Sanctum on the Green hotel and Luke’s Dining Room, Cookham Dean, Berkshire SL6 9NZ
Tucked away in a leafy corner of Royal Berkshire lies an amazing little hideaway – Sanctum on the Green. With just nine rooms, it’s the little sister of the Sanctum Soho but with a very different feel. We escaped from work early and made the slow drive through London’s rush hour traffic to get there, but it was so worth it. We knew it was special when we made our way through a maze of twisty narrow country lanes, arrived at the gated entrance and had to be buzzed through, no riff raff allowed here. SatNav is a must, even the keenest ramblers with the very latest OS map would struggle to find it… We’d probably still be looking for the hotel whilst having a blazing row if we didn’t have our trusty TomTom.
The entrance to the reception is around the back of the hotel, taking in the black-lined pool and gardens, my first thought was how brilliant it would be to get married here and for a split second wished we had. The gardens are all set up for it, a marquee in place and a pretty flower-lined pergoda by a perfect blossom-filled tree.
Anyway, at the reception we were informed that we were the only guests in the hotel, and in fact the restaurant. My heart sunk a bit, there’s nothing worse than being the only diners. The bonus was that we got the suite instead of the double deluxe (£175 per night with breakfast) that we’d originally been booked into.
Our poolside room was almost like an apartment, inside was the biggest bath we’d ever seen (complete with a huge shower set in the ceiling), even bigger than the one we had in Vegas. A large comfy bed, stylish brushed silver furniture, REN products, and the walls adorned with Love Music Love Food artwork. We later discovered that the hotel is co-owned by Iron Maiden’s manager, Andy Taylor and entertainment man Mark Fuller and is regularly visited by LMLF photographer Patrice De Villiers. There was a bit of wear and tear, cracked walls and a broken window handle, maybe a rock star through a telly out of it? It could do with a touch up, but it didn’t bother us. The lack of a kettle and tea and coffee did however, it’s just one of those small but important things… We resisted the urge to flop out in front of the huge TV with its on-demand films, freshened up and headed to the bar, I hoped that some other diners may have shown up by now but no.
The main draw of this hotel is the restaurant, and that is why we so wanted to visit. Back in February we read about 18-year-old head chef Luke Thomas who heads up Luke’s Dining Room at the hotel, the youngest head chef in Britain and Springboard’s FutureChef award winner in 2009. We knew he must be pretty special and were eager to taste his cooking. Never did we imagine that we’d be the only guests in his restaurant, we thought people would be clambering over each other to get in, sadly not. The management assured us it was unusual to be empty, I couldn’t help but think that a few tweets fired out and a special offer for the weekend would have it full. I would love to have responsibility of that Twitter account, even for just for a week, they have sent less than a handful of tweets.
As we sat in the cosy bar sipping a glass of champagne, Luke came out of he kitchen to talk to us. We were struck by just how young he looks, but is charming and obviously knows his stuff. He’s already racked up and impressive CV, he’s worked with Heston at the nearby Fat Duck plus Noma, Rhodes W1, Alinea in Chicago, La Pergola in Rome, Burj al Arab in Dubai and The French Laundry pop-up with Thomas Keller at Harrods. He explained that the restaurant was quiet because of the private school holidays and because of the situation he offered us the chance of cooking us a taster menu, too good an opportunity to miss, of course we said yes.
As we sat alone we laughed nervously at how surreal it was, but also great. We were first served a bundle of homemade bread in a cute sack bag, featuring a walnut bread, cheese bread and an olive bread with thick plump olives. A brilliant Mussel Curry, Monkfish, Fritters, Apple and Almond £8.25. We loved the contrasting textures of the fish, the mussels fried in breadcrumbs and the meaty texture of the monkfish, in a sweet and not too spicy sauce. I hadn’t had monkfish for years and had forgotten how good it is. We want to eat this dish again, and again, and again…
Next up was Slow Cooked Hen’s Egg, Asparagus and Truffle Hollandaise £8.25, a creamy dish with perfectly cooked asparagus, the crunchy coating on the egg made it almost scotch egg like but without the meat. Alongside it was the most amazing asparagus with a rich creamy truffle sprinkled sauce.
This is where the tasting part of the tasting menu ended. We moved onto the main of which there was just one, we were expecting lots of small dishes, but hey. The Lamb Rump, Boulangère Potatoes, Fennel and Tapenade Sauce £19.95 was a winner for Ade. Every single ingredient worked so perfectly together, the sweet tender lamb with its sticky lamb reduction sauce that clung to the meat like treacle. Even the aubergine puree was a fab and unexpected addition. The fennel had lost it’s aniseed-like flavour but was still tasty, the tapenade sauce not overpowering (as it can be) and the potatoes crispy and golden on top, tender and creamy underneath.
Dessert was what I would have chosen, Lemon Tart and Strawberry Sorbet £6.75. I love a tart, especially after a heavy meal and it didn’t disappoint. A delicate, thin and immaculate pastry with the perfect addition of not too sweet strawberry sorbet that is better and more substantial than a coulis. We headed out the restaurant up to our cosy room leaving Luke, the kitchen and bar staff practising their cocktail making skills. Back in the room I flaked out and had the best night’s sleep in ages and I never sleep well, especially in hotels.
The next morning it was so peaceful outside, not just because we were the only guests! We sat back at the same table for breakfast where we both opted for the full English breakfast, other choices included omelette and oak smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. The bread sack made another appearance, this time stuffed with white and wholemeal toast. In the corner was a teeny buffet table of ‘Sanctum Cereal’, and very posh, tasty yoghurts and fresh fruit juice.
We bid farewell to our lovely room, and the stunning little hotel onto nearby Marlow – ten minutes up the road, a pretty little market town with an impressive little suspension bridge. Next stop was Bray, a 15 minute drive away where we did a mini pub crawl of the Hinds Head and the Crown, both Heston’s. We arrived home feeling so rested and like we’d been away for ever. However we felt sad that such a brilliant place was so empty and I wished I could hack into their Twitter account to drum up some business before the brilliant Luke is snapped up by someone else… Go there, Now!
Sanctum On The Green
The Old Cricket Common
Restaurant and Room Reservations: Tel: + 44 (0)1628 482 638
Fax: + 44 (0) 1628 487 474
Weddings and Events: Tel: + 44 (0) 777 999 0830