04 November 2014
Hambleton Hall is a venue that has been cited in reverential terms by foodies for decades and as such it had been on our to-visit list for some years. Now at last we had managed to arrange a trip to include it and another long-standing target, and our hopes were high. Everything about Hambleton Hall is classically traditional, and none the worse for that. Because of a wine dinner the same night we were seated in the "small" dining room, which was actually more than adequate and provided plenty of elbow room all round. One thing struck us as soon as we were shown to our table - all the glasses for the wine flight were already clustered on the table, which heralded wine poured at table and presentation of the bottles, but left little space for anything else. We had opted for the tasting menu, with one change we requested, rabbit from the daily specials instead of lamb, which presented no problem for the very accommodating and well-trained staff nor, of course, for the chef. We were amused at the announcement of our "complimentary" canapés, which comprised a pineapple bubble with chilli twist, a parmesan crisp on a flaky pastry biscuit and a very good bream beignet with a tartare dip. An amuse-bouche of hot cauliflower velouté with black pudding and apple set the tone for the evening - everything was packed with taste and every element perfectly balanced with all the rest. And this was certainly the case with the assiette of heritage tomatoes with a perfect goat's cheese croquette, a super tomato crisp, tomato essence foam, cheese disguised as a tomato and tomato jelly on a tapenade base, which really got the palate working. The presentation of the beautifully concentrated foie gras ice cream with its topping of apple jelly, apple purée, cinnamon biscuit and cinnamon powder tucked under the foie gras was picture perfect, and the combination of the sweet apple with the foie gras was absolutely terrific. It is no longer a surprise to find scallops served with belly pork, but this crispy version along with a very good madeira jus, radicchio, hispi cabbage and cured, salt baked turnip made this dish special. Then, the request dish, an assiette of rabbit, which we chose to an extent because we rarely have it at home, but also as a kind of test as we have found that rabbit can sometimes prove too problematic for some chefs to handle. Aaron Patterson came up trumps. Rabbit done three ways, excellent rack, leg and a Parma-wrapped tower of loin, served with a carrot purée, onion, pearl barley "risotto", strips of raw carrot, and a wonderful liquorice jus. A super autumnal feast. The pre-dessert of lemon posset with its raspberry topping made for a good palate cleanser, and our dessert of passion fruit soufflé and passion fruit and banana sorbet was a top-class finale to a top-class dinner in the modern classic style.