Fine dining at its finest

Fine dining at its finest

Mallory Court

I often automatically cast my net wide when it comes to searching out the best restaurants.

We accept – and probably expect – the finest of fine dining experiences to come with some travel involved. The neighbouring city of Birmingham, for instance, offers some rich culinary pickings.

How often then, do we overlook what’s under our very noses? In my case, 17 years!

That’s how long I’ve lived in Warwick WITHOUT visiting Mallory Court Hotel & Spa just a few miles down the road in Leamington.

With a talented head chef and a third AA Rosette to its name, it was high time to put that right.

My husband and I received a warm welcome (by both friendly front of house staff as well as a lovely roaring fireplace!) and ushered into a lounge where we enjoyed an aperitif and hors d’oeuvre to whet our appetites for the meal ahead – a meal, incidentally, we had been keenly anticipating. And if the hors d’oeuvre alone were anything to go by, we weren’t going to leave disappointed – or hungry!

Mallory Court lounge

After enjoying the ambience for a while, we were led into the beautiful oak-panelled Dining Room restaurant and looked after royally for the rest of the evening.

There was what I suppose I’d describe as a relaxed sophistication about this experience. For me The Dining Room struck just the right balance – formal without being overly fussy. Personally I prefer not to be, albeit politely, pounced upon every time I need a crumb brushing off the tablecloth! Not so the case here. We were thoroughly well looked after – but also found ourselves quickly relaxing into the occasion.

That’s all well and good you say. But what of the food we have harboured such great expectations for and is, after all, the main reason we’re here?

Fresh contemporary flavours combined with a modern British flair is the recipe for success according to Head Chef Paul Evans, who heads up a team of seven after joining Mallory Court from The Devonshire Arms in Yorkshire in May 2017.

Paul’s dishes showcase the best seasonal produce from local suppliers as well as the hotel’s own kitchen garden.

Mallory Court Head Chef Paul Evans

He says: “One of my favourite parts of the day is walking around the garden picking and tasting the latest offerings. With home-grown ingredients and a team of fantastic local suppliers, my aim is to create menus that deliver an exciting dining experience for our guests, ensuring that the restaurant retains its outstanding reputation as one of the finest dining establishments in the area.”

“A dish I am currently working on is Salad of heritage beetroot, local goats curd, nasturtium, hazelnut. We grow the beetroots ourselves and then salt bake them to intensify the flavour, we serve it with some local goats curd that we have added some nasturtium oil to.

“We picked and preserved the nasturtiums from our garden in the summer by turning them in to an oil. By doing this we can use them in the colder months. It is finished with some toasted hazelnuts and a variety of soft leaves and herbs that we have dressed in a vinaigrette made from beetroot juice.” 

I often think the phrase ‘less is more’ is appropriate for menus at fine dining restaurants. With five dishes to select from on each course, the quality is so high, it’s less about deciding what to eat as about what to sacrifice eating!

After some indecisiveness, I opted for the Duck Liver Pressing to start things off. Served with soured English plums, almond crunch and elderflower jelly, it created a delicious fusion of flavours and textures, quite unlike anything I’ve tasted before. A first for me – but probably now not a last.

Quail was not a first for my husband – but, according to him, it was certainly the best. The Roast Breast and confit leg of Norfolk quail, salt baked celeriac, lovage and albufera sauce proved a popular choice.

Other starter dishes include Crab (Brixham white crab, brown crab emulsion, dashi jelly and pickled turnip) and Salmon (Cured Loch Duart Salmon, avocado, garden radish and cucumber essence)

Hogget Mallory Court Hotel
Hogget

Main course was another first for me. I’d never heard of Hogget before, let alone tasted it – and now I would class it as one of my all-time favourites! This dish of loin and belly of south coast hogget, salt baked kohlrabi, fermented black garlic, ewe’s curd and lamb jus was one of the tastiest I have ever sampled – and I’d heartily recommend it. For the uninitiated – like me – hogget is the meat of a young lamb over a year old.

Choices also include Venison (salt chamber aged venison, salsify, parsnip and preserved blackberry venison jus); Duck (roast breast of wild duck, red cabbage, cauliflower and hazelnut puree, garden damson and duck jus) and Turbot (Day boat Cornish turbot, borlotti beans, smoked sausage Jerusalem artichoke AND Champagne sauce).

Custard Tart Mallory Court Hotel
Custard Tart

This season’s dessert menu takes on a slight citrus theme. Choose from ‘Rhubarb’ (Yorkshire Rhubarb, semi frozen ginger cream, Arlette biscuit and rhubarb sorbet); ‘Blood Orange’ (Blood orange mousse, pistachio, white chocolate and blood orange sorbet); ‘Lime’ (Lime custard, blueberries, toasted meringue and blueberry sorbet.) Or, if, like me, you have a slightly sweeter tooth, ‘Custard’ is definitely going to hit the mark. The combined flavours of Vanilla custard tart, nutmeg, prune and granny smith apple sorbet are a sheer delight.

A selection of British cheeses is also available as either a dessert option or add-on course.

