Restaurant review: Herons, Chorleywood
- Credit: Brian Arnopp
‘Everyone is a VIP’ says the chef-owner of Chorleywood’s Herons restaurant, which has reopened after a refresh during lockdown
Word of mouth recommendations and a healthy collection of positive online reviews were good enough reasons to add Herons in Chorleywood to the Hertfordshire Life list of restaurants worth visiting.
Tucked away at the southern end of the village in the Three Rivers District, it is a modest but modern affair ideal for passing time over an enjoyable meal. Lockdown intruded but chef-owner Matteo Tutraku reopened as soon as he could, albeit with a depleted menu, in deference to what he hails his very loyal customers. The Herons has a score of 4.5 out of fve on TripAdvisor with 140 reviews hailing it ‘excellent’ and 22 ‘very good’ from a total of 177.
Matteo arrived in the UK from his native Albania 21 years ago to pursue a passion for cooking. Trained at several top London restaurants including multi-award winner Sketch, he moved to Herons five years ago as chef and took over as owner last year.
He describes his style as ‘British modern and European cuisine in a sophisticated yet local and friendly setting’. The ‘friendly’ tag is important to him – many of the online reviews praise the level of service, while Matteo says of his approach, ‘Everyone is a VIP’.
He used lockdown to further enhance the friendly setting by refurbishing the restaurant – all cool clean colours and plenty of natural light – accommodating a cosy 40 covers, with seating for 15 in an outdoor garden terrace. A reworked website is also now in place.
The business has operated since July with Wednesday to Sunday opening and, ambitiously, an almost-full menu of favourite dishes including nine starters, 10 mains and five desserts. Memorable choices during my visit included a soft and sweet melted goat’s cheese starter with grilled aubergines and more (£6.50), and a piled high and exotic crispy duck salad (£8, or £12 as a main course) with julienne vegetables, cucumber, mixed leaves, orange garnish and an oriental sweet and sour dressing. Also worth a mention was arancini (£6), now appearing on more and more menus, served here with tomato sauce.
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Main courses for our visit were more prosaic, understandably so given the times we are living in and the consequent interruption of supplies, with rump of lamb (£18), chicken Milanese (£11) and three risottos (wild mushroom, chicken or seafood, all £13) among the offers. My fellow critic was happy with her tiger prawn linguine (£17) with chillies, cherry tomatoes, white wine and garlic butter, though the cream sauce was an unexpected and controversial addition.
On the other hand, there were no surprises with my seared sea bass fillet (£15), one of my favourite dishes. Served with spinach, new potatoes and sauce vierge, it did its job as expected, and none the worse for that.
Red meat fans at Herons meanwhile are not left out, with a choice of three steaks, sirloin (£23), rib eye (£26) and Diane (£21). All the dishes were served with an eye to presentation, with the goat’s cheese starter and the Herons’ version of salad tricolore particularly photogenic.
The menu is rounded off with a choice of four desserts and a cheese board. Our vote went to the apple tarte tatin (£6) with salted caramel sauce and cream. Other temptations include Belgian chocolate brownie (£5.50) with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream, fresh fruit salad (£5.50) with mixed ice cream, or profiteroles (£5).
As life returns to normal, Matteo is looking forward to reintroducing a fuller menu with more customer favourites. Previous examples among starters have included homemade French onion soup, stuffed mushrooms with ricotta, spinach and tomato sauce, and spicy chicken wings with fresh chillies and sweet chilli sauce. Mains have included venison with sweet mashed potatoes, spinach and a red wine and cherry jus, or a surf and turf platter for two to share with a 10oz rib eye, 10oz sirloin, eight tiger prawns and four side dishes.
Summer 2020 was not a happy time for Herts restaurateurs with many forced to offer a restricted service and others choosing to stay locked down in some cases until last month. Herons deserves credit for reopening at the first opportunity while Matteo, like many of his regulars, waited for normal life to be resumed.
Dinner for two at Herons was £72.75 including two glasses of wine and service. This is an independent review by our food and drink editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.
Herons Restaurant, 52 Heronsgate Road, Chorleywood WD3 5BB; 01923 282887; heronsrestaurant.co.uk