Honey and
food and travel

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Hambleton Hall

Writing this blog post has been on my to-do list for two months. I don't normally put things off, but this I have. My first excuse was that writing and thinking about this afternoon made me too homesick. It still does, but now to a more manageable level. My second was that I wasn't sure my words could do justice to this incredibly special, beautifully British, almost magical (at least it seems that way as I remember it from my basement apartment in Brooklyn) place. But the time has finally come to share the amazing meal we had at Hambleton Hall in late December to celebrate papa's birthday.

Fancy outfits were dug out from the back of the cupboard (or the bottom of the suitcase if you're me and B). Grey skies and heavy mists hung in the air. An eerie, mysterious British winter day. Stepping into the comforting, welcoming, country house-style interior of Hambleton Hall is like walking into a warm hug. A fireplace flickers in the corner, a Christmas tree towers above you, someone reaches for your jackets and scarves, and before you know it you've been swept through the corridors into the lounge, you've settled into the plush sofas with a view looking out over the gardens, and a glass of Champagne is in your hand.

A tray of gougères and tapioca and squid ink crisps topped with the the prettiest treats then come flying towards you. If I could preserve this moment and live it for the rest of my life, I would be wonderfully happy.

But soon, after you've chosen from the menu, it's time to move. But don't worry, you're not going far. Take your seat, and admire the many, many wine glasses laid out in front of you. A selection of bread will be offered, and you have to make a tricky decision: choose just one. Freshly whipped butter topped with seaweed and sea salt is slathered on top. Wine is poured and the food circus begins...

Root vegetable terrine, which looks like a piece of art to start. Shavings of truffles and artichoke ice cream share the plate for an explosion of textures and deep, savory tastes.

The table then split in two, between those who eat foie gras and those who don't. For the foie gras people there was a tower of the rich, creamy pâté, with cubes of green apple, perfectly sliced blackberries, and dabs of zingy lime green jelly. For the non-foie-gras amongst us there was a hamhock terrine topped with chutney, and a colorful salad of crunchy vegetables and bright piccalilli.

Sea bass with charred fennel, watermelon, barely smashed peas, samphire, and a rich, deep, dark, sticky glaze turned the elegant fish into a hearty, comforting dish.

Venison with chocolate tortellini, cauliflower purée and kale divided our opinions. I adored the mini chocolate pasta pockets, and others really didn't. But something we could all agree on was how perfectly the meat was cooked.

Finally it was time for the my sweet-toothed ecstasy. The most beautiful fluffy, light, airy, prune and Armagnac soufflé. Once we'd carved out a hole in the middle we dropped in the ice cream and watched it seep into the pudding.

As if we hadn't eaten enough, we then returned to the sofas for coffee, fresh mint tea, and petits fours— accompanied by a few card games — before we finally left this haven and headed home.

Hambleton Hall, Hambleton, Oakham, Rutland, LE15 8TH

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