[Leamington Spa, Warwickshire] Mallory Court
Oh, I do love a bargain. Particularly when there’s a meal involved. And, at £32.50 for a three course Michelin starred lunch it isn’t so much a bargain as an absolute steal.
We took an aperitif on the terrace and nibbled on some decent olives and almonds. It’s a lovely terrace outside a lovely building – I’m sure that, as a resident, you’d be getting the full country house hotel experience, but we were just passing through on our way home. Almost needless to say, the menu is “modern British” and exudes seasonality.
Once in the wood panelled dining room, really good bread was offered and continued to be offered up until dessert. There was an amuse of tuna tartare – a dice of the raw fish, watermelon, citrus and a little micro leaf coriander. This was very simple, very clever, very delicious.
For a starter, mackerel had been lightly cured so that it was still almost raw, the plate came dressed with very thin slices of beetroot, a beetroot puree, a couple of pieces of carrot and some yoghurt that, I think, had a little background spicing. Seafood featured in the other starter as well. Cod cheeks, together with a little scattering of borlotti beans and charred leek – the latter giving some oomph on the plate.
There was a generous offering of pigeon breast, served perfectly at medium rare. To describe the accompanying vegetables as “baby” doesn’t do justice – there was the tiniest carrot imaginable; similarly small green beans, a little broccoli and a couple of the dinkiest potato rosti that you’ll ever come across. This was a really good plate of food. But it was almost outdone by the beef fillet across the table. Something may have gone wrong with the kitchen’s plans – the menu had said it would be slow cooked sirloin and that might have been even better. There were sautéed girolles and a lovely red wine sauce.
For desserts, there was a strawberry dish that was pretty much an English summer on a plate. Macerated strawberries , a strawberry macaroon and a strawberry sorbet. The other plate was pretty much as near as you could get to a cheese course whilst still remaining a dessert. Sweetened soft goats cheese mousse, a light as a feather walnut cake and the classic cheese accompaniments of apple and celery. Really clever.
It’s worth mentioning that there had been skill and care taken with plating and every dish looked as good as it tasted. Service had been absolutely spot-on. From arrival to departure, it was one of those places where you just knew you were in good hands and you could relax and just enjoy the food and each others company. There’s a team approach to service and that’s reflected in the hotel’s policy “that there is no service charge made or expected”. They point out, however, should a guest wish to leave a gratuity, then it is distributed to the full team of the hotel’s employees periodically, through the payroll system with income tax deducted. