James Martin’s Kitchen at the Chewton Glen

As we emerge from a lockdown it seems only right to start at the top as we get back on the review trail, first stop the Chewton Glen with an invitation to sample the Kitchen’s seafood platter or the Plateau de Fruits de Mer… that's another storey, literally, a three-storey platter, but first things first.

Enjoy-It is a super fan of the Chewton Glen, and has reviewed and adored the subtle but strong, brave and uncompromising evolution of the hotel over the years; formal has become deformalised, canopies have become treehouses, conservatories have become dining rooms, orchards have become kitchen gardens and what was the tradesmen’s’ entrance is now the proud main drive past the pastoral Kitchen Restaurant.

We are lucky enough to travel silently and arrive in the sunshine. No, I didn’t fall out with my guests before we even sat down (wouldn’t be the first time) we indeed travelled in style with Presla Tesla (use them as it makes a day at the Chewton Glen a real treat without the price tag that one might expect).

For those of you that know, the powerful chef James Martin has been involved since the conceptualisation of the James Martin Cookery School (in-house at the Kitchen) as early as 2016 and has taken the school into the realms of £6,000 chef’s tables and a three-year, 500-strong, waiting list for his cookery courses! However, until very recently he has not had any involvement with the Kitchen Restaurant...

The herb-adorned entrance wends its way through books and oils for sale clearly showing off the open plan kitchen itself and the pass – where we find James Martin TV celebrity chef, engineering seafood, perfecting specials and chaperoning his modest and young team through service.

James is charming and there is more of his TV charisma in the flesh. We are personally talked through the menu, specials, the source of his seafood and his inimitable network of suppliers from all over the country something that he has built up throughout his career – it is infused with loyalty and enthusiasm for sustainability and support.

The seamless delivery of the menu and his kind relations with the team nod towards a long-standing arrangement – but no – he was asked to take over the responsibilities and re-positioning of the Kitchen just three weeks before lockdown eased… James explains these challenges in an exclusive Enjoy-It live: See Zoe's interview with James

His menu is simple, not in terms of actual content but in terms of choice because it’s uncomplicated; starters, meats, fish and shellfish, pizza, homemade pasta and salads, sides and desserts… this is no fuss 5-star. My guests take James’ lead and order a round or two of his Cotton Gin – citrusy clean distilled in Yorkshire water with classic Fever-Tree tonic.

We start with hand caught Orkney scallops, which are described perfectly by chef as “the size of tennis balls”, these are delivered by ‘Fred’ twice a week on a Wednesday and a Friday and when they are gone – they are gone, and trust me they were gone alright in a flash, settled in herb butter, topped with hazelnuts – simply grilled served with wedges of lemon – roe intact!

Quite the best starter I have eaten in years – until I tried the Cornish sardines on sough dough with Isle of Wight tomatoes – and until I tried the fried buttermilk chicken…

The sardines were edgy fresh with basil and crisp skin, the buttermilk chicken with a crisp but fluffy-light batter and chicken that melted with flavour.

All the while James builds our seafood platter… we watch the incredible detail that he puts into its construction on the pass from our banquette table and what it comprised of; native lobster, jack crab, periwinkles, surf clams, razor clams, Porthilly oysters, mussels and prawns on a three-storey silver platter he had crafted in Tottenham! There are two price points for the platter; £50 or £100 and four could have a great lunch with the £100 platter, which makes it a pretty reasonable choice for smaller groups.

The platter’s presentation was jaw-droppingly beautiful and massive – and we ate every last crustacean… we hear that he has made over 100 of these since the Kitchen opened after lockdown eased in July…

We choose truffle chips and Domaine Millet Roget Sancerre to provide the backdrop to our experience as we talk, laugh, crush, crunch, suck and poke.

The seafood is succulent, fresh, beautifully prepared and each element has a story…

Before James gravitates back into the kitchen to prepare one of our guests a birthday treat – a fabulous way to end a long blessed lunch after many months of lockdown, we have a brief chat that you can see here: See the interview

Other delights one can order include moules, steak, WAGYU beef burger, deep-fried Cornish day boat fish and chips, pizzas and a jolly line up of desserts of banana split, Knickerbocker glories and ice creams.

The Kitchen is positioned perfectly – the menu allows guests to dine at a price point that suits – from £35 a head and up – this brings elite to us all – well done James, and well done Chewton Glen for another cunning move that keeps the inimitable hotel the best in the land.

The Kitchen experience has always been exceptional and is something very special – James has taken it to another level – and that’s a true storey!

The team, service, environment, open kitchen, culinary royalty and a menu that’s in a different league…

Book the Kitchen

Zoe's interview with James