Our favourite local restaurant for special occasions is the Artichoke, situated in Old Amersham. Going into the old town feels like a special occasion in itself with its half-timbered boutique shops and centuries old coaching inns but add some spectacular cuisine into the equation and you’ve got something very special indeed. By a quirk of history Amersham nestles in idyllic Chiltern countryside while still being on the London Underground, at the very end of the Metropolitan Line.
The Artichoke regularly features on lists of the top restaurants in the UK. A coveted Michelin star has eluded it so far, although having also dined at the three star Fat Duck to allow some comparison, this strikes me as an oversight. On the plus side, however, booking is rather easier than in star rated restaurants.
We’ve enjoyed the Artichoke for several years on birthdays and other special days and this year was no exception. However unlike previous visits where we’ve indulged in the dinnertime or lunch tasting menus, this time we opted to go a la carte.
The whole experience of visiting the Artichoke makes the experience stand out. The service is always immaculate from start to finish, somehow perfectly timing when they’re needed. As with the Fat Duck, the front of house staff are European and provide an atmosphere of fine dining with impressive expertise in their respective areas.
For lunch I opted for the roasted quail breast with confit leg ravioli, quail consommé, ceps and seasonal vegetables for starter, followed by the poached fillet of wild turbot, sea jelly beans and aster, brown shrimp beurre blanc with the passion fruit soufflé completing the meal.
Each meal includes freshly baked bread, the pancetta bread being a particular favourite of ours, and an amuse bouche that warms and awakens and the taste buds for the dishes to follow.
The quail dish combined subtle flavours from the bird with the delicious consommé. The turbot was also a plate of subtle flavours and a delight for anyone wanting to appreciate the flavours from this fine fish. The soufflé requires 15 minutes for preparation but my goodness is it worth it with a veritable explosion of flavour.
No visit to the Artichoke is complete without a coffee and the petit fours, which are to die for with melt in the mouth indulgence. In the best tradition of fine dining you emerge into the light feeling satisfaction for both stomach and soul.
Cost: Our lunch came to around £150 including a glass of champagne each. A lunch set menu of three courses is also available for £25 per head and the lunch tasting menu of five courses for £35.
Location: By train, Amersham is the last stop on the Metropolitan Line of the tube; around 35 minutes by train from London Marylebone and 50 minutes by tube from Baker Street. Old Amersham is a steep walk downhill from the station, however taxis are normally in plentiful supply from the station forecourt. By car Amersham is around 10-15 minutes from both junction 18 of the M25 and junction 2 of the M40. There’s a car park in Old Amersham just a couple of minutes walk from the restaurant.