At the Avenue restaurant at Lainston House hotel, head chef Phil Yeomans has reworked his menu, concentrating on natural ingredients, most of which are grown on-site. Janie Manzoori-Stamford went to visit
After nearly seven years at the Avenue, the fine-dining restaurant at Lainston House hotel near Winchester, head chef Phil Yeomans is still finding new ways to reinvent his food. With an abundant natural larder on his doorstep it's not hard to see why.
The most recent evolution of the menu has seen Yeomans move away from precision and food that might be considered overworked to a less complicated style of cooking, a process he says was achieved through a huge amount of development as well as consultant support from Olly Rouse, head chef of John Campbell Restaurants.
"I've tried to leave the ingredients as natural as I can and just focus on the individual flavours and combinations," he explains.
A thriving kitchen garden of fruit, vegetables and herbs, plentiful orchards and on-site reared Gloucester Old Spot pigs all allow the kitchen brigade to work with incredibly fresh produce. As a result the restaurant is almost 90% self-sufficient from April to October in terms of producing goods that can go on the menu.
However Yeomans doesn't shy away from more exotic ingredients, particularly in the less fruitful winter months. He describes his food as modern English with an Asian influence, and his principles for keeping it natural and unfussy extend to the way dishes are presented on the menu.
The fish soup on the lunchtime menu (£32.50 for three courses), described as comprising cod, monkfish, mussel and fish consommé, is actually a take on a Japanese dashi, using lemongrass from the kitchen garden, alongside bonito and seaweed.
"We use the best local fish we can get and add some Asian flavours to give an edge to the dish. It makes it a bit more interesting," says Yeomans.
The roast loin of lamb, sourced from Manor Farm in nearby Broughton, is particularly popular with diners. A shoulder pressé made up of braised shoulder and prime saddle is served with Jerusalem artichoke prepared three ways (confit, purée and crisps) a homemade mint sauce agar jelly, black garlic and scorched pearl onions. This is accompanied by fondant potatoes and a spiced wine semi-gel.
TASTING MENUS In addition to the lunch and a la carte menus, the Avenue offers two seven-course tasting menus, one of which is vegetarian (both £65). Introduced last November, they have been a big success. For £115, diners can take the tasting menus with wines, paired by head sommelier Peter Foulds.
"They're essentially another 12 dishes on top of what we were already doing, but they've gone down so well, showing the skills of the chefs and that we're not duplicating ingredients throughout the menu," says Yeomans. "No corners are cut."
Dishes include slow-cooked beef blade with compressed red onion marmalade, wasabi meringue, cep purée and apple, which Foulds has partnered with Lealtanza Club Reserva, Exclusive Hotels Edition, Rioja 2005.
A dessert course of dark chocolate mousse with toasted almond ice-cream cylinder, liquorice espuma and lemon sphere is accompanied by Elysium, Black Muscat, Andrew Quady, Central Valley, California 2010.
"It's something that I dreamed of as a young lad, as all chefs do," he says. "A few years ago Lainston probably wasn't the right place to be looking for all that but we've built the team up and made lots of changes so that is now the goal. It's achievable, without a doubt."
SAMPLE DISHES FROM THE MENU
Starters Seared scallops, smoked eel & pancetta truffle
Mackerel, beets, apple, fennel, horseradish
Smoked duck ham, fig, celeriac, blackberry, braised leg
Main courses Halibut, oxtail, parsnip, pickled walnut, pearl barley
Pork fillet, braised pig's cheek, quince, broccoli, kohlrabi
Partridge, prune, butternut, bread sauce espuma
Desserts Coconut parfait, pineapple, lime, cardamom
White chocolate, Hob Nob biscuit, toffee popcorn, mandarin sorbet
Orange blossom poached pear, madeleine, jasmine, pistachio
£55 for three courses, plus amuse bouche and pre-dessert
THE AVENUE Lainston House Hotel,
Woodman Lane, Sparsholt, Winchester SO21 2LT
Tel: 0841 962 776088