Sunday, 19 October 2008

An extravagant Luncheon

Last month I reached the age of seventy, and as a friend reaches the same age next month we decided on a joint celebration at a date roughly midway between our respective anniversaries, and last Thursday lunched at Hambleton Hall which is a minor stately home converted into an hotel. Hambleton lies on a peninsular jutting out into Rutland Water, a quite decorative reservoir in the county after which it is named.

The staff put on a most entertaining performance for us.

On arrival we were ushered into the drawing room, where drinks and little canapés were served. Most of the canapés were just slightly larger than a pea, but of quite complicated construction, each served on a tiny disk of its own, and each dish had a little handle by which one picked it up before tipping the contents into one’s mouth.

When we were led into the dining room two waiters attended us so that we each had one to place a chair in readiness for our posterior and to unfold our napkin and place it across our knees. (I seem to have mixed singulars and plurals in the sentence; please make allowances for my age) From our table we had a view over the garden to Rutland Water.

We chose almost the cheapest option, ‘Lunch For Less’ at £25-25 for three courses - two courses would have been £20-00. On the al la carte menu prices are around £35-00 for main courses, and $15-00 for starters and puddings.

Food was a series of artistic creations, served on square white plates so there was no extraneous pattern that might clash with the chef’s artistry.

For the main course we both had braised lamb, and that was presented as a garden. In the middle of the plate was the lamb covered with a crunchy green topping the constituents of which were unclear, but which made it look like a grassy knoll. Scattered around were the plants - little dabs of tomato and what seemed to be anchovy sauce. I was almost afraid to put potatoes on my plate lest I spoil the picture.

While eating pudding, chocolate tart with orange sorbet, I was fascinated to watch someone at another table being served cheese. The actual delivery of cheese was preceded by a long explanation delivered by a waiter who gesticulated with a knife with holes in the blade. I wonder if that’s what one is supposed to use to cut cheese. Eventually he cut something from one cheese, but than addressed himself to another from which he seemed to be taking thin shavings with a rotating blade. I’m tempted to return to Hambleton Hall to have the cheese, though I think that is only available on the a la carte menu. An 80th birthday treat, perhaps ?

The glorious finale was the serving of petits fours with the coffee. First coffee arrived in a cafetiere, and as well as the usual accompaniments, there was a strange long thin roughly rectangular glass plate which later turned out to be the petits fours plate. A waiter soon arrived with the petit fours box, a large glass topped case on folding legs., and set it up beside our table so that he could conduct a brief seminar on the contents - all home-made sweetmeats that appeared to be specialities of the house, certainly neither of us had seen anything quite like any them before. We wanted to say ‘one of each please’ but didn't want to appear greedy and so restrained ourselves by having just two each. I particularly liked a confection with a raspberry flavoured outside and a creamy truffle inside.

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