There is an expectant buzz in the dining room. It's that low rumble of contented diners dressed in their festive finery patting their stomachs. I've opted for a slightly later Christmas lunch than most and have been striding up and down the beach and the seafront to give myself a fighting chance to have some room after last night's extravaganza. Thus I'm arriving as the others are reaching their finale and comparing notes on their delicious turbot, sharing reminiscences of Space Dust, discussing whether a pot of peppermint tea would aid them consuming a few more morsels of the steamed clementine sponge and rather curiously pondering the likelihood of a tsunami hitting us before the end of the meal. But then another diner nodded sagely and said "at least we'd die happy!"
Today I'm in the coffee, cappuccino coloured dining room, the blinds look like rich chocolate flakes (only the crumbliest, tastiest chocolate), which is never a bad thing!
We have a lovely view of the salmon streaked sky over the steely sea. I suspect tidal waves are incredibly unlikely and if the worse should happen we are quite high up above the crashing waves. Hopefully the surprisingly sunny weather stays the same for tomorrow, brisk healthful walks on the beach would not be so much fun if the heavens open despite the large golfing umbrella in my room.
Todays menu is as follows:
Champagne and Canapés
Mosaic of Game and Foie Gras with Quince Chutney
Seared Scottish Scallops with Cauliflower and Autumn Truffle
Carpaccio of Beetroot with a Horseradish Panna Cotta
Veloute of Pumpkin with Roasted Chestnut
Roast Goose Traditionally Garnished
Pan Roasted Turbot with a Lasagne of Langoustine
and Gem Lettuce
Gateaux of Potato, Artichoke and Wild Mushroom
Jerusalem Artichoke Cream
Steamed Clementine Sponge Stem Ginger Ice Cream
Agen Prune and Armagnac Parfait
A Selection of Fine Cheeses
Coffee, Mince Pies and Petit Fours
I started in a similar way, this time my linen waterlily contained Cheddar gougères laced with whiskey and my herby focaccia was as good as yesterday leaving those minute traces of sea salt on the lips.
To accompany the Champagne are three mini canapés, a smoked salmon blini with soured cream and a soupçon of caviar, a Perigold truffle with goats' cheese wafer and slow cooked veal shin 'cigarette' with paprika mayonnaise. They were all very fine but the veal shin was the real star, both the words "goats' cheese" and "mayonnaise" scare me generally but the goats' cheese wasn't goaty and reminiscent of ammonia and homemade mayonnaise is an entirely different beast compared to the synthetic Hellman's I so abhor. In fact I have been known on rare occasions to whip up my own mayonnaise, with the help of my Bamix naturally, and generally spike it heavily with herbs and/or garlic but I still prefer hollandaise every time.
I ummed and aahed between the Mosaic of Game and Foie Gras with Quince Chutney and the Seared Scottish Scallops with Cauliflower and Autumn Truffle. I even consulted tomorrow's menu which also has a foie gras and a scallop based starter. But in the end my proximity to the sea won as I always crave seafood when on the coast so the scallops had it. Chatting to some fellow foodie pilgrims, who have the edge on me because they've experienced Robert Thompson's talents before, when he won acclaim at Winteringham Fields, and then followed him here, they could very much vouch for mosaic of game and foie gras. I'd rationalized that my hamper tonight (yes, more delicious food to squeeze in!) may have some sort of parfait, pâté concoction and almost definitely no scallops.
The Seared Scottish Scallops with Cauliflower and Autumn Truffle were a good call. The plump scallops were caramel singed at sat atop some pale cous cous. I've never really understood the point of cous cous, naming it twice doesn't make it more interesting to me. This however was more like a minuscule mound of Parmesan shavings and was a cosy nest for the expertly cooked scallops, the cauliflower purée was another masterpiece and I would have happily had much more of it to douse the slivers of scallop in.
The soup today is a wonderful Velouté of Pumpkin with Roasted Chestnut, a rich autumnal elixir topped with chestnut foam and meaty morsels of roast chestnut. As much as I adored the truffled brioche yesterday I was pleased I didn't have to accommodate more bread today, however tasty.
I'd opted for the Roast Goose Traditionally Garnished, a part of me hankered for a little tradition (though definitely not turkey!). However goose is a fine bird and the only time I've tackled the preparation myself for the festive feast involved the loan of a neighbour's oven (one they'd never even used!), rivers of both goosefat and blood, eventual happy guests but neighbours who never spoke to me again! The goose and all the little goodies of accompaniments were utterly faultless but perhaps lacking the culinary fireworks of yesterday's venison. However each individual part was cooked to perfection, elegantly turned roasties dusted in polenta, al dente sprouts, bacon enveloped chipolata, ball of stuffing, the smooth carrot purée with the crowning glory of the delicately pink juicy goose slices drenched in a delicious winy gravy.
Today's pre-dessert was a spiced apple posset with vanilla foam. The Space Dust wasn't a surprise this time but still very welcome, and the spiced apple was rich and delicious.
I'm slightly concerned whether I can accommodate the Steamed Clementine Sponge Stem Ginger Ice Cream without literally popping (wafer thin mint anyone?) Just the words "steam pudding" sound alarming but I shouldn't have feared because of course Robert's sponge is sun-bronzed, light and festively fruity with the welcome juxtaposition of the slight exotic heat of the ginger ice cream sat on a bed of gingerbread crumbs and of course it is a visual stunner also. I've spotted that they have a impressive collection of dessert plates, todays being modeled on a gold ostrich, surely there's not more people out there as obsessive about crockery as me!
For a treat for the hardworking and fabulously friendly staff tonight the kitchen is closing early so hampers are on offer for guests who may succumb to the munchies later. As if I'm ever going to eat again... ever! But isn't it traditional that you feel utterly stuffed like the proverbial turkey on Christmas Day? I'm just being traditional! Gold, frankincense and myrrh anyone?
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