[Hambleton, Rutland] Hambleton Hall

They have, of course, only recently reopened after lockdown so that may be the reason for feeling that service was not the well-oiled machine that you’d hope it might be. We’d arranged to be having aperitifs at 7.15 for a 7.45 dinner. Whilst drinks appeared quickly, it was pushing 7.45 before we got to see menus, let alone order any food.

Current Covid-secure guidelines indicate tables can be only 1 metre apart “with mitigations” but it was difficult to see what mitigations were in place. Unlike other meals we’ve had since early July, staff do not wear masks or visors, tables were quite close together and the service style seemed as it probably was before Covid, with no attempt to do things at a distance. It was a slightly unsettling experience rather than the very relaxed one you’d expected. This does not detract from the skill of the kitchen.

The amuse bouche was lovely. A very citrussy sorrel cream, topped with smoked salmon and chopped nuts. Both starters were very summery. A very delicately flavoured crab salad was held in place by a strip of cucumber, giving a nice texture contrast. The other starter featured San Marzano tomatoes, dressed with a cream, flavoured with the elements of gazpacho and, on the side, a little basil ice cream.It just worked.

Beef fillet was perfect at medium rare and came with some long cooked Jacobs Ladder (or shortrib as Americans call it). There’s a couple of shallots, mushrooms and some wilted greens. A piquant sauce brings it together. Quail was the other main. The breasts nicely pink. And the legs, still on the bone, waiting to be sucked clean – a finger bowl is thoughtfully provided. That sat on a bed of very seasonal veg – peas, broad beans, mushrooms and greens. And there’s spinach tortellini, topped with a fried quails egg. Two good plates.

Tiramisu is a favourite dessert and I’m always going to order it in a new place, if it’s on the menu. This is not a classic version but more a deconstructed affair, featuring the elements of the dessert. Really enjoyable – but tiramisu, it ain’t. A blackcurrant soufflé was a knockout. Perhaps the best thing either of us ate. A perfect accompaniment was ice cream, flavoured with star anise. Tricky to get the spice balance right here, but the chef had it absolutely nailed. Coffee & petit fours were good.


Eating a second consecutive dinner in a hotel restaurant of this quality is usually tricky. The chef has put so much time and effort into perfecting his Michelin quality dishes that there is little room for menu changes from one night to another. But, fortunately, there was enough change that we didn’t feel that this meal was in any way second best. In fact, we generally found it more enjoyable than the first.

It was another lovely evening, so we had aperitifs and canapés on the terrace. As the previous night, drinks had been drunk, fingers had been tapped before menus arrived and orders taken. We both ordered the same starter. Now, call me a Grumpy Old Pedant but I reckon when a menu refers to scallops – in the plural – there’s a reasonable expectation that there will be more than one scallop on the plate. But there isn’t. The single scallop was perfectly cooked and came with a sort of “textures of leek” set of accompaniments - charred leek, grilled baby leek, leek puree, etc. It’s lovely. There’s good bread to go with it which is just as well as the main courses didn’t come with any carbs.

There’s thin slices of roasted Iberico pork, perfectly cooked to medium and completely delicious. And there’s classic pork accompaniments in the form of roasted fennel, fennel puree and apple. New seasons lamb had travelled less than 10 miles from Launde Farm. Loin was served pink and came with some long cooked belly. Accompaniments were restrained – a couple of pieces of tomato, a few shreds of wilted greens, garlic and a rosemary puree.

One dessert was bang-on for British seasonality, featuring strawberries, both fresh and in an ice cream, along with a sable Breton biscuit topped with an elderflower mousse. The other was a lovely crisp tart filled with frangipane and an apricot mousse, with sliced apricots decorating the plate, along with an apricot ice cream. Both dishes were really good and benefitted from not being overly sweet.

We reckoned that, on the basis of our two meals, the Michelin people have it about right awarding the restaurant one star. It does, however, make us wonder how other places known to us , cooking at similar or higher level, do not get a star.