Seasons at The Eastbury: Restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 10:53 29 August 2017 | UPDATED: 16:24 29 August 2017
Helen Stiles experiences the multi-sensory delights of a tasting menu at Seasons at The Eastbury
To appreciate the harmonious talents of an award-winning chef in one sitting, set aside the à la carte and experience a tasting menu. Each course is chosen by the culinary maestro to create a concert of flavours. At Seasons at The Eastbury Hotel in Sherborne, the flavour alchemist is Matt Street, whose dishes won The Eastbury - Best Hotel Restaurant at 2016 Dorset Magazine Food, Drink & Farming Awards.
The six-course tasting menu gives a sensory feast of visual image, taste and texture with ingredients sourced seasonally and as locally as possible, including from the hotel’s garden. Each course is given at ‘example’ size, so the palate is never dulled by repetition and there are regular pauses to reflect on and discuss the food.
My vegetarian partner Stu was wowed by his vegetarian tasting menu, as his usual restaurant experience is “looks like I’m having the pasta then.” I opted for the ‘wine flight’, which offers wines matched to each course. Stu flew long-haul with the Dorset Brewing Company’s Jurassic Ale which gave a strong and stable complement to all his savoury courses.
The overture for both of us was an amuse-bouche: a demitasse of garden courgette soup with lemon oil that awoke the palate. Our first course was Vale of Camelot brûlée with slivers of pear, celeriac, chicory and caramelised walnuts. Vale of Camelot Blue is a cheese from Longmans, at North Leaze Farm in Somerset, it came both cooked and freshly crumbled over the salad. The mild and creamy cheese offset the bitter chicory, while the walnuts added lively texture. This was paired with a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc from Chile with notes of pear and honey - an inspired choice.
At this point our menus divided. My handpicked Devon crab, topped with slivers of horseradish was served with a summery chilled cucumber soup with spheres of green apple ‘caviar’, and sea purslane foraged from Weymouth. This was partnered with a smooth glass of Pauletts, Semillon, Australia with stone fruit flavours.
Stu had grilled asparagus from Red Barn Farm with wild garlic butter, a hen’s egg and a tasty Cranborne Chase rapeseed dressing. A simple dish, with great ingredients, beautifully executed.
My main of thyme and lemon roast chicken was wonderfully moist and herby and came with Maris Piper and basil mash, roasted onion (from the hotel owner’s garden), asparagus and wild garlic butter, topped with crushed roasted grains to give a nutty crunch. This was paired with a classic red Tierra Merlot, Chile with crunchy red berry notes.
Stu’s ravioli of squash with black garlic, burrata, shaved hazelnuts, basil and lemon oil dazzled with diversity – sweet, savoury, creamy, crunchy – a Belshazar’s Feast of a dish.
Next came a coffee pannacotta served with zesty orange granita, and caramel biscuit cream, accompanied by a blend of three different liqueurs which drew on the dessert’s three key flavours. This dreamy chocolate orange shot also worked well with Stu’s dessert of salted caramel ice cream, ginger cake, and caramel biscuit cream.
We reunited for the finale - exotic fruits with a fragrant white chocolate and lemongrass sorbet with coconut and black sesame. The crunchy sesame lifted the texture and flavour of this refreshing summer dessert, which was teamed with honeyed glass of Monbazillac, Château Vari.
We were very impressed by the knowledge of The Eastbury’s staff, who enthusiastically explained each dish and wine choice.
Over coffee and handmade petit fours, we hit on the idea of Eurovision-style voting for each course. Both the vegetarian and omnivore juries awarded “douze points” to the main courses in a nail-bitingly close contest, where every course deserved to be a winner.
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