With Christmas countdowns around the country kicking off with an energetic festive fervour, my family joined in with celebrations as relatives from Chesterfield, near Sheffield, made the journey south to visit us for an unofficial pre-Christmas meal. Suitably suited and booted, my grandma – the matriarch of the family – had settled on Hornchurch venue The Cranleigh for our meal out, wanting something smart, suave and smooth with glimmers of London influences. Each table is only booked once per evening in their atmospherically lit restaurant, ensuring that your party is not rushed or hampered in any way.
When entering The Cranleigh, you arrive in a small reception lounge that houses the main bar, as well as a collection of black leather sofas, where you can wait in comfort with your drink of choice as your table is prepared for you. We were given the menus to peruse at our leisure, as we grazed on the snacking nuts left out on side tables between the sofas. Once our table was ready, we were shown in to the main restaurant, and I was immediately struck by the understated and simplistic intimacy of the place. Quietly stylish, the restaurant has been cleverly designed to provide an abundance of alcoves and corners, so that each table has plenty of room, is not overlooked in any way and gives your group loads of privacy. Even though we were a large group of eight people, I didn’t feel like we were being overheard or in the way at all, which was so nice.
The walls were painted a nice clean white, and decorated with the most fabulous and intriguing artwork I have ever seen. I absolutely adored the paintings of various women – they were stylish, mysterious and incredibly eye catching yet not intensely overpowering. They helped add to the classy ambience that oozed a suave wealth. The chandeliers provided dimmed down lighting to add to the mood and as we sat down at the roomy square table, I couldn’t be more impressed.
Once settled, the waiting staff had fluttered our black napkins across our laps and brought around a roll basket for us to select from. Whilst buttering up the seeded , rounded roll, we decided what to drink with our meal. Us ladies opted for the house white, and we could choose between a dry, medium or sweet. I thought this was really good actually, as you normally only have one house white but I was so pleased I could push for a sweet wine, as that is my favourite kind of white wine. The richly golden coloured wine was really tasty and the ideal accompaniment – needless to say, I soon lost count of the number of bottles consumed! For my starter, I was looking forward to a smoked duck salad. The duck was served in wafer thin strips that had been laid across a bed of various leaves drizzled faintly with some form of vinaigrette. Not massively flavourful, it was nice to sample something a bit different and I did enjoy the duck although it was so thin it was hard to grasp the taste at times. However, it was nice and light to whet the appetite for the main course so in that respect, it ticked the boxes nicely.
To say I was excited about my main course would be a serious understatement. I absolutely love eating steak out, so when I spotted the Tournedo Rossini on the menu (for an eye watering £22.50) I couldn’t help but point at it vigorously as I made my selection. We all ordered the mixed vegetables and potato option over the house salad to have for sides, as we all agreed this would work better with our meat heavy mains. The Cranleigh definitely steps up the old school glamour in their presentation and their unique serving of the food. Your meat of the main meal is brought to you in an individual white oval oven dish, swimming in rich juices and thickly flowing sauce. The server will then place the individual steak on your waiting plate, before tenderly and thoughtfully spooning every last drip of sauce over your meat. Next came the vegetables in the same process. One waitress brought around sautéed potatoes, cleverly using a fork and a spoon to give each of us a small pile before moving on to the next person. This was swiftly followed by small and fluffy new potatoes as well as a seasonal vegetable mix that included carrots, cauliflower and broccoli. There was almost a hoard of waiters and waitresses surrounding us as they plated up the dish in front of us, allowing us to have a say on our portion size as well as deciding what sides we wanted. I found this so different and outdated in today’s fast food culture but I loved feeling like the lady of the manor being served in such a pristine and collected manner.
The steak was sensational. The Tournedo Rossini is fillet steak that has been topped with a decadent slab of smooth pate – it tasted like Brussels’s to me. The accompanying sauce consisted of madeira, a fantastically sweet, rich and full bodied port-like beverage that really enhances and enlivens red meat flavours and textures. The steak cut like butter and I wasn’t even using a steak knife. I had asked for my meat to be medium rare and it had been cooked to perfection, the high quality grade of the meat proving its salt with its succulently soft taste and texture. I had more than enough pate to eat with every delicious morsel of steak, as well as plenty of sauce to drape my vegetables in as well. The sautéed potatoes in particular were so yummy, cut into chunky slices with a scrumptious golden glow and crispy edge, yet fluffy on the inside. The new potatoes provided additional contrast with their softer shell and the seasonal vegetables were the usual boiled variety that counts towards your five a day. The portion size was ideal, filling you up nicely without overfilling you yet leaving space for dessert which in my opinion is always a necessity. I was almost disappointed when I had completely cleaned my plate as I had so thoroughly enjoyed every single aspect, but especially that gorgeous meat.
With the Garner sweet tooth meaning dessert was pretty much a given, again we were surprised by the elegance of The Cranleigh. Instead of having a dessert menu, they have a dessert trolley, which they keep in the main restaurant and parade in front of the tables when it is time to pick your favourite. Spotting it as soon as you enter the dining area can have you at a disadvantage as then you are eyeing up your afters before you’ve even began your meal! With an abundance of options, there really was something for everything in this classical English selection which included trifles, apple pie, profiteroles, tiramisu and meringues. I opted for a gorgeously stacked giant Viennese Whirl – two large discs of crumbling shortbread housed a licking of chocolate and a molehill of beautifully whipped cream that was studded with fresh pink raspberries. Not only did it look divine but it really hit the spot too with all of the varying textures juxtaposing beautifully to create idyllic mouthfuls. I loved the biscuit paired with the light and fluffy cream and even though it may look tough to tackle, it was surprisingly light and easy to eat; I demolished the whole thing with my usual speed and efficiency.
After we were full to the brim, it was time for the traditional concluding coffee. Choosing just a plain white coffee, we were provided with cups and saucers galore and steaming silver coffee pots to replenish our cups after our first sips. As an extra indulgence, we were given a basket full of minty chocolates wrapped luxuriously in silver or gold, as well as a selection of tiny chocolate chip or plain chocolate shortbread cookies that were ideal for dunking and eating whole in one swift movement. The coffee was nicely made and really finished the entire meal off pleasantly.
Alluring and intimate, yet bringing traditional fine English dining to the forefront, The Cranleigh really is a superb venue. Quietly attractive and overwhelmingly comfortable, you really can unwind in style with the spot on service and the extremely high quality food. The menu may be simplistic British fare, but the flavour combinations have been well thought out, and the menu as a whole has great variety and creative flair. My sister really enjoyed her Moroccan spiced tuna steak for example, while my Grandma’s minted lamb really tickled her taste buds. Granted, such opulence comes at a price and I am sure my eyes would have watered if I had seen the bill. My starter was nearing £7 and my main course was £22.50 alone, so for eight of us all together, including drinks, it can’t have been cheap. However, for the quality of evening we enjoyed, every penny was well spent. The general ambience was so private and exclusive yet gently unassuming that it really created a fantastic vibe to the place. Definitely a romantic setting, I can’t wait to take my other half there in the new year.