Restaurant review: Titchwell Manor
PUBLISHED: 12:07 26 June 2018
We put north Norfolk boutique hotel Titchwell Manor’s kitchen to the test
Conventional wisdom has it that, when reviewing a meal, you begin by describing the starter and work your way through in eating order. However this time conventional wisdom can go and eat its hat.
The reason is that the pastry team at Titchwell Manor have managed to serve the present Mrs Castle and I possibly the finest desserts we have ever spooned up. And we’ve had a few, believe me.
Herself selected the Golden Titchwell trifle. You will need to park your trifle preconceptions here, because this pud is something out of the ordinary.
It came in a little golden white chocolate drum, lid jauntily askew to tease at the treasure within. There was sweet honeyed cream, soft sponge shot through with little jewels of crunchy, sharp Granny Smith’s apple. It was eye-rollingly good.
Watchers of BBC’s MasterChef may recall a moment in the most recent series when a tear almost rolled down the chubby cheeks of Aussie tough nut John Torode as he sampled a dessert which got him all emotional. Reader, that was nearly me when I tasted the whipped dark chocolate, brandy snap and pear ice cream delight that was put in front of me.
It was beyond criticism; the chocolate strong and satin-smooth with just-so bitterness, a chocolate brandy snap that was all it needed to be and a pear ice cream that would have made a Worcestershireman well up. And the devil in the detail here were the almost translucent shavings of nashi pear which brought an extraordinary burst of juice and flavour to the party.
What went before all this was pretty fine as well. I had havered over halibut or duck and, despite our excellent server’s thoughtful recommendation, went for the fish; we were on the north Norfolk coast after all.
It was a good choice; the meaty halibut fillet was cooked spot-on, moist and seasoned to perfection. The sauce was just so and the salsify and kale brought a bit of crunch. The whole dish was a fine balance of salt and sweet and presented with great care and craft, as the photo shows.
Mrs C also went for fish; the mackerel fillet was fresh to the menu on the evening of our visit and came, plump and splendid in its stripes, with a carrot and sweet matelot sauce, cheesy mash and kale. As with the halibut the fish was cooked faultlessly.
I liked the sauce very much, Mrs C was less sure, though unable to say exactly why. She was also a little less taken by her starter, white asparagus with morels and a bergamot sabayon; she did confess that she hadn’t had a sabayon before and didn’t know what to expect. She still cleared her plate of asparagus and mushrooms.
Being on the coast, I had decided to shell out on a crab, a Brancaster one. It might not be the toughest test for a kitchen but you need to pick a good ‘un and they did. It was exquisite, so fresh that it might have wandered up to the kitchen door from the beach by mistake and said ‘Hi guys’, before ending up on the menu. (Incidentally the restaurant has two menus, the Conversation and the Classic, and you are allowed to mix and match, which is a thoughtful touch).
A crunchy Pecorino toast and beautiful white onion dip was where it all began, on a lovely sunlit spring evening in the hotel’s pretty conservatory. We rather wished, like most of those dining, that we were staying the night in one of the hotel’s recently refurbished rooms, but another time, perhaps.
Titchwell, under the inspired stewardship of former EDP Norfolk Food and Drink award-winning chef Eric Snaith, has a kitchen clearly on top of its game.
A visit to the acclaimed marshes to build up an appetite followed by a repast at Titchwell? That would make a wonderful Norfolk day.
From the menu
• White asparagus poached in double cream served chilled, morels & bergamot sabayon
• Dressed Brancaster crab salad, beetroot mayonnaise
• Halibut Veronique, salsify, caper oil and powder, golden raisin and rainbow kale
• Fillet of mackerel, whole roast carrot, anise and matelot sauce
• The Golden Titchwell trifle, apple, honey and white chocolate
• Whipped dark chocolate, brandy snap, pear ice cream and nashi pear
Around £90 for two, excluding wine