Everybody knows that the food writer and the chef are like chalk and cheese. One has a vocabulary as coarse as sandpaper, drinks too much, tweets too much and works hideously long hours; the other is the chef.
Ok, so maybe they are not that different, but they have been known to clash on certain occasions (one famous example being when Gordon Ramsay threw AA Gill and his guest, hmm, Joan Collins, out of his Royal Hospital Road restaurant after a bad review). Luckily, some bright spark decided to invent the concept of the ‘Chef’s Table’ – which means the two can get all close-up and cuddly, for better or for worse…
But, joking aside, the Chef’s Table has undoubtedly been a great thing for the restaurant industry. And while I’m not sure how much the chefs can enjoy it (there’s enough stress on them during service without having to worry about some idiot taking notes in the corner) it is always fascinating for the voyeur.
And so it proves at Woburn’s Paris House – where Phil Fanning and his team of merry men conjure mesmeric dishes while I sit and enjoy the full panorama of the kitchen from plumped up seats opposite.
Fanning has been at Paris House since 2010, previously working at Danesfield House and for Alan Murchison at L’Ortolan. In fact, it was Murchison’s 10 in 8 group that acquired the restaurant and entrusted Fanning with Head Chef duties at the tender age of 29 - a decision vindicated by a cacophony of critical acclaim and the winning of a Michelin star just a year into his tenure.
But it hasn’t all been a bed of roses, and when 10 in 8 ran into financial difficulty just a couple of years later, Fanning was posed with a tough dilemma: lose Paris House or stump up the cash to take it on himself.
Luckily, Fanning - with the help of his in-laws - managed to find the necessary cash. And after some initial teething problems, is now managing to stamp more of his own authority on this majestic destination.
The food is certainly authoritative. Playful, modern and big on flavour (Fanning would make a great contestant on Great British Menu), his exuberant cuisine seems well suited to a six course tasting menu – titled ‘Big Guns’ - parading luxurious ingredients.