Monday, 28 June 2010

Guest Post: Alex English Visits Morston Hall

Once a fellow food blogger, now in the ranks of professional food writers, stylists and cooks, my friend Alex English has kindly written a guest post for Kavey Eats. Enjoy!

After an exhausting five weeks training at Ashburton Cookery School, the husband (who I'd hardly seen for over a month) and I decided that a break in the country would be perfect for a bit of rest & relaxation. There's something special about country house hotels. Secluded, discreet, and utterly, utterly relaxing, they're the perfect place to unwind if you're short on time (and, er, fairly long on cash). Morston Hall is no exception. I've been a fan of Galton Blackiston for a while, and his North Norfolk bolthole with Michelin starred restaurant has been on my most-wanted list for some time.


After making the three hour journey up to Morston, we had a few hours to relax in our spacious garden suite before getting dressed for dinner. There's no dress code at Morston Hall, but as we discovered when we headed to the conservatory for apertifs, the clientele is generally of an older persuasion and jackets and ties are pretty much the norm for men.

Glasses of champagne started at £6 and helped the amuse bouche of crab soup with sweetcorn puree slip down nicely.

We then started on the menu proper. Morston Hall has one sitting and a set menu of four courses plus coffee and petit fours. Personally, I like this way of dining - I will eat anything and it's kind of fun to have a surprise menu that takes away the decision making hassles. If you have allergies or a fussiness problem then the kitchen will swap in alternatives.

Our starter of Madeira stewed wild mushrooms with poached hen's yolk, cauliflower puree and jellied mushroom tea was umami rich and delicious, although the jelly ended up melting everywhere and we wished we had more bread to mop it up with.

Next up was a grilled fillet of wild sea bass with pork belly on wilted water cress, bitter lemon dresssing and confit zest. The bitter lemon dressing was the perfect foil to the moist fish. Pork belly turned out to be more of a bacon crisp rather than the thick chunks I had imagined, but it was great to have a fish dish with bold, punchy flavours.

The main course of roasted rib of Blickling Hall Aberdeen Angus with braised skirt, oak smoked mashed potato, sauteed spinach, shallot confit, fine beans, Norfolk asparagus and rich beef jus (what a mouthful!) really was the star of the show. The oak smoked mash was a genius combination with the beef, and I grilled Galton about it when he did the rounds later in the evening. Apparently baked potatoes are infused with oaky flavours in the on-site smokehouse (used for the breakfast kippers). Keen smokers can try it at home by making the mash first and smoking it in a double boiler. One for the weekend maybe?

We were now faced with the choice between dessert or cheese. I went for the sweet option - a dreamy raspberry, vanilla and coconut soup with mango sorbet and a floating island (poached meringue, in case you were wondering). Hubby chose the cheese plate, with particular highlights being the parmesan-esque Old Winchester, Perl Las and Binham Blue (made just up the road at Wells-Next-The-Sea).

After coffees, teas and delicious petit fours - passionfruit truffles, a white chocolate and apricot thingy and honey madeleines, we were off to bed, not forgetting to order our smoked-to-order kippers for breakfast the next morning. Morston Hall isn't cheap at around £300 a night for two (including breakfast and dinner), but it's a great place to get away from it all and with food this good and surroundings this pretty you end up feeling refreshed and ready to head back to the big city.

Morston Hall, Morston, Holt, Norfolk, NR25 7AA

A selection of Alex' photos of the food at Morston Hall:

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