The Cliveden Dining Room | Taplow (UK)

This great manor house deserves a top notch fine-dining restaurant.
The dining room needs to up the game to match the Cliveden House grandeur.

Cliveden House is an exceptional five-star hotel situated within 376 acres of picturesque National Trust gardens in bucolic Taplow, Berkshire (UK). This grand country escape was built in 1666 by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, George Villiers. The original Cliveden House was a hunting lodge gifted by the duke to his mistress, Anna-Maria. The grand Neo-Classical house has played host to many well-known names in history. From the British monarchy and Winston Churchill to President Roosevelt and most recently the Duchess of Sussex, who stayed here before her wedding earlier this year.

Head Chef at The Cliveden Dining Room since November 2017 is Paul O’Neill. A Roux Scholarship winner, Paul’s resume includes Berwick Lodge Hotel’s Hattusa Restaurant in Bristal, Ashdown Park Hotel in East Sussex and The Ostrich in Colnbrook, Berkshire. After winning the Roux Scholarship in 2013, Paul completed a 3 month stage at Pierre Gagnaire’s Paris restaurant.
Paul O’Neill was appointed by Executive Chef André Garrett, André Garrett was awarded with a Michelin Star at London’s Galvin at Windows, before he took over the Cliveden House kitchen in 2013. But never managed to get the same accolade at Cliveden. André Garrett left Cliveden House in January to take the same role at the Corinthia Hotel in London.

Driving up the tree-lined driveway, you’ll see the Grade I listed house and already get that luxury escape feeling. Inside is much the same. We decided to have a pre-dinner G&T in the bar. A relaxed and welcoming room with sumptuous velvet seating around a large fireplace, several tapestries along the wood-panelled walls and a fabulous view on the gardens.

View from the bar

The Cliveden Dining Room is open 7 days a week for dinner and only on Sunday for lunch. Next to an à la carte menu (with a vegetarian and vegan option), they also offer a 7-course Tasting Menu (at £97.50) with coffee and bonbons. We went for dinner two weeks ago and had the Tasting Menu.

Bread & Butter

Received bread and butter. Was okay. No amuse bouches though, not even one! In a fine-dining restaurant with a menu like this (and accompanying prices) I certainly expect a few tasters before the first course.

English Asparagus Soup – walnut, duck egg

Asparagus soup had good taste and flavour. Really foamy, which was probably the duck egg, because no egg to be found otherwise. The walnut gave a bit of crunch, but didn’t add to the flavour. It was lukewarm at best, probably because of the foaminess.

Cured Sea Trout – Isle of White tomatoes, lemongrass

Sea trout was nice and fresh, which was enhanced by the green tomatoes and lemon grass tuile. Quite simple dish, but really tasty.

Spring Black Truffle Risotto – Parmesan, chive

As Joanne does not eat cold fish, we selected one of the other starters off the à la carte menu. The risotto was rich with plenty of black truffle. Lemon coming through nicely. Could do with more creaminess like you want a risotto to be. Good flavours!

Smoked English Wagyu Beef Carpaccio – shallot, Parmesan

Carpaccio was okay, but nothing special. Again quite simple on the plate. What you see is what you get here. Beef with onion rings.

Monkfish Loin – peas, morels, smoked pancetta

The monk fish had been a bit to hot when preparing. Lot of solidified proteins around the sides. So the fish was a bit dry as well. Otherwise good flavour with nice piece of bacon and fresh peas. But a morel mushroom cut into 3 little pieces on the plate doesn’t add anything. A bit of an insult to those delicious mushrooms and penny-picking in the wrong way.

Rack of Spring Lamb – artichoke, olive, tomato

Lamb chops cooked okay, nice and pink. The other elements on the plate didn’t work though. Olive paste was far too strong and not pleasant to eat and clashing with the lamb. The sun-dried tomatoes were just weird and seems to just added from the jar at the last minute. Disappointing dish. Didn’t work at all. Joanne left half the dish. When clearing the dishes the member of staff offered to get something else, which we kindly declined.

Sharpham Rustic and Air Dried Ham “Toastie” – pickled green strawberry, brioche, celery

Then we got a “toastie”. Strange dish to have, after the main course. More a starter to me. The cheese was grilled to hot and was actually burnt. Unfortunately the burnt taste overpowered the whole dish. And there wasn’t enough of the berry sauce for it to play a part. Another disappointing dish, and we couldn’t finish it. We left half the dish, but the staff didn’t even ask about it when they collect the dishes.


Pine nut cream, toasted hazelnuts and lemon sorbet. Liked the creaminess of the pine nut and the sorbet with the lemon flavour coming through ever so gently. Cleansing the palate nicely. We were given a complementary glass of Yuzu wine with the pre-dessert to make up for the disappointing main course and toastie. The wine was unusual but nice taste.

Chocolate, Coffe and Whisky – malted milk ice cream

Ice cream with subtle malt flavour. Went really well with the coffee soaked sponge. Chocolate cream was not smooth enough. Flavour wise a nice combination. With dessert we received a complementary glass of port. Good port, was only worried it would not go with the chocolate. And it didn’t…. But we enjoyed it anyway, just not together with the chocolate.

Chocolate and Jelly

On the menu it said with coffee and bonbons. Not sure if these are bonbons though….

We started off so nice, by having a gin & tonic in the bar. Beautiful surroundings, great view, nice attentive staff, good G&T with some olives and smoked almonds. Great start! Unfortunately, it all went a bit downhill from there.

The restaurant staff are not observant enough. The first half of the dinner we felt kind of ignored. Dishes placed on the table without explanation and had to pour the wine myself, twice! Although tables next to us were served.
One member of staff reminded us of an older version of Manuel from Faulty Towers. Slapping the dishes on the table and mumbling something that sounded Spanish. Think his name was Miquel (even sounded like Manuel). Anyway, not something you expect in a place like this. If they want to create the Faulty Towers experience, then it’s okay, but not sure that’s the intention!
After the main course things changed, after we left half the dish. The dishes were described when served and wine was poured for us. Not good enough though I’m afraid.
When settling the bill, besides the complementary wine and port with the desserts, they even had taken the gin & tonics off that we had before dinner. That was good, but preferred to have had a nice experience all round of course.

I really struggled with this dinner. Some dishes had issues, some were okay, but never great and overall it just lacked finesse and attention to detail.
This great manor house deserves a top notch fine-dining restaurant. It would fit well with the overall hotel appearance and guests’ expectations. I picture Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saison as an example to follow and they are nowhere near yet. That applies to Head Chef Paul O’Neill and his team, but also to the serving staff. This dining room needs to up the game to match the Cliveden House grandeur.