PUBLISHED: 09:25 05 August 2013 | UPDATED: 09:25 05 August 2013
We stayed for an enjoyable two days at Titchwell Manor, but our focus was food in the hands of the chef, Eric Snaith. He returned as a head chef there in 2003 and at that time the food element took off with the hotel accommodation improving in synchronisation. Titchwell Manor Restaurant was awarded AA three rosettes this year, one of only 13 new entrants. It sent Eric’s cooking into the highest league, described by the AA in glowing terms as taking the restaurant “into the big league”.
The evening menu is split into three sections. One section is conventional, but two sections - Eric’s passion - are “conversation menus”. The long one is seven courses and the short is four. We chose four courses and started off with canapés in the lounge, before enjoying the superb mise-en-scène in the restaurant housed in the conservatory with purpose-made sails for the ceiling windows above, comfortable rattan chairs, overlooking the garden. Actually we’d pinched the canapés from the big menu and wish that maybe a small selection would be available for the four course menu, but from the start we knew that inspiration would be afoot: Goat’s cheese and back truffle macaroon, crispy chicken skin, onion pâté sherry vinegar and so on.
Our first entrée was green olive, rocket and lemon foam, a light and refreshing starter, more surprising because it was served by the Maître d’Hôtel using chef’s kit, “cream Whipper”. The bread arrived, spectacularly neat in form and taste – white focaccia roll and mini tonka bean and cocoa nib granary loaf.
On to the menu, which is stated in simple words belying the complexity – the starter was the humble mackerel unusually cooked by a blow-torch and with a twist, Bergamot miso curd, a savory, salty richness to the dish instead of mayonnaise and lemon.
The next course combined Norfolk produce with several ingenious angles. The pollock was cooked in lobster oil and asparagus served in two different ways, poached and raw (slightly cured with salt and lobster oil). Macademia nuts gave texture and depth of flavor to the dish – a theme for the menu.
We were tempted to call the lamb dish “the main course”, but our “conversation” agrees that it was “the meat course”. There were two cuts served, loin of lamb was uncompromisingly rare, and slow-cooked belly (both were product of the sous-vide) finished off in maple syrup marked the sweetness of the dish. Terrific! Charred cauliflower on one side for the toasty flavor was blanched briefly and so was rather crunchy (interesting). Ground elder - the hated weed of the gardener - added bitterness to the dish and wild hedge garlic provided a mild garlic flavor. A lamb jus was served on the side, so texture and flavour promotes more conversation.
The last dish simply described as mango, almond, ver jus, sheep sorrel, combined dimensions of sweet and savory, taste and texture, a theme of the menu which exercises one’s palate: Panaccota (richness), dehydrated mango (crunch), almond (salt ), sheep sorrel (sour ) and ranges of temperature. Stunning!
Norfolk needs more food like this. I think I’d like to start the “conversation” again.
Meet the chef
Eric Snaith - head chef
Eric, born into the catering trade, was destined to be the “plongeur” when he was 15 years old, in the hotel kitchen owned by his parents for 25 years. He escaped to Australia in 1999/2000 and after working as a chef in various kitchens he developed his passion for cooking. Back to England he worked as a sous-chef at The Rose and Crown in Snettisham before starting as a chef in Titchwell Manor kitchen in 2003. Through hard work he has created his signature, contemporary cuisine, gaining a reputation for producing experimental and innovative food using the finest local and foraged ingredients and cutting-edge techniques. He was awarded the title of Norfolk Chef of the Year at the EDP Norfolk Food and Drink Awards 2012, as well as being very proud to be a Masterchef of Great Britain.
Four course conversation menu £45 per person.
Titchwell Manor, Titchwell, near Hunstanton, PE31 8BB; 01485 210221; www.titchwellmanor.com