Restaurant review: Chapter One, Orpington

Roast grouse with choucroute (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Roast grouse with choucroute (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

The story of Chapter One continues to evolve under the expert touch of executive chef-patron Andrew McLeish

Chapter One is well placed to attract loyal locals as welll as fans from London (photo: Manu Palomeq

Chapter One is well placed to attract loyal locals as welll as fans from London (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

Change is afoot at Chapter One, the restaurant where executive chef-patron Andy McLeish has tempted tastebuds from near and far for an impressive 19 years.

Two years ago Andy and his business partner and long-time friend Marcel Faulstich, who has a background in banking, bought the Locksbottom favourite from financier Ken Sanker. The move put Andy back full time in the kitchen and able to concentrate solely on the core business.

This has included a recent six-figure refurbishment, which has changed the bar and brasserie beyond recognition (think peacock blues and greens and gorgeous soft lighting), added a newly designed private dining room and made a real feature of the terrace at the front of the restaurant. There are still some planning issues to contend with, but the al fresco option proved a real boon during late summer's very welcome heatwave.

My Blonde Mate and I admired the new decor as we perched on high bar stools with a glass of chilled Champagne apiece and big, fat green olives and spiced mixed nuts to nibble.

Kentish blackberries adorn this dainty mille-feuille (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Kentish blackberries adorn this dainty mille-feuille (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

Andy is still supported in the kitchen by his loyal long-term head chef Dean Ferguson, who joined Chapter One as a commis chef back in 2001 and worked his way up through the ranks.

The duo delivers an impressive, seasonally changing menu for the main restaurant and a significantly improved brasserie selection, where you'll now find grilled red mullet with courgette and lime tzatziki or tagliatelle of venison ragout sitting alongside fish and chips and rib-eye steak.

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Settled in plush blue seats at a crisply white-clothed corner table in the large, elegant dining room we spread butter thickly onto home-made bread and studied the exceptionally well put-together à la carte menu.

Delicious mushroom Asian broth (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Delicious mushroom Asian broth (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

No easy options here, intead prepare yourself for the most exquisite of plates loaded with the biggest and boldest of flavours.

On our visit compressed pig's head with a mustard dressing, braised snails with Kentish cobnuts and smoked haddock kedgeree were among starters.

They gave way to choices that included roebuck venison haunch, roast cod with sweetcorn purée, Josper-grilled gilt head black bream served with Moscatel vinegar and garlic emulsion. Told you it was uncompromising.

Managing partner Marcel Faulstich, general manager Michele Calemma and Executive chef-patron Andy Mc

Managing partner Marcel Faulstich, general manager Michele Calemma and Executive chef-patron Andy McLeish (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

My clear mushroom Asian broth with a crab and scallop tortellino as a treasure at its heart would put you right back on your feet if you were feeling a little poorly: exquisitely restorative, delicate but with a subtle kick.

Less loved was MBM's deep-fried courgette flower with goat's cheese, a Romesco sauce and hazlenut dressing, which she found a little too creamy for her taste. However pressed and roast shoulder and rump of lamb, got a big thumb's up, especially presented with silky aubergine, braised baby gem and (vibrantly orange) tahini yoghurt, matched by a hearty Argentinian Malbec.

I tried my first-ever grouse - and how that is the case after so many restaurant reviews, I have no idea - but that missing experience is now well and truly ticked off my 'must try' list.

The coolly stylish main restaurant (photo: Manu Palomeque)

The coolly stylish main restaurant (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

Much lighter than I'd expected, very tender and with a mild gamey taste, it was served simply with choucroute, silverskin onions, pancetta and grouse jus.

Worth mentioning, vegetables need to be ordered separately, something we weren't reminded of until our rather, well, brown platefuls arrived - however, once we'd got a splash of green beans alongside our meat, aesthetic and taste harmony was restored. Somehow the largely European staff heard us from the other side of the room (quietly) regret not choosing vegetables and magicked them up in a trice.

Puddings were the usual Chapter One triumph and revealed the talents of a new pastry chef in the kitchen. Peter Turnpenny may be a big lad of few words, but his touch with a passionfruit mille-feuille layered with Kentish blackberries was gossamer light. MBM chose well.

As did her chocoholic friend - and I learnt a new word too: Manjari is a dark chocolate with a 64 per cent cocoa solid content. Fashioned into a dense marquise with coffee mousse, it was refreshingly enhanced by lemony, lime Calamansi sorbet alongside.

Back in the oh-so-inviting brasserie, MBM, Andy, Marcel and I put the world to rights over coffee and petit-fours (us), cold beers for the boys after their long, hot evening of front-of-house service and kitchen wizardry.

Come here for something light from the brasserie, for a celebratory dinner, a drink and nibbles on the terrace or one of the brilliant masterclasses. Awesome Andy never disappoints.

The essentials

What: Stylish moderrn restaurant

Where: Chapter One, Farnborough Common, Locksbottom, BR6 8NF, 01689 854848,

When: Lunch Mon-Sat 12-2.30pm, Sun 12-3pm; dinner Mon-Thu 6.30-10.30pm, Fri & Sat 6.30-11.30pm,

Sun 6.30-9pm

How much: Three courses £42.95; tasting menu £64.95, plus wine flight £35 per person

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