Hotels have long flexed their muscles in the dining world, mostly at the heavyweight end of the market. It's rare you get a middleweight contender, and even rarer that they are based outside of Mayfair or the West End.
It's bid is not without merit. The hotel prides itself with its emphasis on quality seasonal produce that is locally sourced. Standard patter in most restaurants nowadays but here it has some merit with the steak sourced from the Farm House Estate in Shrivenham in Swindon, and the pork from Knowles Farm in Surrey. OK, it stretches the definition of local a tad, but its trying.
The menu is big – too big for my liking, reminding you of the fact that you are in a hotel – and is divided into Classic Napa, that refers to the regulars' favourites (or best sellers perhaps?) and a newer, more seasonal menu.
The Northerner and I opted for the smoked salmon, capers and shallots from the classic menu, and scallops with onion purée, and tomato and chilli compote. Both dishes were good, if perhaps unimaginative takes on what are standard restaurant dishes. The venison with sweet potato fondant, artichoke purée and red cabbage that the Northerner picked for her main was much better. It was a rich, almost wintry dish, by which I mean it was very well executed comfort food. I went for the recommended, 8oz sirloin steak with green peppercorn sauce and chips. Well seasoned, and possibly more medium then medium-rare as ordered, but delicious nevertheless. The plum tart tartin with cinnamon ice cream didn't live up to its billing. The pastry base was flat and colourless, rather than a crumbling pie texture that we expect. The baked Belgian chocolate fondant was a little too sweet even for my pudding palette.
You can't fault Napa for effort. It has tried to shake off the suburban hotel tag by giving itself a refresh with a contemporary green and floral design, with vintage-image walls and stylish furniture. The service is charming and attentive, and the wine list (and indeed the wines) are very good and reasonably priced.
It's hard to comment on the other diners as there weren't many. And most, as you'd expect of a decent hotel in range of the airport, were business travellers.
But one of the reasons the heavyweight division hotels restaurants succeed is that they can stand alone as restaurants. Napa still feels like a hotel restaurant, a middleweight contender that has a way to go until it can challenge for a title.