HOTEL dining was pretty straightforward when I was growing up, especially the kind experienced by the majority of visitors to the great British seaside.
For starters you had a choice of soup or fruit juice, the main course was usually meat, potatoes and veg (or fish if you were a vegetarian) and the dessert was probably sherry trifle served in a stainless-steel dish!
These days the choice is far more varied and on this particular visit to the luxury venue tucked inside Syon Park, it occurred to me how much time could be lost just reading in detail all the dishes on offer.
A good deal more can be lost gazing round and enjoying the relaxed decor, and views of the garden, with its golden-lit water feature and 180-year-old Bonsai tree which was specially flown in from Japan.
Wrenching our attention back to the menu, my companion selected the chicken confit with mushroom and baby leek terrine (£5.75) while I plumped for the smoked trout salad with frisée and horseradish (£6.75).
The presentation was first class and there was not a hint of style over substance, as the fish proved especially delicious with several mouthfuls being filched from across the table!
No sooner had we started eating than we were joined by the hotel’s food and beverage manager, who enthused about the restaurant’s rising profile, and told us that it is now very popular with recording artists and footballers, among many others.
He introduced the barman, Valerio, who generously allowed us to try a couple of new cocktails. One of them – the Angelico – had such a gorgeous chocolatey taste it was like having dessert a whole course early!
Having eaten at this restaurant when the hotel was a Waldorf Astoria, it was pleasing to see that prices had come down across the whole menu.
For her main course, my companion chose cod with spring cabbage, pea and mint and sautéed diced potatoes (£15.50), which she declared she could eat every day of the week.
I went for the grilled fish of the day (£23), which was a whole sea bass, and a side order of parsley new potatoes (£4.50), which complemented each other perfectly.
All that remained was to allow the array of tempting desserts to work their magic. My companion polished off a sumptuous dark chocolate and orange terrine (£7) while I demolished a crumbly and fragrant bakewell tart with custard (£6.50).
The Capability is one of those very agreeable places where you imagine you have spent only a short while but, on leaving, you find that four hours have zoomed by.