The eagerly anticipated second restaurant from Chef Tommy Banks of the Michelin-starred Black Swan at Oldstead was always going to be a success. Having revamped what was the old Bay Horse pub into a contemporary space for fine dining; Banks has stuck to the ethos that won his original venue so many accolades: everything revolves around seasonal ingredients grown and foraged on the family farm, which are transformed into mouthfuls of pure joy. Nothing is too heavily handled, which allows each piece of produce speak for itself in its simplicity, for full on flavour.
Here, Banks has based his cooking around three seasonal menus: ‘The Hunger Gap’, ‘The Time of Abundance’ and ‘Preservation Season’. Our visit coincided with the latter – an autumnal line-up full of hedgerow fruits, brassicas and root vegetables such as celeriac, crapaudine beetroot and cabbage.
You are free to choose a selection of dishes from an a la carte offering, or can let the kitchen choose for you by plumping for a ‘Roots Feast’, for £55 per person.
To begin, we were offered some beautifully light ‘sour bread’ and seed crackers, although the accompanying Lincolnshire Poacher cheese ‘custard’ was a flavourless let-down. After that, it was success all the way, from sweet and tangy ‘sour pea’ falafel with carrots and pork fat to lamb and fermented turnip ‘bao’ (a perfect pairing), and a dish of buttery ox cheek with cauliflower and kale. Desserts offer twists on classics such as tiramisu (reimagined with carrot and chicory root) or you can play it safe with Mary Banks’ apple cake, which comes with Oldstead honey, crème fraîche and foraged berries.
If visiting during the 'Time of Abundance' you can expect dishes like Thornback ray wing, 'tartare' sauce and hazelnuts or salt beef, mustard, gherkins and Old Winchester cheese.
There are also plenty of pleasant surprises on the helpfully categorised wine list – although prices are a little steep given that glasses are all 125ml. Still, eating here is an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.