The food offering at Castle Hotel Windsor continues to conjure up surprises, which executive head chef Suraj Lokhande tells Mark Kebble is all in a day’s work
The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee was a momentous occasion for all of the UK, but for those in Windsor there was an extra special feeling to proceedings. “It was a once in a lifetime experience,” grins Suraj Lokhande, executive head chef of Leaf, the in-house dining destination at Castle Hotel Windsor. “We were working hard over the long weekend, but there was a fantastic atmosphere in the hotel and throughout Windsor. Being just steps from Windsor Castle itself is an honour and it’s fantastic to have this royal connection for our guests.”
The occasion was marked by Lokhande with a special afternoon tea menu. “I was delighted to be able to design that,” he says. “Featuring some of the Queen’s favourites and our own twist on traditional treats, including coronation chicken wrap and lemon posset, our Jubilee Afternoon Tea has been exceptionally popular. Over the Jubilee weekend, we served nearly 350 in just four days.”
Take a glance at Leaf’s food and drink options, and the afternoon tea option is just one of a host of innovative twists to a dining experience. The a la carte menu is backed up by special breakfast and brunch menus, there is a pre-theatre offering and a great drinks menu, not to mention a separate garden and bar menu. Even children have their own special twists with the Sapling menu. “As a father myself I was keen to develop a menu that little ones would enjoy,” Lokhande says. “I really wanted them to be excited when they see the small touches, so we’ve been as creative as possible with their dishes.”
For the adults, Lokhande and his team have gone out of their way to cover all bases. “Leaf’s seasonal menu features everything from comforting classics to light bites and delectable vegan options,” he says on the cooking we can expect. “On a personal level, I love to create a plate that is full of colours and often take risks with new ideas for dishes, which adds a bit of theatre to the dining experience. We invite our guests to nourish their mind, body and soul at Leaf. From our beautifully designed interiors and garden terrace, to our excellent customer service, Leaf is the perfect spot for a leisurely brunch, lunch or decadent dinner in Windsor.”
The food is indeed exceptional at Leaf, but I also recently enjoyed a pint of beer from the Windsor & Eton Brewery, which suggests they support local too. “That’s very important to us,” Lokhande nods. “We pride ourselves in being able to showcase the finest locally sourced produce from our trusted suppliers. Windsor & Eton Brewery have a fantastic range that is very popular with our guests. It’s very important, too, that we don’t compromise the quality of the ingredients. We try to work with as many local suppliers as possible, but we are always looking for more – so do get in touch if you’d like to work with us!”
On 14 July, we can all look forward to a special wine tasting dinner, which is another example of how Lokhande wants to offer something new to guests. “This is the second event that we have held with local wine estate Stanlake Park,” he explains. “Our wine tasting dinner is a fantastic evening showcasing some wonderful Berkshire wines. Expert winemakers Nico Centonze and Natalia Pezzone will chair the event and I’ve created a five-course meal that pairs superlative English wines with enticing seasonal dishes.”
It’s remarkable to think, considering all that Leaf offers, that this is their first year in existence. “Leaf feels like my baby!” Lokhande exclaims. “I’m very proud of how popular the restaurant has been since opening. We love being able to bring the Windsor community into both the hotel and Leaf.” The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee was memorable for so many reasons, and speaking to Lokhande, you feel that there is also now a King of food offerings in Windsor.