The Artichoke

Tel: +44 (0) 1494 726611
Address:  9 Market Square, Old Amersham, Bucks, HP7 0DF
Cuisine Type: Modern European
nearest tube stationAmersham

When Raymond Blanc says a particular establishment is one of his favourites, I make it a point to investigate.  Several distinctive awards add to the intrigue of The Artichoke in Amersham, a perfectly picturesque destination restaurant where Laurie Gear – who spent some time in Copenhagen’s highly acclaimed Noma – is at the kitchen’s helm. Plus, these days I relish any chance to call the babysitter and settle in with a glass of something soothing – in this case, a crisp, well-recommended Soave.

The wine list is impressive.  There is something for everyone, from mostly everywhere – including a sparkling wine from right here in the UK. The entire wine list is perusable on the website if you are keen to brush up in advance, but the attentive sommelier will no doubt steer you in the right direction.

Charm and sophistication are in abundance without being too stuffy. I knew I was in good hands when offered a little stool for my handbag to sit on comfortably – a thoughtful gesture that made me smile.  And while I didn’t see anything about a specific dress code, save your jeans and trainers for another outing.

We opted for three courses (£45), although there is also the seven-course tasting menu (£65), which includes many of the dishes on the elegant à la carte menu (you know the kind, where all the letters are lower-case).

First up was a vibrant and tantalising amuse bouche – an outstanding cupful of warm and frothy beetroot soup garnished with spicy horseradish cream.

Next, we both chose the Isle of Skye scallops to begin, selecting from the five carefully designed starter options. The scallops were accompanied by Szechuan-scented chicken oysters (which my husband enjoyed after I explained where they came from), celeriac purée, apple and celery – a happy mixture of soft and crunchy textures. We unabashedly wiped our plates clean. Other starters on the menu included wonderfully foodie-sounding delights like seaweed jelly, pomelo and pickled heritage carrots.

Hubby and I went our separate ways on the main dishes. I couldn’t resist the roast monkfish loin with River Teign mussels, seasonal caramelised romanesco and cauliflower, cauliflower puree and a chervil and mussel sauce. Gorgeous visually and even better on the taste buds. Hubby chose the rib of Scottish beef with charred leek puree, roasted leeks and onions and crisp potato shell filled with a creamy potato mousse. Scrumptious and exciting bread rolls were dispatched generously, including a fluffy number made with stout.

Then, a sweet treat before our proper dessert: a mango and Greek yoghurt tropical concoction that tenderly coated our palettes. To finish, I opted for a pear and caramelised white chocolate galette with pear sorbet while hubby continued with the fruity vibe and ordered something with coconut and pineapple.  Frankly, that one was rather unmemorable. Overall, we enjoyed our desserts but just felt our last course didn’t quite live up to the other two.

Front of house operations were impeccable (and reassuringly accented in French, I must admit) so you will feel carefully looked after from start to finish.

Artichokes have been said to be aphrodisiacs and it seems diners are being seduced. Prime time tables are in high demand and booked weeks in advance – and it’s easy to see why.