Confident chef produces cornucopia of
The Food Monster Visits Branston Hall Hotel
|GRAND eating in the old style is still possible in Lincolnshire - and not too far from the city centre.
Just south of Lincoln lies the village of Branston and its former baronial hail which stands proudly in several acres of private wood and parkland. Sitting on the terrace on a balmy summer's evening, you could be hundreds of miles away from the cares of the world. It is simply a peaceful and beautiful location.
Its AA 3- star rating for its 50 rooms and multiple rosette awards for its restaurant demanded a closer look and so, accompanied by a friend, I spent a fabulous culinary evening in the main restaurant.
A warm English summer's evening virtually begs for a jug of refreshing Pimm's No1, although we settled for a schooner glass apiece as we pored over the a la carte menu. A table d'hote rate of £24 a head plus varying supplements seems to be a sensible means to stick to a moderate budget. But, as we discovered, with supplements totalling £14.50 it is easy for the final bill to run away.
It is a delightful international menu, ensuring a good selection of popular and unfamiliar flavours, many with tantalising possibilities, My eating partner plumped for a starter of the Cornish scallops with Serrano ham, young vegetables and curry foam.
Perhaps slightly more exotic, my choice of Vietnamese beef, seafood and noodle soup with lemongrass, chilli and Asian herbs would prove to be equally stunning. The clear broth was packed with small chunks of boded beef, three lightly-feathered king prawns and a series of flavourings that were no less than divine. Served in a single-person tureen, as soon as its lid was removed the various herbal essences smelt wonderful. I could taste anise, the peppery heat of red chillies and the elegant sweetness of lemongrass.
|My friend's scallops were amazing. Fresh and delicious, their consistency was a delight and the gentle curry foam was only present to add a subtle hint of something unusual, which was not at all unpleasant. They were delicately seared to perfection and the fresh asparagus was an ideal accompaniment.
Our waitress delivered "with the compliments of the chef" a couple of vodka shot glasses containing three balls of freshly-made mango sorbet topped with mint leaf as a palate-cleanser.
For our mains, my partner chose the fillet of Lincolnshire red beef, while I decided to stick to a more exotic option in the Goan style tiger prawn curry. The medium-rare beef was utterly wonderful and, once sliced into, its deliciously blued flesh and the magnificence of its fine cut was obvious.
Sitting in a drizzle of Madeira sauce, complete with glazed shallots and wild mushrooms plus an accompanying platter of very tasty Swiss roasted potato, crisp green beans and roasted mixed peppers, all of which I sampled, it was definitely worth the additional £5. My tiger prawn curry was surprisingly sweet - not excessively spicy but lipsmackingly delicious, set on top of a base of fragrant Basmati rice and a neat side salad of sliced sweet tomatoes, shredded red onions and a sprig of coriander with a goodly squeeze of fresh lime juice dressing. It was fantastic and very fitting.
It is very easy for modern chefs to become too adventurous in their desires to introduce unusual flavours across every course but the number one at Branston HallIt was fantastic and very fitting. It is very easy for modern chefs to become too adventurous in their desires to introduce unusual flavours across every course but the number one at Branston Hall is clearly very comfortable within his role - his confident approach to balancing different flavours to create something that has few local rivals is a prime example of culinary mastery.
|Chocolate pudding can be too rich for many palates and although my friend will admit to having a penchant for chocolate in a variety of forms, even he was stunned into silence by the sheer joy of eating milk-flavoured ice-cream and a sticky caramel sauce that accompanied the pudding with its additional layer of ganache for good measure. The overall consistency and flavour was simply irresistible.
My choice was appropriate for the blistering weather conditions -a delightful iced nougat complete with mixed fruit, angelica and maraschino cherry chunks, accompanied by a light Greek honey tuille and a confit of kumquats.
The choccy pud was accompanied by ganache sweets, made freshly on the premises, while my nougat dish had two curly and buttery slivers of wafer.
The coffee was dark and was accompanied by a guest-pleasing surprise - a small plate with two chocolate ganache sweets, two shortcake thin biscuits and two blackcurrant jelly squares.
The service was excellent, the cutlery and crockery immaculate and the atmosphere friendly, despite the traditional strengths inherent to its grand location.
Every element of the meal was carefully planned and delivered to perfection. If I harbour any minor niggles, they lie predominantly in the cost. To spend almost £80 on dinner for two is not normal for this neck of the woods. Yet, I would not hesitate to recommend Branston Hall as an ideal location for a special occasion, where money is not the object. While the exterior window-frames and drainpipes could do with a lick of paint, this type of faded elegance is something you either love or loathe, I quite enjoyed the experience.
Branston Hall Hotel
WHERE: Branston Hall Hotel
TELEPHONE: (01522) 793305
OPEN: 12.30pm to 2pm for lunch and 7pm to 9pm for dinner
SMOKING: The restaurant is no smoking
THE DAMAGE: Table d'hote menu - £24 plus supplements for
Vietnamese soup £1.50, scallops £4, fillet beef £5,
prawn curry £2,50 chocolate pudding £1.50; Pimm's No1 £3,70, coffee included. Total: £66.20
FINAL VERDICT: Grand gourmet dining in gently faded elegance.
Gourmet Food Source