I have long admired Hambleton Hall - to be fair it is hard not to: stunning location, fabulous country house setting and a restaurant with a Michelin Star chef – what is there not to like?
One thing that has always put me off - and it is not meant as a criticism - is its reputation for being rather “posh” and I consider myself more of a relaxed diner.
And then of course there is the price - but in this life (and particularly in restaurants) you get what you pay for, and quality costs.
But thanks to the current Lunch For Even Less promotion at Hambleton Hall, and a number of other leading Rutland restaurants, the second obstacle has been overcome. Two courses, albeit from a limited set menu, costs £26, and three courses costs £32.50. Not exactly pin money, but prices sufficiently reduced to make food from the Michelin starred chef Aaron Patterson more accessible.
Service, as you might expect, was impeccable from the moment we arrived, had our jackets taken and were shown to a very comfortable and welcoming drawing room - complete with roaring fire.
Canapes - delicious smoked salmon mousse in a small wafer cone topped with smoked salmon and caviar - accompanied the menus and our drinks orders taken.
We were then shown to our table - a window spot with a terrific view over Rutland Water - and our starters arrived.
I was dining with a pal of mine and we both overlooked the terrine of root vegetables and went for the “crispy pigs head” with piccalilli. It looked superb, as you might expect, two small, crispy croquettes with a delicious, soft and succulent dark pork filling, and more than a hint of herbs.
The piccalilli, yellow of course, but not too spicy, and the cauliflower nice and crunchy.
A flavour-packed main course for me came in the form of a stunning blade of beef that fell apart with the merest hint of a fork and tasted divine, nice textures too from the spicy lentils and soft caramelised onions. Across the table a beautifully pink piece of seatrout, sat nestled on soft Israeli couscous surrounded by a light, bright and fresh cucumber veloute. Very appealing.
The apple crumble souffle to round things off was an absolute treat. Standing proud as you like, it was wonderfully light and fluffy with a hint of apple and a biscuity topping proving a real crumble sensation. The apple sorbet served on the side was sharp and fruity.
The rich, sweet chocolate tart ( a great combination with the orange sorbet) drew plenty of plaudits from my lunch partner too.
Faultless food, matched by the service - formal but not at all off-putting - made for a great lunch.
VENUE: Hambleton Hall, Hambleton, Oakham, Rutland. LE15 8TH tel 01572 756 99 www.hambletonhall.com
BRAD’S RATING: 10
Also taking part in the Lunch For Even Less promotion are: Hart’s in Nottingham; The Berkeley Arms, Wymondham; The Marquess of Exeter, Lyddington; The Olive Branch, Clipsham; The Red Lion Inn, Stathern; Langar Hall, Langar The Wicked Witch, Ryhall and The Wheatsheaf, Greetham.