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New chef brings his expertise to Nailcote’s Oak Room

When a talented new chef arrives at an established restaurant, there is a tricky balancing act between maintaining the old favourites and introducing something newand exciting. Thankfully, Neil Peers at the Oak Room Restaurant, Nailcote Hall, has succeeded.

Nailcote Hall Hotel has long held a reputation for excellence when it comes to serving traditional cuisine.

The fine dining restaurant The Oak Room, which is in the 17th century manor part of the country house hotel near Berkswell, is a gorgeous venue.

Opulent and rich, with its dark beams, formal table settings and heavy curtains, it is an intimate dining room that is perfect for special occasions. Despite its formal and traditional appearance, however, it is a relaxed and unpretentious restaurant. Regulars love the flambés, Steak Diane, Crèpes Suzettes and home baked soufflés and you will rarely find an empty table when Sunday lunch is served because its roast beef is difficult to beat.

Since Neil Peers arrived as head chef, he has been careful to keep regular diners happy by maintaining the old favourites, but he has breathed new life into the Oak Room thanks to a new menu he has devised with owner Rick Cressman.

Neil’s flair and expertise is more than apparent.

Alongside the flambés and steaks, Neil has introduced an array of fabulous new dishes that will delight those diners who love the more exotic and modern. We were very keen to see how he has transformed the restaurant. Before we caught sight of this exciting, new menu, we enjoyed a pre-dinner drink in the aptly named Celebrity Bar.

The walls are adorned with photographs of the many celebrities who have enjoyed the hospitality of Nailcote Hall, including sportsmen and women who have competed in their very successful annual Par 3 British Farmfoods Golf Championship, which is held here every August.

You can’t help but feel at home here. As we enjoyed our drinks, we noticed how warmly the guests are treated by the friendly staff. Many of them have worked there since owner Rick Cressman bought the hotel 20 years ago and the efficiency of Skender and Carole is legendary.

We moved to the dining room and were delighted that the starters gave us an indication of the quality of food we could expect from the Oak Room.

The choice was inventive, with starters including a velouté of cauliflower served with a curry dumpling; a duo of rabbit, with carrots three ways; a fillet of red mullet served with shaved fennel and radish salad, crab cake and tomato essence. We opted for the superb baked local goat’s cheese, which was served with golden beetroot salad and smoked aubergine purée, and seared king scallops served with confit pork belly and pea purée. It was fabulous. The baked goat’s cheese was cooked to perfection, while with the large scallops were beautifully cooked. In each dish, the combination of flavours was judged very well.

For our main course we were also spoilt for choice. Diners who love the drama of a traditional steak Diane flambéed at their table will be assured to know they can still expect the highest standards of this classic dish that is served with sautéed garlic, wild mushrooms, diced shallots and tomato concasse. For those who prefer simpler food, the whole grilled Cornish sole served with lemon and caper butter is a good choice, while vegetarians are also well catered for with the intriguing sounding roasted globe artichoke served with scented tagliatelle, poached duck egg and choron sauce.

We chose seared fillet of brill, which was served with crayfish ravioli, samphire and saffron foam, and the contra fillet of Aberdeenshire beef that was accompanied by potato terrine, girolles purée, wilted autumn greens and horseradish foam.

We certainly made the right choices. Neil Peers adventurous streak has resulted in dishes that are packed with flavour and unusual combinations.

The desserts are also very tempting. Again, traditionalists can enjoy the very fine crèpes suzettes that are flambéed at your table, but those looking for something lighter could opt for the light strawberry and Champagne Jelly with a creamy vanilla custard, strawberry espuma and served with black pepper meringues.

I’d recommend keeping room for the desserts - especially the dark chocolate tart that is served with caramelized hazelnut ice cream or the rhubarb crumble soufflé, which is one of chef’s specialities and is served with stem ginger ice cream and crème Anglaise. Delicious.

For those of you who have not visited Nailcote Hall’s Oak Room Restaurant in a while, do make a return visit. Neil Peers has created an excellent menu to suit all tastes – from the ultra traditional dishes to more modern plates with some exciting twists. You will not be disappointed.

by Karen Jones - Originally published in touchbase magazine

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