Restaurant Review: Gilbey's Restaurant, Old Amersham

Food and drink editor Richard Cawthorne goes back to school for a first look at Gilbey's

GETTING into Gilbey's Restaurant in Amersham Old Town for dinner without a reservation proved impossible on previous visits; on one occasion I was told up to two weeks' notice could be required on busy nights. My interest thus aroused, I settled for lunch instead, but took the precaution of booking anyway.

First off, the setting is enticing. Old Amersham is attractive and Gilbey's is perched on the edge of historic Market Square. The building dates from the 17th century and used to be the local grammar school; the conversion has been sympathetic.

The welcome is warm and friendly and because I'm early I bag a corner window table, pleasant enough but it looks as if it could be a tight fit if the restaurant were full. On the other hand, many people like cosy, and it's better than remote and stuffy.

Gilbey's offers a Monday-Saturday set lunch menu at �14.50 for two courses or �19.50 for three. The weekday choice of starters for my visit was adequate but unexciting - soup of the day with crusty bread, Parma ham and pheasant terrine with forced rhubarb compote and a white bloomer, and red mullet escabeche with onion and fennel toast and coriander oil.

Mains were likewise limited in number but more adventurous, with roast butternut squash and sage risotto topped with warm Kelston Park cheese; confit leg of guinea fowl with smoked pork, winter roots and pearl barley ragout, and pan-roasted Loch Duart salmon with smoked haddock kedgeree and a light curry sauce.

The salmon proved pleasant enough, though the curry sauce made the kedgeree, which I prefer dry, too wet. My companion found nothing to entice on the set menu and turned for inspiration to the a la carte, where she discovered oven-baked bubble and squeak with saut�ed spinach and mushrooms, a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. This was pronounced good but not great, thanks to an over-abundance of pepper but a delicious dessert of Gilbey's lemon tart with pear sorbet put the smile back.

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Gilbey's takes pride in its small but carefully-chosen wine list and the house white, a Chateau Pavilon de la Brie 2007 semillon/sauvignon from Bergerac, was an ideal accompaniment.

Overall, Gilbey's was a pleasant experience though I sense the set lunch is not the best way to experience it. The a la carte reveals much more imaginative fare.USEFUL TO KNOWLunch for two at Gilbey's cost �56.70 including a 50ml carafe of wine and 12.5% voluntary service charge.


Gilbey's Restaurant1 Market Square, Old Amersham HP7 0DF01494

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