Open breakfast 6.30am–10am; lunch midday–2.30pm; afternoon tea 2.30pm–6pm; dinner 6pm–10pm
The Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Syon Park had been open less than two months when I visited for lunch. Located in Capability Brown-landscaped grounds, the hotel’s aptly-named The Capability restaurant draws on its rich heritage. Executive chef Lee Streeton’s menu focuses on homegrown, seasonal and local produce – our table overlooked the herb garden (behind it sits the oldest bonsai tree in the country – which owner Andreas Panayiotou paid £27,000 for). However, Lee’s ambitions stretch further than a herb and vegetable garden – and he’s lucky to already have access to a trout lake, five beehives, meat and fish smoker.
The modern sprawling building looks pretty ugly from the outside but the interior – designed by the Gorgeous Group – is playful and on the bling side of luxurious, while the grand The Capability, with its moss green and lavender colour scheme, is on the subtle side of luxurious. The plate setting was particularly stunning – featuring a depiction of a tree located on the estate and a bright purple butterfly.
To start I had the famous Waldorf salad (celery, apple and pickled walnuts; £8.50) – which had just the right mix of sweet and sharp, while my friend Morag had sustainably-caught Cornish wild sea bass marinated with dill and fennel (£10.25) – it looked beautiful, decorated with ‘master’ flowers gathered by forager Garry Eveleigh (yes, we had to check him out; www.garryeveleigh.com) and was the highlight of lunch. Morag’s main – a fillet of Looe Bay Pollock with celeriac and mussels – was good but lacked her starter’s wow factor. My rosemary-roasted Jerusalem artichokes with woodland mushrooms (£18.75) were perfectly cooked, but a little oily. Lee has renamed classic desserts, so our chosen trinity burnt cream with rhubarb (£7.50) was a perfect crème brûlée while I had a very good upside down version of floating island with fruit compote (£7.50) – presented in a Martini glass. Petit fours – white chocolate passion fruits and brandy chocolate truffles – arrived on a pretty silver butterfly-shaped tray. The concise, well chosen wine, perhaps unsurprisingly, features a few English, but we both enjoyed a glass on fruity Johnson Estate Malborough Sauvignon Blanc (£9).
After lunch we enjoyed a walk around the estate before heading to Peacock Alley, the glam and colourful cocktail bar with Andy Warhol prints on the wall. Before we knew it, we’d spent six hours at Syon Park!
We left wanting so much for the hotel and restaurant to do well. The staff are very attentive and knowledgeable – not just about their jobs, but also about the estate’s history. At the moment, there’s a slight try-too-hard feel about the place – staff were a little obtrusive and unrelaxed while the menu was a little heavy on offal and could perhaps be simplified. What is intended as playful – the English names for desserts and King Henry VI bottled water (‘divinely still’) could be deemed pompous. Fingers crossed that these are minor teething issues, as the staff’s passion is palpable.