Before reading this review you may wish to sit back, put your feet up and adjust your belt by a notch or two – because this post concerns a seven course autumnal tasting menu, accompanying wines and a few extra nibbles on top…
As you make your way up the drive to Boringdon Hall, it doesn’t require much imagination to see why this five-star country hotel is often referred to as ‘the enchanted place on the hill’. With a history that dates back to the Doomsday Book and the most beautiful Elizabethan façade, something tells you that what’s in store is going to be a little bit special.
I for one have a bit of a thing for period properties. So when I learned that this impressive manor house once belonged to the Duke of Suffolk (father to the ill-fated nine-day queen, Lady Jane Grey) and then John Parker – who wined and dined with the likes with Sir Walter Raleigh – I couldn’t wait to see what lay within its walls..
But history lessons aside, Boringdon Hall Hotel has been awarded 3 AA Rosettes for its Gallery Restaurant and promises guests a fine dining experience set in an intimate and classic setting. I’ve read a lot about Chef Scott Paton’s food (and seen a lot of beautiful photos online) so my expectations were already pretty high, even before we checked into the hotel.
Dinner With A View
I had heard on the grapevine that a seat on the ‘balcony’ is the best way to enjoy dinner at The Gallery Restaurant, so we made sure that we requested a spot there prior to our evening meal. Once we were seated, we took our waiters advice and both opted to have the seven course tasting menu, in order to sample the very best that the kitchen had to offer. My partner opted for the matching wines with his meal, but I personally wasn’t sure I could manage that many glasses in one sitting…
We started off our dinner with canapés, which included little savoury macarons, vol au vents and seaweed crisps topped with tuna tartare (which were particularly good). This was promptly followed by a miniature teacup of lobster bisque, which was rich, creamy and full of flavour.
Little did we know, as we tucked into these pre-dinner nibbles, that the full tasting menu experience was going to last three hours. That’s right, this seven course extravaganza is not for the light hearted or light appetite. This is a real foodie experience.
Vulscombe goats cheese, beetroots, elderflower and gingerbread
The first course of the tasting menu was a really unique mix of flavours and textures. It’s a bit of a shame that I have to start with this course, as it’s the only one that I had a bit of an issue with, technically speaking. The flavours worked well together – tender beetroot, smooth goat’s cheese and subtle gingerbread – but the aerated goats cheese was really cold (like ice-cream) and that was very unusual. I’m not sure I liked this aspect of the dish because nothing else seemed to align with it. However, the rest of the plate was well-balanced.
Birds liver parfait, xerez, brioche and truffle
Next, I had the birds liver parfait, which was a combination of a variety of different birds and was accompanied by a rich brioche and a truffle butter. I could easily have eaten a lot more of this dish and my partner must have felt the same way (which explains why he helped himself to half of mine).
John dory, smoked hollandaise, ham hock, leeks and apple
The fish dish was just the right size. A delicate and well cooked piece of John Dory was accompanied by a smooth and slightly smoked hollandaise. The crispy little ham hock piece was lovely, as was the tender baby leek.
Venison, Boringdon berries, muscat Or Stone bass, carrot, lentil, coriander and cumin
Venison is up there in my top 10 favourite ingredients and so I was quite jealous when my partner was presented with this dish. It was beautifully cooked, the jus was silky and it was full of rich berry flavours. I found myself using the remainder of our pre-dinner bread basket to mop up what was left of the jus once my partner had made quick work of the venison itself – not very ladylike, I know, but totally worth it.
I wasn’t quite as convinced by my Stone Bass, as I wouldn’t usually order a fish dish as my main. It worked well with the cumin and coriander, but it just didn’t wow me and the skin was a wee bit blackened for my liking. If you’re looking for something a little lighter, I’d probably recommend the Stone Bass. But then again, you probably wouldn’t be ordering a seven course tasting menu if you were worrying about your waistline.
Raspberry mousse, pistachio cream and raspberry sorbet
The first of our trio of desserts was stunningly presented – a myriad of pinks and greens. Raspberry certainly seems to be having a moment and this course did not disappoint. I love pistachio and I could certainly get on board with having it served three ways – candied, creamed and in a fine pistachio sand. The raspberry sorbet & mouse were sharp and refreshing, and overall I really enjoyed this plate.
Variations of chocolate, stem ginger and honey
Next we enjoyed a decadent dessert that came with a surprise incased inside. A sphere of dark chocolate was topped with a dash of gold leaf and could be opened up to reveal three unique chocolate textures. I won’t say much more about this dish, as I’ll let you discover it for yourself.
Selection of Cheeses
By this stage of our meal, we were well and truly stuffed. However, we got to sample all eight of the speciality cheeses on offer at Boringdon Hall – complete with chutneys and crackers. These ranged from the mild and silky to the nutty and mature. I was particularly fond of ‘Goddess‘ by former Blur drummer Alex James and I liked the fact that the cheeseboard contained a mix of Continental, British and Devonian varieties.
We enjoyed our stay at Boringdon Hall and felt that our dining experience was particularly memorable thanks to the theatre of the tasting menu and the intimate balcony setting. Sat overlooking the grand fireplace and the bar bellow, it isn’t difficult to imagine how the manor might have looked centuries ago, when the Parker family banqueted with their guests. It gives the whole hotel a bit of a magical atmosphere and I can certainly see why it was earned an enviable reputation for intimate fine dining. Our dinner was £69pp (and 5 glasses of wine are £35 extra) but if a seven course tasting menu seems a touch extravagant, there’s also a five course tasting menu on offer for £60pp.