Russell Bateman has turned his back on the capital for a rural retreat, drawing inspiration from the produce reared on the Castle Ashby Estate in Northampton. Lisa Jenkins reports.
In November 2020 Russell Bateman, former head chef of London's Pétrus and National Chef of the Year 2014, made the move out of the capital to a somewhat more rural location in Castle Ashby, Northampton.
Bateman now heads up the 36-cover Eyas restaurant at the 21-bedroom Falcon hotel, a Grade II-listed former coaching inn on the 11,500-acre Ashby Estate, which is owned by Lord and Lady Northampton. As well as the restaurant, which has a 16-cover private dining room, Bateman takes responsibility for F&B in the East Wing lounge and bar, a cellar bar that dates to 1594, a juice bar in a new wellbeing centre, and in-room dining.
Eyas offers a £60 three-course menu, with snacks, homemade bread, raw butter and petits fours included. Once permitted to reopen, Bateman intends to introduce a set lunch menu with a choice of two starters, two mains and two desserts for £35.
Bateman's ethos when it comes to menu development is respect: "We use the word respect a lot. I believe in using the best quality, freshest ingredients and treating them with absolute respect – this simple attention brings out their natural flavours and enhances them."
I believe in using the best quality, freshest ingredients and treating them with absolute respect
The chef says he's used the past few months in lockdown to further simplify his menus: "The ingredients are so good I don't want to interfere with them unnecessarily. I actually think the guests appreciate that more than we realise."
The seven-strong brigade use ingredients from the Ashby Estate including venison (when in season) from their own deer park, supplied by Les Galley the gamekeeper. "We are fortunate to be able to request a whole deer whenever we need one and we'll break it down after ageing."
This venison was the star of a dish on the menu last December, cooked slowly over wild juniper branches on a Konro grill and brushed with reduced juniper-infused red wine to enhance its rich flavour. Once rested, the venison is served with shavings of fresh walnuts, creating a delicate crust, roasted young parsnips, caramelised Brussels sprouts, black walnut ketchup, and a pear poached in the juniper- infused red wine. The dish is finished with a sauce made from the venison trim and bones.
Home Farm, which supplies Aberdeen Angus beef, is visible from Eyas' kitchen, while lambs graze in the village in front of Castle Ashby. Honey is from the estate's hives, harvested by beekeeper Julia Burns, and appears on the menu in a dessert of honey and parsnip cake with apple and chamomile.
The estate has its own raised beds for herbs and leaves, with edible flowers and heirloom varieties to be added later this year. A small orchard offers apples and pears and foraged ingredients are in abundance, including meadowsweet, wild garlic, sorrel, woodruff, juniper, blackberries and land-cress.
Bateman's sourcing policy is to use local "but not just because it's trendy or a nice story –we'll only use it if its quality. We want to know that the produce is reared, grown, or made using our shared ethos of respect."
Gary Bradshaw, the only cheese producer in Northamptonshire, supplies several varieties for the restaurant's cheeseboard, including Northamptonshire Blue and Cobbler's Nibble, which is a nod towards to the town's shoe-making roots.
Bateman has created a dish based on his first impressions of the region: a ragoût of toasted ancient Siyez grains, served with caramelised cauliflower, local broccoli florets cooked in a butter emulsion, served with a local organic egg yolk, which is confited in a rapeseed oil sourced from Farmington's, a supplier located "just down the road".
In terms of desserts, Bateman is working on developing a crème caramel infused with cherry stone, with the caramel made using kirsch and home-dried cherries. It will be finished with fresh green almonds and cherry pieces. "I think this dish is a perfect example of how I see food: classic technique, great ingredients, beautiful harmonious flavours, zero waste and delicious luxurious results."
Bateman intends to expand his kitchen team after lockdown, with expectations of a busy summer season. The bonus for staff is "beautiful accommodation on the estate – it's a great lifestyle living and working here."
Eyas Restaurant, the Falcon, Castle Ashby, Northampton, NN7 1LF
From the menu
- Salt-baked celeriac, nashi pear, Berkswell cheese, hazelnut, truffle, golden raisins
- Diver-caught scallop, seaweed, citrus, smoked scallop roe
- Glazed organic chicken, lemon, thyme, bacon, bread and Jerusalem artichoke
- Baked cod, hollandaise, leeks, kombu and brown shrimp
- Butternut squash ravioli, mushroom, sherry vinegar, chestnut and Cornish gouda
- Quince tarte tatin, stem ginger
- Dark chocolate crémeux, buckwheat, cocoa nib
- British cheese selection, fig and crackers
Three courses, £60
You need to be a premium member to view this. Subscribe from just 99p per week.
Already subscribed? Log In