Since winning the Roux Scholarship, Matthew Tomkinson has taken his first head chef role at the Goose in Britwell Salome. Tom Vaughan reports on his progress
Success breeds success, they say. The Roux Scholarship is a case in point: Andrew Fairlie, Sat Bains and Steve Drake are all winners who have branched out on their own to general acclaim. Now it's the turn of 2005 scholar Matthew Tomkinson to spread his wings. After four years as chef de partie at the Ockenden Manor in Cuckfield, West Sussex, he took his first head chef role at the Goose in Britwell Salome in January this year.
Nestled in the Oxfordshire countryside, the pub-restaurant had a Michelin star for two years under former chef-patron Mike North, held officially until January this year. However, the Goose was bought by the current ownership in March 2006, North moved on and the pub closed for refurbishment, reopening in August 2006.
Inspiration for starter
Tomkinson cites Le Champignon Sauvage as the inspiration for his starter dish of lasagne of braised oxtail, truffled celeriac purée and horseradish cream (£9.50). The celeriac is sliced thinly and blanched, then layered with the oxtail and purée.
Crisp croquette of pig's trotter, tomato salad and caper and raisin purée (£8.50) is a variation of a Hibiscus dish, says Tomkinson. "The purée is a pure balance of salt and sweet that can be perfect with dishes," he says.
As autumn descends, the menu flits between a dying summer and the new season's frostier edge. Warm slice of Norfolk wood pigeon, pickled wild mushrooms, beetroot and apple compote and walnut dressing (£9.50) he describes as "wintery but light". The apples are from Tomkinson's own garden and are sweated down with baked, peeled beetroot, red wine, vinegar and redcurrant jelly.
Staying with game birds, the kitchen serves a main course of locally sourced, honey-roasted new-season partridge with braised sweet and sour cabbage - "it's basically sauerkraut but calling it that would put the locals off" - smoked sausage and boulangère potatoes (£18.95).
Venison also comes from just down the road. The result is sliced saddle of venison, roasted butternut squash, Jerusalem artichoke purée, wild mushrooms and buttered curly kale (£18.95), the recipe for which appeared on Caterer's Foodfile page on 13 September.
There's honey-roasted barbary duck breast with creamed cabbage, fondant potato and date purée (£18.25), and in spring you may be able to sample the dish that won Tomkinson the regional final of the Roux Scholarship: roast rump of Cornish new-season lamb, seared liver, minted spring vegetables - changing from asparagus and Jersey Royals to broad beans and pea shoots as the season progresses - and pea and white onion purée (£18.50).
The main base of Tomkinson's cooking is in classical techniques, and he's not particularly keen on the emphasis on foams and jellies.
Local sourcing is an integral part of the kitchen's philosophy. As much veg as can be bought comes from a local farmer's wife, while game and anything else possible is also acquired nearby. Often people just pitch up at the back door with a bucket of fresh fruit.
Seafood comes from Flying Fish, supplier to nearby Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons and Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham, and Tomkinson admits that without its expertise the menu would look completely different. Escalope of wild sea bass - the same that arrives at the door of Le Manoir - comes with smoked belly bacon, local runner beans, sweet shallots and a red wine sauce (£21.50).
Apples from the garden
Desserts include apples from his garden in an apple fritter with rum and raisin ice-cream and butterscotch sauce (£6.50) and caramelised pear tarte tatin, cardamom ice-cream and spiced fruit syrup (£6.50).
The four-strong kitchen brigade does about 200 covers a week in the 36-seat restaurant, and while he admits more lunch trade would be nice, he's happy with the size of the place. "When I came here it wasn't that busy, but now even the London trade is picking up," he says.
What's on the menu
- Ballottine of Scottish salmon wrapped in fresh herbs with fromage blanc and Avruga caviar, £9.50
- Home-cured bresaola of Scotch beef with wild rocket, Parmesan crisps and truffle vinaigrette, £9.50
- Leek and potato soup with poached local egg and "soldiers", £6.50
- Roast fillet of Suffolk pork, braised Baby Gem lettuce, shiitake mushrooms, fricassée of white beans and mustard, £17.50
- Pavé of Scottish halibut, spring onion gnocchi, steamed River Fowey mussels, buttered Hispi cabbage and fresh herbs, £21.50
- Vegetarian "assiette gourmande", £15
- Dark chocolate tart, malted barley ice-cream and sesame crisp, £6.50
- Warm gooseberry and almond tart, nutmeg ice-cream and gooseberry purée, £6.50
- British and French farmhouse cheeses, served with walnut bread and fig chutney, £8.50
The Goose, Britwell Salome, Watlington, Oxfordshire OX49 5LG, Tel: 01491 612304