Symonds Restaurant at Audley Redwood: Review

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What’s your first thought when you hear the words “retirement village”? It’s probably not what you’ll find at Audley Redwood – which, in all honesty, we didn’t actually know existed until I was asked if I wanted to try their restaurant – Symonds – which opened to the public in January 2018.

Located on Beggar Bush Lane, where the former Redwood Lodge Hotel used to be, Audley Redwood is a luxury retirement village for residents aged 55+. Every resident owns their own property – either an apartment or a cottage – on the complex, with both property and garden maintenance included in a yearly fee. That’s not all, though: there’s also a library, a hobby room, a gym, a hair salon, a swimming pool with sauna and steam room and the restaurant. As our waitress on the evening said, “It feels more like an all-inclusive holiday” – and from what we saw, we’re inclined to agree.

Audley Redwood is an enormous place – to the extent that we had to follow signs to Symonds Restaurant when we drove in. Walking into the main entrance to reception, the building certainly felt as far from a retirement village as you can imagine, with the high-end design more reminiscent of a boutique hotel. We were shown through the bar area to the main restaurant, where we were seated at a window table next to a huge terrace.

It’s a beautiful room, there’s no denying that: a statement light fills the centre of the room, which is laid out with plain wooden tables and wide, comfortable chairs with arms. It’s a clean, comfortable restaurant with plenty of natural light – and even a private room at the end, which is sometimes used for meetings, but with the long table also doubling up as a snooker table, we were told that that’s often its primary purpose.

 

Symonds Restaurant - Bar

Symonds Restaurant - Terrace

Symonds Restaurant - Interior

 

Accompanied by what sounded like a Live Lounge acoustic album, we perused the Symonds menus. Again, we weren’t sure what to expect – but were presented with a menu that included sandwiches alongside classic dishes, and some more contemporary mains.

 

Symonds Restaurant - Menu

 

The Symonds drinks menu is equally impressive, with a decent selection of wines priced from £3.40 for a small glass, and with bottles starting at around the £20 mark. The spirits selection is surprisingly comprehensive, and there’s even a nod to local breweries with Bath Ales and Butcombe making an appearance on the menu.

To start, Chris went for the goats’ cheese mousse with beetroot and pink grapefruit (£7.75) – a stunning plate of food. The two quenelles of mousse were smooth and silky, with quite a light flavour, and the classic beetroot pairing was brought up to date with a combination of sweet yellow pickled discs, cooked pink beetroot, and a smear of the pink stuff to decorate the plate. The sweet, juicy grapefruit was a novel touch – as were what we believe were crumbled dried black olives scattered over the top, adding both texture and saltiness.

 

Symonds Restaurant - Goats Cheese Mousse

 
My beef carpaccio with rocket, parmesan crisp and balsamic pearls (£8.75) was just as pretty to look at. While the beef was nice and pink and melted in the mouth, it could have done with being brought closer to room temperature before serving: the chill took away some of the flavour. The parmesan crisps were nice and thick with a good snap, and I was glad that the leaves were left naked, as the tangy spherified balsamic pearls were all they needed for flavour.

 

Symonds Restaurant - Beef Carpaccio

 

For Chris, the Gem Bath ale battered fish and chips with crushed minted garden peas (£14) was the main of choice. The batter was a little oily but both fish and batter were beautifully cooked, and the peas had a beautiful fresh flavour but could have done with a touch more mint. The chips were absolutely perfect: thick, crisp and fluffy, and he proclaimed the chunky tartare to be the best he’s had in a long while…

 

Symonds Restaurant - Fish and Chips

 
I haven’t had rabbit for a while, and it was the rabbit loin wrapped in pancetta with sweetcorn purée, fondant potato, crispy Savoy cabbage, cockle popcorn and jus (£17.50) that stood out for me. Again, a seriously attractive dish – and an unexpectedly huge portion, too.

Generously wrapped in smoky pancetta, the rolled rabbit was packed full of flavour – but sadly undercooked in the middle. I was told that it couldn’t be as it had been slow cooked sous vide, but with a raw colour and texture, I sadly couldn’t eat half of the meat. The fondant potato was perfect, though, and the “cockle popcorn” saw the seafood deep fried in batter – a nice salty contrast, along with the crispy cabbage, to the sweetness of the sweetcorn purée and the rich, thick, sticky jus.

Service throughout was amazing – especially at this point. When approached halfway through our mains I (apologetically) brought up the issue with the rabbit, and was offered an alternative main by both our waitress and the general manager, who came over once he heard of the problem.

 

Symonds Restaurant - Rabbit Loin

 

I said no, as I quite fancied a dessert…

The dessert menu is priced from £5.50 for ice creams and sorbets to £9.75 for a selection of West Country cheeses. And with five choices available, we each went for something different…

I was swayed by the hot dark chocolate fondant with salted caramel and clotted cream ice cream (£7.50) – and it was outstanding. The fondant was perfectly cooked with a lovely, oozing centre, and wasn’t overly rich – just as well, as the super thick salted caramel sauce really was.

 

Symonds Restaurant - Chocolate Fondant

Symonds Restaurant - Chocolate Fondant Interior

 
Chris is a sucker for a crème brûlée, and so when he saw the raspberry version on the menu, served with lemon shortbread (£7.50), his mind was easily made up. We loved how it was presented delicately in a teacup, the biscuits served on the side.

The topping offered a good crack under the spoon, giving way to whole raspberries set within the smooth cream. The shortbread was really buttery and sweet, a sprinkle of sugar topping it off, but could have done with a little more lemon – it offered just the merest hint.

 

Symonds Restaurant - Raspberry Creme Brulee

 

A couple of niggles, but I was seriously impressed with the service and the way my issue with the main was handled. The food was beautifully presented, the setting was stunning, and overall, Symonds totally surprised us – it wasn’t what we had expected at all.

They’re open for lunches (including Sunday lunch) and afternoon teas, too – to residents and non-residents alike. And despite the fact that we clearly weren’t residents, we were welcomed warmly and treated with the same great service as the diners that the waitresses clearly knew well. While Symonds isn’t somewhere I’d necessarily have gone off my own back, I’m glad I did: it totally blew all my preconceptions out the water.

 

Please note: our meal at Symonds was received free of charge, but this in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.

 

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