We came out of the lift on the second floor and were shown into a spectacular glass fronted restaurant and bar. There was a full moon and the floodlights were illuminating the course stretching out before us. People below were scurrying around the Tote, checking out odds. It was very atmospheric and promised an evening of excitement.
Inside, the restaurant was modern and well laid out, with tables side on to the race course, complete with TV screen so you could check out the odds, the form, the horses and jockeys, or catch up on the last race.
On the top level of the restaurant lies the bar area, where you can have a drink and watch the races in comfort, or use the neat modern sofas laid out along the whole length.
There is plenty of room, and the tables could take a party of 6-8 (indeed the one next to us had a family party of seven).
We had arrived mid way through the races, so we had to get our priorities right. Drinks were ordered. (The drinks menu offers anything from draft Guinness to £165 bottles of champagne for those lucky winners.) Now…what were we going to bet on?! Of course you could just come to Kempton to enjoy the atmosphere, but it would be a shame not to have a flutter.
Last time I was here with the family Mr C’s youngest son had developed the strategy of placing his £1 bet on number 1 horse in any race….He was the only one of our group who won anything!! So in his honour I chose no 1. Mr C studied the form and read the summary in the booklet provided on our table. We didn’t even have to move from the comfort of our booth. The Tote lady came along and took our bets for us, wishing us a hearty good luck!
Now, hang on a second, this is restaurant review…What about the food?
The menu is not extensive. That is usually a sign that what you get will be good. Too much choice is often not a good thing. There is a kids menu available including crowd pleasers such as fish and chips and pizza.
The adult menu offers some enticing sharing platters of antipasti or seafood. Accompanied by the fresh bread and oil platter this would make a great and generous starter. I opted for salmon and crab cake to start. It came on a plate with slightly spicy salsa and dressed rocket. The cake had a nice crispy coating and went down well.
Mr C chose the asparagus which again was beautifully presented with crispy Palma ham and poached egg with hollandaise. The egg was soft and runny and the crispy salty ham balanced the dish well in terms of taste and texture.
The service, and timing was really exemplary. It seemed that every time we started thinking of food, rather than the racing below us, our course arrived.
The food was certainly going down better than my little flutters on the lovely creatures running. We listened to the commentary. A horse named Hundred Acre Wood. We wondered if it might have been ridden by Lester Piglet!
We were saved from any more comedy by our mains. I had been torn between the fantastic looking fish and chips or the steak. I went for the latter giving instructions that I wanted it rare. And so it was served! Brownie points for that. Also again for the presentation, which was on a board, with a little jug of béarnaise sauce, a basket of crispy twice cooked chips, skinned tomato and a grilled Portobello mushroom. All very good.
Mr C had the British staple; the mighty Cheeseburger! Clearly home made and served with crispy chips and a chilli relish on the side, it was everything he could have wished for.
Thankfully we had some time to digest as there was a 30 minute lull between races. The food had clearly inspired Mr C who had by now clocked up a win and a second in the same race. I, needless to say, had not won a penny!
The choice of desserts is small but perfectly formed. Cheese is available to those who don’t have a sweet tooth. I went for Chocolate Brownie, which was unctuous and oozey but slightly crispy on the top. Divine, but it needed the vanilla ice cream to help it down.
Mr C chose the Banoffee Tart which was served with a banana lolly pop on the side; a banana dipped in chocolate. It was a dessert of champions, although I had to help him with it! By now he was too excited as another of his horses had romped home. My stomach was full (so were Mr C’s pockets!). My pockets were not! The restaurant was emptying of its happy diners so we went on our way.
It had been a great evening. Good quality food with some entertainment, and we were only a mile from home. Kempton hosts more fixtures than anywhere else in the UK and the restaurant is open every race day. You can go along to join in the fun and you don’t need to bet, but it definitely does add a different dimension to a night out!
No advance booking required but if you want to pre-book the number is 01932 782292