Restaurant Review: An evening with Michael Caines MBE at Amberley Castle

Great chefs are not merely superb cooks.

Monday, 9th July 2012, 9:06 am

They are also master showmen.

They know how to present food, not just on a plate but to an audience.

So the arrival of Michael Caines MBE to Amberley Castle last week was more than just a culinary feast.

It was a bravura performance.

Introducing each of the five main courses - plus the choice of breads - to 20 guests, Mr Caines demonstrated the intricacy of each.

Like a forensic officer he illuminated each element on the plate.

When one finally plunged in the knife and fork there was a sense not merely of eating a meal but consuming a masterpiece.

Mr Caines arrival at the Castle was a watershed moment in the history of this centre of luxurious hospitality.

Under new ownership, the Castle is being transformed.

In what seems like a money-no-object exercise, each room is carefully being restored and revitalised.

And with it, every element of the restaurant and hotel.

The aim is to make it better than ever before. To set a new benchmark in excellence.

Along with this will be guest chef evenings - to showcase not just what the Castle has to offer, but the entire gourmet industry.

Including canapés and coffee and petits fours, Mr Caines repertoire at the Castle encompassed seven courses, with a Perrier Jouet champagne to welcome guests and a carefully selected wine to accompany each of the five main stages of the meal.

The emphasis was on the surprising and the creative.

Every boundary was pushed to the limit. To perfection.

From tuna tartare to salted cod and crab, the skill was in the detail.

Foie gras is not to everyone’s liking - for many reasons - but those who find it acceptable, this was sublime. With a madeira jelly and truffled green bean salad - and real home made toast rather than brioche which is so commonly served.

But there was familiarity too. The pinnacle of the evening was the Sussex lamb - but served not with a traditional French red but a sublimely textured pinot noir from Oregon in the United States.

Amberley Castle has always enjoyed a great reputation for its cuisine.

However, its rooms have started to look a little tired round the edges in recent years, due primarily to an overriding need for courageous investment.

That injection of cash is now forthcoming.

With the imagination and creative performance of guardians like Michael Caines, it is now preparing itself for its best times yet.

The Restaurant Inspector