Sometimes, I think people have the misconception that they can’t eat in a hotel’s restaurant if they aren’t staying in the hotel. It is, perhaps, a reasonable assumption – but it is one that the Hilton Garden Inn are trying to change. Their recently refurbished bar and restaurant, Recess, has an adaptable all-day menu which aims to cater to everybody no matter the occasion. I was lucky enough to be invited along to one of their launch nights this week, where I was able to sample many of the dishes on offer.
Provided with a glass of (very nice) prosecco on arrival, we were then brought a selection of starters and sharers to begin. First to the table was the Crackling with Apple Sauce, followed quickly by Crispy Salt and Pepper Squid, Mixed Olives and Portobello Fries. Crackling is always a bit of a weird one in my opinion – I mean, you’re eating fat that has, essentially, been fried in more fat. This crackling had retained a nice pork flavour and, though it was chewy in places, was nice when eaten with the chunky apple sauce that accompanied it.
The squid wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t the worst either – it was cooked well enough but needed to be crispier, in my opinion. Of course, there’s not much you can say about olives but they were nicely presented and the little melba toasts that accompanied them were a nice thickness and had a good crunch. As you may already know, I’m really not a fan of mushrooms – no matter how much I try to like them I just can’t. However, I did decide to try one of the Portobello Fries – and I didn’t completely hate it! The breadcrumbs were nice and crispy, which was a good start, and the flavours that were in the mixture just about masked the mushroom taste. I’d by no means order the dish for myself, but the fact that I ate a whole slice of mushroom is testament to how nice they were!
The Artisan Breads were nice enough, although the tapenade-style dip that accompanied them was rather salty, to the point where I couldn’t have more than a couple of dips. The Ploughman’s Board, which included ham hock terrine, mature cheddar, beetroot and chutney, was also pretty good. The terrine was nicely flavoured without being too salty, and the cheese they had chosen was a very nice mature cheddar. However, of all the starters we tried my clear winner had to be the Classic Scotch Egg – (almost) perfectly cooked yolk, well seasoned meat and crispy coating with the unusual, but brilliant, accompaniment of brown sauce. The scotch egg was still slightly warm, and the tangy brown sauce cut through the meat and egg flavours brilliantly – I’d definitely order this one again.
After stuffing ourselves full with the starters, we were served a main of our own choosing. Despite there being lamb on the menu, I plumped for the Slow Cooked Brisket Sandwich. The menu claimed that the sandwich would be served on Spianata bread – a relatively flat bread – however what arrived was more like a ciabatta. Not particularly detrimental, but something they need to be careful of doing too often. The pepper stew and brisket had good flavours and the brisket was tender, although both were slightly on the dry side for me. The accompanying fries were rather good skin-on affairs, and it was good to have them automatically included in the dish without having to order them as a pricey accompaniment. All in all, the dish wasn’t bad but I did wish I had ordered the lamb.
As if we hadn’t had enough food, we were then served a little (or not so little!) trio of desserts – Eton Mess, Sticky Toffee Pudding, and Treacle Tart. The Sticky Toffee Pudding was a bit disappointing, especially for such a classic dish. The sponge was a little on the dry side, and it lacked enough sauce to moisten it thoroughly. The Eton Mess was good enough – it’s not a dish I would normally order as I find it a bit dull, but it was nice for what it was. The winner by a mile, though, was the treacle tart. The smooth, syrupy centre sat on a extremely thin layer of pastry, and the accompanying lemon curd was a very welcome addition. The tart wasn’t sickly sweet, but the sharpness of the lemon curd cut through the sweetness perfectly. Of all the desserts on the plate, this is without a doubt the one that I would re-order.
I left Recess absolutely stuffed and pretty happy. The starters were probably the best course of the night, although I reckon there were other main courses that were better than mine. But here’s the real question – would I go back to Recess? Well, I might do. I reckon their lovely terraced area by the river would be gorgeous on a sunny day – perfect accompanied by some sharing starters and a cold cider. As for the main restaurant, I could possibly be tempted to return, especially if I was looking for somewhere to eat before or after a visit to the SECC or the Hydro. The food was all nice enough and some of the prices seem quite reasonable. If nothing else, my night at Recess lifted the perception that hotel restaurants are for guests only.