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[Hampton in Arden, Solihull] Peel's

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Harters Jun 14, 2012 09:31 AM

There’s some aspirational cooking going on here, although it doesn’t always hit the mark. Service has an air of formal efficiency but, like the cooking, doesn’t feel as though it’s a good as it probably likes to think it is. At just about every stage, there was a slightly too long wait for something to happen – even if it was just shifting the dirty crockery. Still, there was an awful amount of faffing about placing cutlery and drinks to the precise millimetre. It meant that three course dinner turned into a bit of a marathon.

There was decent bread and an amuse – a cream of indeterminate vegetable soup that was nice enough but did little to actually amuse the bouche. My partner’s starter was a cracker. A bed of wilted spinach, topped with a thin slice of braised Middle White pork belly. In turn, this was topped with a well made langoustine raviolo. A puddle of langoustine bisque finished the dish.

I wish I’d ordered that. Instead, I’d been intrigued when I read the menu and saw lettuce gazpacho, griddled asparagus and tomato chutney. I wondered what cheffy tricks would be employed to bring that lot together. A deconstructed gazpacho, perhaps? Well, none was the answer. What I got was three disparate offerings that bore no relationship to each other. A bowl of cold soup; half a dozen asparagus spears and a dollop of spicy chutney. Yes, they were well made but this was one of the strangest dishes I’ve had in a goodly while.

My main course was a damn sight better conceived. Brill, served on the bone, surrounded by a few clams and a chopped up razor clam. There was crisp, salty samphire, a couple of batons of cucumber and a few new potatoes. All very simple and I liked it a lot. Across the table, best end of lamb was seen off. Some bang-on cooking there, with the lamb nicely pink. There was an onion and anchovy puree providing a savoury/salty kick, a couple of garlic beignets, green beans and new potatoes.

Pre-dessert was possibly the best thing we ate all evening. A shot glass of intensely flavoured lemon posset, topped with a raspberry puree. I would have happily eaten a bowlfull. Dessert proper was a pineapple tarte tatin, served for two. Good crisp pastry, chunks of caramelised pineapple and little Kilner jar of caramel “in case it isn’t sweet enough”. A blob of vanilla ice cream was a good counterpoint.

Coffee was excellent and came with decent petit fours.