Coffee and Petits Fours Mallory Court Hotel
Coffee and Petits Fours

Coffee and petits fours follow as we bring our memorable first Mallory Court experience to a close. But our new-found affection for this restaurant will ensure that we are back soon.

Paul said he didn’t have to look far for inspiration for his menu.

The season and what we can get locally and grow ourselves dictates what I put on the menu. Then it’s a case of working with my team and some ideas they have and then we see where that takes us.

He added: “My ambition is to work even more closely with our gardening team to create more dishes that are literally fork to fork. And always promoting the very best of local Warwickshire produce, and ensuring Mallory Court retains its reputation as the place to dine in the county.”

 

Amanda Chalmers was hosted for dinner by Mallory Court Country House Hotel and Spa in Warwickshire, part of the Eden Hotel Collection. The hotel’s flagship restaurant The Dining Room is overseen by talented Head Chef Paul Evans who sources delicious local and home-grown ingredients. To book call Mallory Court on 01926 330 214 (www.mallory.co.uk).

 

Farcical fast-paced fun – but just ran out of legs

Farcical fast-paced fun – but just ran out of legs

Octopus Soup Belgrade Theatre
Nick Hancock and Paul Bradley in Octopus Soup

WITH an octopus as the unlikely central character, the latest Belgrade production should certainly have legs when it comes to playing for laughs.

Octopus Soup is a farce that centres around Seymour Norse (Nick Hancock), a washed-up insurance man attempting to turn his failing career around by pitching his ‘big idea.’

Octopus Soup Belgrade Theatre Nick Hancock
Nick Hancock as Seymour in Octopus Soup

He has been waiting a long time for this make-or-break opportunity ­ a two-way Skype call to Virginia Whale (Gillian Bevan) global CEO of GIT insurance agency, to seal a huge deal. But what looks set to be a dull and deeply uninspiring Powerpoint presentation is rudely interrupted by an unwanted guest.

Cue Marvin, the bungling burglar (played brilliantly by Paul Bradley, formerly of Eastenders and Holby City fame) who, with his pet octopus in tow – brings Seymour’s plans crashing down and his career hopes with them.

But then the peculiar pairing unwittingly drum up an illegal plan to make millions with a fictitious alogorythm that predicts crime trends in the area. Seymour is initially a less than willing party but his protestations are swept up in the farce which ensues.

And none of it is helped by Seymour’s diva wife Gloria (Carolyn Backhouse) whose misreading of the situation and frenzied personality helps send the situation spiralling out of control.

Octopus Soup Belgrade Theatre
The cast of Octopus Soup

There is a lot to love about Octopus Soup, including Marvin’s witty one-liners and Malapropisms and Gloria’s chaotic character – especially her melodrama meltdowns.

And its frenetic pace is well maintained by the small cast.

Whilst not the slickest and laugh-out-loud funniest farce I’ve seen, it is certainly worthy of your evening. I smiled more than I laughed – but I did smile a lot.

Octopus Soup Belgrade Theatre
Carolyn Backhouse as Gloria and Gillian Bevan as Virginia in Octopus Soup

The Belgrade production marks a world debut for the show which, after some more polish and perfecting, will, I’m sure only continue to gather momentum – and fans. Let’s hope the extra eight legs will help Octopus Soup run and run.

You can catch Octopus Soup at the Belgrade until Saturday, February 16th. Tickets are available from the box office at: boxoffice@belgrade.co.uk

Tale as old as time in Henley

Tale as old as time in Henley

Photos by Dave Fawbert Photography.

A TALE as old as time arrives at Henley-in-Arden School this week as the curtain goes up on Beauty and the Beast.

A cruel Prince, cursed to spend the rest of his life living in a fantastical castle with the animals he callously hunted, finds salvation in the heart of a beautiful girl. Caught stealing a single rose, Belle’s desperate father exchanges his youngest daughter’s freedom for his own life.

Beauty and the Beast

In his distant castle the Beast, stripped of his handsome features and his very humanity, must win her heart, or spend the rest of his life in bitter solitude. Witness transformations, wild waltzes, soaring birds and a relationship between Belle and the Beast that is at first terrifying, but ultimately serene and beautiful.

More than 50 students from the school, which is an academy of Performing Arts, perform three shows from tomorrow (Tuesday, February 5th) until Thursday (February 7th) at 7.30pm in the school hall.

 

Sarah Blythe, Director of Performing Arts at Henley, said: “Bonjour! It’s cold, it’s February, and there’s a dismal rather than a Disney feeling in the air…BUT, Madame and Monsieur, allow me to introduce myself as Lumiere, the light fantastic, and I invite you to bask in the glow of Beauty and the Beast at Henley in Arden School.

“Step into a magical story that is locked in all our memories since it was first told 100’s of years ago! Why not take a seat and enjoy the dance, the music and the sheer spectacle that is that rare confection of talent, tunes and Tres Bien! Let me invite you to book your ticket to the feast, to be our guest at Beauty and the Beast!”

The show is open to the public and tickets, which are £8, can be purchased by calling 01564 792364 or on the door – subject to availability.

Photographs of the production will soon be available to purchase from Dave Fawbert.