14 Feb 2013

Restaurants: Five Arrows

THE Five Arrows Restaurant with Rooms takes its name from the Rothschild logo. Its downward arrows represent the five sons of Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812) who rose from the Frankfurt ghetto to launch the Rothschild international banking dynasty. Forbes magazine named him the “seventh most influential businessman of all time” and a "founding father of international finance".

The stout, ornate venue, with Elizabethan-style chimneys, turret, and wrought iron sign, was built to accommodate the architects and artisans who spent 15 years working on Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild’s Waddesdon Manor at the end of the drive it sentries. Each of The Five Arrows’ 12 bedrooms takes their names from different Rothschild houses, including Ascot, Exbury and Gruneburg. 
To a percussion of fireworks on the eve of Bonfire Night, dinner occurred in the stone-walled “Baron’s Gate” snug. This began with flutes of youthful, fruit rather than yeast-driven, Pinot Meunier-dominated “Waddesdon Champagne” NV made by Baron Fuente (£7.50/125ml).
Although The Five Arrows and Waddesdon Manor are under the tenure of the National Trust (Waddesdon is its second most visited house), both are run by the Rothschild Foundation. This means that the majority of bins at The Five Arrows are sourced from Rothschild enterprises. Bottles range from £14.95 for Mouton Cadet '08 to 100 Parker Point Lafite Rothschild ‘86 (£2,000/bottle). Château Mouton Rothschild '85, described as “rich, forward, long and sexy” on the list, seemed particularly notable value at £450/bottle - for decadent diners.
Entertaining and helpful, Spanish maître d’, Horace Botana, in the hospitality industry for 46 years including a decade at The Five Arrows, recommended Los Vascos Chardonnay ’11 Colchagua/Casablanca, Chile (£5.50/175ml) with a tart of fennel grown in the gardens of Jacob Rothschild’s house in nearby Eythrope, caramelised red onion, spinach and Oxford blue cheese (£6.75). The ripe wine’s tropical fruit softened the fennel’s sweet, strong flavour.
To follow, slowly cooked shoulder of lamb from Drovers Hill Farm from nearby Princes Risborough came with honey roasted root vegetables, lustrous curly kale, gratin potatoes and rosemary (£15.95). Here, Botana also selected from Domaines Barons de Rothschild’s Chilean holding. Cabernet Sauvignon ’11 Colchagua (£5.50/175ml) brought dark chocolate and defining oak to the overall, juicy dish. However, your correspondent wonders what head chef, Karl Penny, in the role for two-and-a-half years and previously at the Pear Tree Inn near Bath, might have thought of their request for mint sauce accompaniment?
Finally, rather than grape, Botana advised grain with cappuccino crème brûlée, rather good, sugar-crusted white chocolate fudge and tuille biscuit pressed in the shape of a spoon (£6.50). From a considerable selection of spirits, Balvenie’s DoubleWood 12 year-old Highland single malt (£3.95/25ml) effortlessly cut through the dessert’s rich, creamy texture.
If Waddesdon Manor’s architects and artisans who stayed here received the careful cooking and charming customer care available at The Five Arrows of today, it is little wonder that the Manor took 15 years to build...