Review: Paris House – modern fine dining right on our doorstep

Paris House Woburn Phil Fanning and team during service
Paris House's Phil Fanning (centre) and some of his team. Image: Paris House

While I wouldn’t consider myself a full-on-foody, I love food and feel I know enough about it to tell when I’m about to experience something special. I got this feeling the moment I walked through the door at Paris House in Woburn Park.

For some, fine dining conjures up an idea of something that might not be accessible to them, either through budget or status. But, while Paris House does indeed offer some fantastic fine dining, they are far from the outdated, and largely false, stereotype.

Executive chef Phil Fanning, who owns Paris House with his wife Claire, says he wants their version of the fine dining experience to represent four simple words, warm, friendly, professional and elegant.

In the 10 years they’ve been at the helm, I believe they’ve certainly achieved that vision.

Phil, Claire and their team merge a breathtaking location, welcoming and knowledgeable staff, and carefully sourced ingredients to create an experience that Bedfordians really need to take the short drive to Woburn to discover.

After a warm welcome, diners are invited to peruse the taster menu which reveals six courses to enjoy at whatever pace you like, but relaxed is recommended.

There is an optional cheese course, and if circumstances allow, a flight of wines can be added to the experience too.

Having driven, I opted to try a mocktail while we waited for our first course. As much care and expertise was put into its preparation as one would expect from a ‘regular’ cocktail, so I didn’t feel as though I was missing out.

This allowed us time to soak up the magnificent building and location, which are as much a treat for the eyes as the food was for the stomach.

Steeped in history

Newly refurbished, Paris House was originally built in Paris in 1878. It was then dismantled and shipped over piece by piece by the 9th Duke of Bedford and rebuilt in the 22-acre deer park of the Woburn Estate.

Since then, its fascinating history has seen it serve as a tonsil hospital, staff accommodation and a bolt-hole for Winston Churchill. It finally became a restaurant in 1983.

Depending on the time of day they arrive, Paris House’s location also brings what might be a unique addition to a fine dining experience.

A kind of British ‘safari’ as they drive past the famous Woburn deer grazing on the grass on either side of the driveway.

The building, a work of art itself, its walls inside also act as a gallery for art of other forms, adorned as they are with seasonal, food-related art, currently from five acclaimed artists who are showing a multitude of pieces from varied artistic disciplines.

But what of the food? After all, that is the art that Phil and his wife Claire have devoted their lives to.

Phil is well-respected in his field, having gained a Michelin Star and the coveted Acorn Award for his back-of-house talents. Claire, equally respected, has worked front of house in some of the country’s finest restaurants, including under Tom Kerridge and Heston Blumenthal.

Plates, which could be artwork themselves, act as a canvas for carefully placed items, garnished with colour for the eyes and full of delicate and exciting flavours for the tongue.

It’s clear that from everything I experienced, those four words, warm, friendly, professional and elegant, permeate through everything Paris House has to offer.

And don’t just take our word for it, either. Experts in food and drink agree that Paris House really does offer something exceptional, as confirmed by their long list of awards.

Including, Three AA Rosettes, Hardens’ Top 100 UK Restaurants, Open Table Top 100 Restaurants, AA’s Notable Wine Award, and Top 30 Places to Work in Hospitality 2019.

Tasting menu

Of course, there will be some of you wondering how to set aside the lack of control with a tasting menu. After all, there may be some items that you might not usually go for. If you’re one of those people, you must trust the artists.

Phil and his international team in the kitchen know exactly how each dish will play out. They’ve worked hard to make sure the balance of flavours in each bite is subtle but delightful.

The atmosphere at Paris House is relaxed, warm and friendly. The staff are attentive and encourage questions.

One thing that has put me off from returning to fine dining elsewhere is that the staff can sometimes be too stuffy, but not so at Paris House.

The team are all smiles, full of knowledge, most having travelled to learn all they can about the food and wine they serve.

They’re more than happy to guide you through the menu or entertain you with stories about where their extensive and exciting wine list comes from.

I did opt for a small glass of Sommelier’s choice red for my main course and it added a perfectly paired touch to my meal.

All in all, I honestly can’t wait to go back again. The staff really do make you feel like you’ll be welcome any time, and the taste memory of the food and drink creates an emotional response that is genuinely making me smile as I write this.

There are some who, without even trying, believe that fine dining isn’t for them and to those I say that’s a shame.

With Paris House right on our doorstep, there really isn’t an excuse not to give it a go, because, if you don’t, I genuinely believe you’ll be missing something rather special.

Paris House can be found at Woburn Park, London Road Woburn. They are open:

  • Thursday, 12:00-14:00 & 19:00-23:00
  • Friday, 12:00-14:00 & 19:00-23:00
  • Saturday, 12:00-14:00 & 19:00-23:00
  • Sunday, 12:00-14:00

You can make a reservation via their website or by calling 01525 290692.

The writer and photographer were gifted a meal as part of the review process.