by Avril O’Connor
Bedfordshire’s only Michelin star restaurant is tucked away in a corner of England’s finest countryside, within a beautiful piece of parkland on the Woburn Abbey estate. It’s barely sign-posted on the A4012 so I miss the entrance and end up a few miles down the road in quaint Woburn village. I know this area well or used to as I took my apprenticeship as a journalist on a fast-paced evening newspaper here. So I turn round and retrace my steps, spot a tiny sign on the grass verge and drive through one of the magnificent arches to a non-public part of Woburn Abbey.
It’s one of those quintessential summer days – the greenest of green grass, scattered with wild flowers and grazing deer in the parkland nearby – and the sound of cooing pigeons. Then I see the restaurant which is in a faux Tudor style building. It was originally built in 1872 for an international exhibition in Paris, ‘Rue des Nations.’ Its journey over to the UK started when the 9th Duke of Bedford fell for the building and had it shipped wall by wall, beam by beam over to Bedfordshire; residing as Paris House. Over its time the Tudor inspired building has had links with royalty, been transformed into a wartime hospital and now, as it can be found today, is the only Michelin starred restaurant in Bedfordshire owned and run by Executive Chef Owner, Phil Fanning.
In front of the restaurant I spot two Aston Martin cars and wonder why people are gathering round to inspect them. Aston Martin’s factory – where the cars are still hand built is only up the road at Newport Pagnell. I recall (many moon’s ago) writing a story about the then Duke of Bedford – and his wife buying him an Aston Martin Lagonda with her Diner’s Club card for his birthday. It was not something us ordinary folk did in those days so it made headlines.
It turns out that the restaurant thought it would be a nice touch for diners that day to see the cars. One – an Aston Martin DB5 was driven by Sean Connery in Goldfinger and I am told by the man from Aston Martin is worth several thousand pounds more than the newer Aston Martin BD9 (pictured below). I get to try it and ask how much it costs – a mere £150,000 and a minimum deposit of £15,000 would secure it – but I tell the salesman from Aston Martin I am not ready to live in a caravan just yet …
For my culinary experience I join the Chef’s Table – which is something very special. Patron and chef Phil Fanning runs a tight and efficient ship. There is no swearing and drama in his kitchen! The mostly very young cooks silently work like clockwork putting together a menu that is culinary art at its finest – and at speed without bumping into each other in a relatively modest-sized kitchen.
The menu were are sampling is one of the summer tasting menus paired with wines and special vodka from Maison William Chase. Ours was similar to the one below but that day Iberico Pig Cheek was replaced by Ham, Egg & Chips.
The portions resemble those of the once trendy Cuisine Mincer. Every one of the courses is presented like a work of art – so very beautiful as you can see from the images below. Our French sommelier explains to us the wine pairings. I am not a lover of strong spirits or fortified wines such as Port but the ones we tried were perfect with the dishes.
The ingredients are fresh and seasonal – some from the garden behind the restaurant – so menus are subject to change.
If only I had a chef like this at home…I sighed. A feast for the eyes but without the calories!
A wonderful experience and day. Booking is essential at this restaurant – unless of course you have your own helicopter which can be accommodated so I am told.
The cost of of this particular gourmet experience was (at the time of writing) is around around £79 per person with extra for the wines.
Great restaurant, amazing location – perfect on a summer day…
Contact information and opening times
Lunch: Wednesday – Saturday 12.00pm – 13.30pm
Lunch: Sunday 12.00pm – 14.00pm
Dinner: Wednesday & Thursday 19.00pm – 20.30pm
Dinner: Friday & Saturday 19.00pm – 21.00pm
(Closed Monday & Tuesday)
Please find below directions to Paris House which is located in Woburn Park (near Milton Keynes) MK17 9QP.
Please note that from experience some Sat-Navs have proven unreliable and have led to the wrong location.
FROM MILTON KEYNES
We are located only 10-15 minutes South of Milton Keynes. Take the A5 southbound then turn left on to the A5130 towards Woburn. At the centre of Woburn turn right on to the A4012, George, Street and follow the road for 2 miles after which time you will see the entrance gates to Paris House on your left.
FROM THE NORTH
Leaving Woburn on the A4012 – with the Woburn Hotel on your left, Paris House can be found after approximately 1.7 miles. Take the left turn through large gates and up the long driveway.
FROM THE SOUTH
From Hockliffe – turn right on to the A4012 from the A5. After approximately 3 miles take the right turn through large gates and up the long driveway to Paris House.
If you wish to arrive by helicopter please contact the restaurant directly on 01525 290 692 or email firstname.lastname@example.org