Executive Chef Sam shares the inspiration behind our spring menu and why the new dishes on the à la carte menu are a celebration of the season.
What ingredients do you most look forward to in early spring and why?
We have a different and larger variety available to us at the end of spring, but in the early days we’re looking forward to wild garlic. We have a wild garlic dumpling dish, made with a Jersey Royal filling and served with morels and I’m really looking forward to bringing that back.
The whole menu is going to lighten up. Our fish suppliers are telling us that we expect a consistent supply of top quality lobsters from the end of April onwards; we will see fresh shellfish coming through and will be steaming and poaching turbot.
As you move into spring you need to do less with ingredients, for example sea kale and asparagus. These arrive on the day we prepare them and all they need is a light steam to order.
What local ingredients are influencing the á la carte menu?
Wild garlic from our doorstep and asparagus from Evesham are the big ingredients for us. There isn’t much fruit around in early spring. And I’m looking forward to spring cabbages. We always have wild mushrooms on our menu throughout the year but the ones to look forward to the most are spring’s morels, which will be amazing.
With so many new ingredients coming into season, how do you choose which to include on the menu?
We have a relatively small menu so we build the framework from a single hero ingredient per dish then adding variety. A lot of the spring vegetables give texture and flavour and there is an element of luxury to them as they are only here for a short period of time. The range of produce after the early spring is completely different – you have so much more available to you as you go into summer.
What can we expect from the Celebrate Spring tasting menu?
Fresh and vibrant flavours, the first signs of greenery and life, sprouting produce and clean flavours. We are moving away from the larder of produce we have stored over the winter, such as fermented ingredients, to fresh ingredients.
What’s your favourite way to prepare sea kale?
To steam it lightly and serve it with shellfish, which makes it sing. You only have to warm it ever so slightly and serve it with langoustine; the textures complement each other perfectly.
When developing your menus, what influence do meat and fish have?
When we develop the main courses we will always include a steak dish, vegetarian dish, fish dish and a form of poultry and then either venison or lamb from our sister estate in Wootton to offer balance and a variety. So, for example on the current menu we have spiced duck, which we dry-age to intensify the flavour. Duck naturally lends itself to fruity flavours so we pair it with plums and the earthiness of beetroot. On the new menu we will move on to poussin, stuffed with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, with a wild garlic purée and spring cabbage on the side. The meat leads which garnish accompanies it and the way you cook it.
If you had to pick one dish from the à la carte menu, what would it be and why?
I still really like our venison dish. The venison comes from our sister estate in Wootton – it is a roasted loin, with spiced quince, potato and black pudding terrine with bitter chocolate. It is a slightly more complex dish than we normally do, but it has been very popular.