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Woven by Adam Smith: Coworth Park’s secret weapon finally gets his name above the door

15 Dec 2022 | Updated on: 16 Aug 2023 |By Richard Brown

Woven by Adam Smith is not a hotel restaurant. It is a five-star restaurant with some rooms attached

Adam Smith. Name not familiar? That’s because unlike other hotel-affiliated, rock-star super-chefs – Gordon Ramsay at The Savoy, Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, the list goes on, so I will too, Tom Kerridge at The Corinthia, Anne-Sophie Pic at that weird Four Seasons in the City that no one seems to talk about, Alyn Williams at The Westbury, before, in 2019, he got himself sacked for hosting a private knees-up while the restaurant was closed for refurbishment (probably worth pointing out, for litigation’s sake, that an employment tribunal later ruled that Williams had been dismissed unfairly on the grounds that he’d hosted parties in the past. Righto.) – Adam Smith’s name never appeared above the door.

Of course, if you knew, you knew. But no one visiting the red-and-copper confines of the resourcefully-named Restaurant Coworth Park – flagship diner of that stately pile where Prince Harry bedded down the night before his wedding – was made explicitly aware that the delicate plates of British posh nosh dancing out of the kitchen were the work of Adam Smith. They just knew that the poached lobster was a work of art and to order the pork belly every time.

There were, naturally enough, plenty of people who did know. Michel Roux Snr knew. He marked Smith as ‘one to watch’ even before the young chef had gone to work with Yannick Alléno at Le Meurice (from Paris, Smith leapfrogged to London, spending 10 years at The Ritz). Observer Food Monthly knew. The magazine named Smith its Young Chef of the Year all the way back in 2012. And the guys at Michelin knew. Yes, sir! The guys at Michelin were, as ever, delighted to tell the people they knew, extolling Smith with one of their shiny asterisks a year after the working-class lad from Birmingham had taken up residence in the aristocratic gaff in Berkshire.

Now, a full six years into his tenure, Smith having maintained that shiny asterisk for five consecutive years, it seems Coworth Park has cottoned on too. Because there it is. Finally. In big shiny lights. ‘Adam Smith’. Well, ‘Woven by Adam Smith’, technically, but Smith’s name above the door all the same.

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It’s going to be difficult, I’ll lay it out now, for me to tell you how good I thought Woven by Adam Smith was. Let’s start with the physical space. The restaurant closed in July and reopened in September. Martin Hulbert Design – interior force behind the Treehouses at Chewton Glen, the dining room at Cliveden House, most of The Grove, and the rest of Coworth Park – chose to do away with the reds and coppers of the previous restaurant, opting instead for a not-too-dissimilar palette, if we’re being honest, of rich browns and deep golds. It’s very autumnal.

Money has been spent. And wisely. There are beautiful golden looms on the ceiling (‘Woven’, geddit?), paper etched with fallen leaves on the walls and contemporary pendant lights above each table that illuminate decorative ceramic conkers that you won’t believe aren’t real. On the back wall, there’s a giant plaster relief of root vegetables by Locker & Riley, the stucco specialists behind the plasterwork at both The Lanesborough and St. Pancras Renaissance hotels.

If, as a colleague recently wrote, the most important thing in any hotel room is water pressure (I’d say a lock on the door, followed by central heating, but I get his point) then surely the most important thing in any restaurant is for it to feel intimate. Warm, cosy, inviting. A pleasant place to spend some time. That’s why I’ve never really understood Hide. Cracking food. Super staircase. But as cosy as a draughty igloo. Woven by Adam Smith is a toasty ski chalet after a long day on the slopes. Except that it feels like you’re in Mayfair, or Manhattan. Soft, subtle, hard luxury.

Money. Money. Money. There’s plenty of it in these parts. Coworth Park backs onto Virginia Water. Ascot, Sunningdale and Wentworth are all a stone’s throw away. My wife counted the Chanel handbags while I added up the value of the watches. Truth is, there are few places outside prime central London that could sustain a place like Woven by Adam Smith. Lunch costs £80 per person. Add £65 if you want to pair that with wine. Dinner is £130 per person, plus £80 for wine. Here’s how it works…

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Guests are invited to pick three dishes – one from the ‘pantry’, one from the ‘larder’, and one from the ‘stove’. Starter, main, dessert, essentially. These are bookended by a selection of tasting dishes. We went for dinner, which includes more courses, hence the higher price. I counted 11. It lasted for three hours, which felt like the right amount of time. These are some of the notes I made:

Eel soup – wow
Coronation chicken – cor
The bergamot – FROZEN WITH NITROGEN!!!
John Dory – super stuff  
Brown crab – best thing I’ve ever tasted
Truffle chestnuts – F**k. Me.
Halibut – not on menu. Coming soon – dilly ding, dilly dong

I expect Jay Rayner jots down similar notes.

I’m no food critic. Can you tell? Me attempting to critique Adam Smith’s cooking would be akin to an A-level art student picking holes in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Or a first-year architecture undergraduate digging out Norman Foster. Worse. At least they’d be able to appreciate the complexity of what they were talking about.

But any village idiot can appreciate when someone’s poured their heart and soul into something. Michelin grub always looks good – doesn’t always taste that good, though, does it? Adam Smith deserves his name above the door. It should be in spotlights. Written in boldface, underlined and then highlighted with a neon marker pen.

See ‘Truffle chestnuts’ as to why.

Visit dorchestercollection.com

Read more: Isla at The Standard restaurant review