical about the food he serves in his hotels. The pork is hand reared and the chickens free-range. The fish suppliers are both Scottish and Dorset based, and the beef comes from a mixed breed of Aberdeen Angus and Red Cow. The scallops come from Scotland and the seabass are from Scottish waters in the winter and the West Coast of England in the summer and all the fish is line caught.
That being said, I believe that the menu offers something for pretty much everyone and Acanthus caters well for special dietary needs, as we had one person who is gluten and dairy intolerant and that was not a problem at all.
I started with a beautifully presented Gressingham duck ham, artichoke velouté and goat’s curd. Whilst it was somewhat smaller than I expected, it tasted absolutely delicious. I was also tempted by the Coquilles St. Jacques. These Orkney king scallops come with a mushroom duxelle and white wine sauce and Gruyere cheese. The wood pigeon, rabbit and venison terrine also proved popular on our table and it comes with a spiced apple chutney and cheese doughnut. For those looking for something altogether much lighter, then the Comté soufflé with a wild rocket and pine nut salad, candied walnuts and brioche soldiers might be more up your street. I also spotted one of my other favourite starters on the menu – John Ross hot smoked salmon and free range poached egg – served with watercress, beetroot and caper salad.
The main course selection offers something from the grill, the market fish of the day and a couple of vegetarian options. I chose the pan roasted Turbot which comes with wilted spinach and kale, brown shrimp and cucumber. It was perfectly cooked and not too heavy, allowing me some room for a dessert. The grill options include a Tamworth pork cutlet with game chips, apple jam and a watercress salad. For the steak lovers, the 390gm Scotch prime T-bone is the one to choose. It comes with French beans, hand-cut chips and slow roast cherry tomatoes and Portobello mushrooms. There is also a free-range chicken with Toulouse sausage and smoked bacon cassoulet or if neither fish or meat takes your fancy, then their wild mushroom risotto and winter truffle might hit the mark.
Make sure you leave enough room for dessert heaven though, as you are spoilt for choice between the Baked Alaska with rum ice cream, Italian meringue and a winter berry compote. Or there’s the Braeburn apple and Calvados terrine, served with a Granny Smith sorbet. The Plum and Kirsch liquor trifle will leave you in high spirits whilst the white chocolate passion fruit delice will keep the chocoholics smiling.
I should also mention the comprehensive Acanthus wine list, which features carefully selected wines and grape varieties from around the world, with bottles starting from a fairly reasonable £24. I spotted wines from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile and Oregon and California in the USA. I enjoyed a delightful lightly oaked Italian Terre Forti Trebbiano Chardonnay, available by the glass or bottle.
Whilst Ascot has a lot to offer diners, Acanthus is well worth a visit for its cosy, elegant and stylish atmosphere, along with a great menu and carefully sourced ingredients. The staff are attentive, extremely polite and helpful. And whilst it is warm and inviting in the winter months, al fresco dining in the private leafy grounds in the warmer summer months is another of its many attractions.
Acanthus Restaurant at Macdonald Berystede Hotel & Spa, Bagshot Road, Sunningdale, Ascot, Berkshire, SL5 9JH, England
Tel: +44 (0)1344 879 9104
Acanthus is located in the Macdonald Berystede Hotel & Spa in Ascot which is easily accessible by road via the M3, M4 and M25. Alternatively, there is a regular train service from London Waterloo to Ascot and the station is just over a mile from the hotel. There is free parking available for guests and visitors. The restaurant is open for Breakfast from 7:00am to 9:30am Monday to Friday and from 8:00am to 10:30am at the weekend. Dinner is from 7:00pm to 9:45pm Monday to Saturday and from 7:00pm to 9:00pm on Sunday.
Type of Restaurant: Modern British Restaurant
Price Band: Medium
Insider Tip: Don’t be shy about asking for advice on the menu and which wines to pair with your meal.
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10
Simon Burrell is Editor-in-Chief of Our Man On The Ground, a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer.
Photographs courtesy of Macdonald Berystede Hotel & Spa and by Simon Burrell