THE Beech House feels like a breath of fresh air for Beaconsfield, nestling effortlessly into the busy, affluent lifestyle of the town.
A new breed of restaurant, The Beech House on Penn Road acts as an informal coffee shop or lunch venue by day, a sophisticated bar for evening drinks and a stylish restaurant by night. It was the latter I went along with my girlfriend to experience last week, and I certainly didn’t leave disappointed.
The first thing you notice about the Beech House is that it feels alive - there is movement everywhere, from circling waiters and bustling bar staff to chefs doing their thing in the exposed kitchen serving area. The place is unrecognisable from its former guise as a newsagent, with a recent £800,000 refit by Oakman Inns transforming the high-ceilinged venue into a sleek open-plan bar and restaurant.
Unlike some of the more cold surroundings of other ultra-modern bar-cum-restaurants, the Beech House is warm and welcoming, with the wooden panelling conjuring up a cosy, almost Scandinavian interior.
Yet the touches of exposed metal and brick, along with the almost industrial squared set-up of the bar itself gives it a modern edge, not dissimilar to an East London converted warehouse bar.
Things got off to a good start when I spotted a Scotch egg (£6.50) on the starter menu, having a long time ago made it my mission to find the perfect deep fried meat-and-egg combination.
Though my search may never be over, this one certainly did the trick, with crispy breadcrumbs, soft meat and just a hint of yolk runniness ensuring I polished it off at speed. My girlfriend ordered calamari (£6.95), and was spared the all-too-common overcooked rubber experience, instead receiving a generous dish of lightly battered squid perfectly accompanied by an aioli dip and pea puree. I was tempted away from the plentiful array of specials for the main, with our brilliant waiter Lorenzo urging me to double up the pork experience and opt for my first choice - the slow-roasted pork belly (£14.95).
An ingenious presentation of crackling gave the classic dish a refined look, with the slow roasting evident as the meat came apart effortlessly under my fork. A startlingly creamy mash gave the meal a huge lift, and my only criticism of the sizeable plate was a tad too little gravy, though if I had my way the poor pig would have been drowning in it. My pescatarian partner was surprised and pleased to have the rare experience of a wide menu choice, with at least four fish dishes as standard on the extensive list. She opted for the salmon fillet on a bed of saffron risotto which was reassuringly subtle in flavour, not for a second overriding the delicate tang of the soft, supple salmon. The mains were washed down with a Chilean Sangiovese and a South African Chenin Blanc respectively, with the choice of wines excellent, if fairly pricey when paying by the glass.
The service remained excellent throughout, with attentive, friendly staff who at no point seemed overbearing. Manager Jack Ashmore was a constant presence in the restaurant, sometimes chatting with guests and other times helping with service, but always front of house with a professional air. Satisfyingly stuffed, neither my girlfriend or I knew if we had room for dessert, but throwing caution to the wind we decided to share an espresso ice cream (£4.50). A fresh, steaming shot of coffee poured at our table over vanilla ice cream gave a novel twist to the after-dinner caffeine fix, and I sacrificed my dignity to drink the last of it from my glass. The rear section of the 80-seater restaurant is bathed in light thanks to the enormous skylight covering the ceiling, which gave a light, airy feel to the experience. While I enjoyed the brightness this brought to proceedings, those used to dim, low lit restaurants may feel a little out of sorts dining at night in this way but it suited my tastes well. Prices at The Beech House are perfectly reasonable considering the quality of the food and surroundings, with both mains costing around £15 each.
We left satisfied, stuffed and extremely happy with both the food and the welcoming ambience of the whole place.
With its cafe/bar/cafeteria/restaurant environment, this venue is playing a risky business by trying to be all things to all people. But with packed tables night after night, and a distinctive feel to each of its multi-purpose uses, The Beech House has struck the right balance.
Importantly, Beaconsfield’s newest eatery seems to have judged the needs of its busy, affluent and demanding clientele very well indeed and should, on its merits, become a mainstay in the town for years to come.
For more details go to www.thebeechhouse.co.uk