In the 1760s The Duke of Northumberland commissioned architect Robert Adam and and landscape designer Lancelot 'Capability' Brown to redesign the house and gardens of his London residence. Syon Park sits opposite Kew Gardens on the North side of the river Thames sprawling over 200 acres of elegant parkland and is still occupied by The Duke of Northumberland, Ralph Percy.
Modernisation has inevitably come in to play at Syon, with the most significant change being the building of a new state-of-the-art hotel in the parkland. The Waldorf Astoria group's latest hotel hides behind Syon House in stark contrast to the 18th Century pile. The new hotel has a box fresh feel, with dark building materials and long horizontal lines reminding of traditional Japanese architecture, miles away from the neo-classic 'Adam Style' of the estate.
As is fitting for a new hotel, five restaurants and bars have been created, all with quirky USPs intended to confirm the 'destination' status. Named after the landscape architect who sculpted Syon Park back in 1762 The Capability is the hotel's fine dining option and is headed up by Chef Lee Streeton.
It's all about the produce at The Capability; Chef Streeton has made impressive use of the grounds and its purpose built growing areas to gather the best ingredients. He says that "Every chef dreams about a restaurant with the facility to grow their own ingredients; I even have a trout lake, meat and fish smoker, not to mention five beehives to work with.” Lee says he is dedicated to using as much produce as possible from the hotel’s own orchard, herb and kitchen gardens. He will grow 24 different types of vegetables picked daily, and what he can't use will be pickled and preserved. In an inspired setting, the Chef's Table is in the greenhouse where tomatoes, peppers, melons and a variety of other fruits are cultivated.
Lee cooked us a tasting menu that showcased some of the parks produce and dishes that explain the ideology behind The Capability.
Starters included a chilled watercress soup. This was followed by Dorset snails with black pudding, wild boar bacon and garlic butter. The flavour was full-on but texturally not 100% accessible to all.
The ‘Waldorf Salad’ of celery, apple and pickled walnuts was a casual take on the mayo heavy kitsch number letting the freshness of the fuit and veg ring out.
A Heritage tomato salad was my favourite dish of all, effortless. acidic and honest.
Streeton’s smoked salmon with shaved fennel was extremely oaky and thick cut. Two wines were paired along side the starters; a Sauvignon Blanc Domaine du Pont de Livier 2010 went with all the dishes except the snails, and a Spy Valley Marlborough Pinot Noir 2009 held up against the boar bacon and black pudding.
The mains were Cornish silver mullet with mussels and samphire. Aberdeenshire sirloin and pigeon with chargrilled marrow and zesty gooseberries - an Alamos Malbec 2010 was lined up for this. The meat had been deftly lain on the broiler and had the smoky char of a grown up piece of meat.
Puddings were Bakewell tart then a selection of British cheeses with Meantime beer syrup along side a Maury Grenat 2007.
Being just seven miles from central London, Chef Lee Streeton is lucky enough to have unbridled access to fresh home-grown produce; I hope that he is able to continue to take full advantage.