“You don’t get a much better address than Cliveden,” beams André Garrett, who seems to be making a habit of cooking in breathtaking settings. After seven and a half years at the helm of Michelin starred Galvin at Windows – on the 28th floor of the Hilton Park Lane Hotel, Mayfair – Garrett has taken up the reins as executive chef at Cliveden, a stunning National Trust country house hotel in Berkshire.
“It’s amazing really. I can’t get used to walking around and seeing my name everywhere – it’s very surreal.” The contrasts for the chef in his new role go further than replacing a crowded tube ride to work with a pastoral, ten minute car journey through the countryside and up the grand, tree-flanked drive of this historic property.
After years spent cooking under big-name chefs Nico Ladenis, Guy Savoy and Chris Galvin respectively, Garrett has finally got a place he can call his own. And what a place it is.
With a history dating back to the 1600s, this Relais and Chateaux property has long been the haunt of well-heeled sybarites (including Queen Victoria) and has played host to virtually every British monarch since George I.
The responsibility of a country house hotel has created a host of new challenges for the Somerset-born chef. “It’s been a bit of a baptism of fire really,” he says: “a massive change from Windows and London generally. There’s so much we need to do here because I’m not just running a restaurant, I’m looking after all the food and beverages, so everything from breakfast to afternoon tea has to have my stamp on it.”
When we speak, Garrett is in the process of researching potential breakfast dishes for the hotel – and is relishing the challenge. “It’s exciting because I’ve never really had to think about breakfast – unless you’re somewhere like the Wolseley, most places in London don’t – but I’ve been looking at breakfast menus from all over the world and they’re really interesting.”
The property’s colourful history is providing some inspiration for the chef. “We’re looking at perhaps giving the breakfast an American twist – the Astors, who owned Cliveden, were an American family, so we’re thinking about harking back to that and what they may have done here. The Americans really know how to do a good breakfast.”