The first thing that strikes you when you walk into the Cedar restaurant at the Hilton Avisford Park Hotel is the classy yet warm feel of the place.
This is an upmarket eatierie in an upmarket hotel – a combination which can sometimes make for a rather stiff atmosphere in which you’re frightened to talk or laugh.
But here, the staff immediately make you feel relaxed, as do the surroundings in general.
The Hilton is a business-orientated hotel, but accommodates plenty of families too and on the evening my wife and I dined, there was more than one table filled by a party with children.
We were welcomed by restaurant manager Manuel Herraizorti, who appears to take the hands-on approach to management and wasn’t far away from the action all evening.
We had the same waiter all night and were even introduced to the sous chef. So, nothing wrong with the hospitality – what about the small matter of the food? No complaints there, either.
Cedar’s spring menu is relatively new, although it says much for the restaurant’s desire to keep things fresh that it will itself be replaced by the summer menu in a couple of months.
For a starter, my wife chose melon carpaccio and sorbet shot while I opted for rabbit pate, apple and cider chutney and toasted brioche.
Both were delicious – and about the right portion size too, which was a theme of the meal, this restaurant not one of those that seems to think the higher they pile the food on the plate, the happier the customer will be.
For a main course I was glad I followed one of Manuel’s recommendations – five-spice duck confit, sweet potato, mange tout and warm sweet chilli sauce. It was spot-on.
My wife went for porcini ravioli in sun-dried tomato, walnut and basil sauce. She was equally pleased with her choice.
A selection of eight different starters and 12 main courses, plus a couple of daily specials, means there ought to be something for everyone.
The starters ranged in price from £5 to £8; the mains from £14 to £20, which we thought reasonable for a restaurant of this type.
The menu signposts healthy options, gluten-free dishes and even some that, if chosen, will see a portion of the profits given to charity.
And happily, we had room for desserts.
I went for rhubarb crumble tart, which came with a lovely rich vanilla ice cream, and my wife said her baked white and dark chocolate cheesecake with raspberries was superb.
She also had a glass of dessert wine and we both rounded off a lovely evening with a coffee in the lobby, where Manuel was busy telling us all about the restaurant and trying to convince us to return with the kids to sample one of their popular Sunday lunches. So much did we enjoy our visit to Cedar, the likelihood is we’ll do just that soon.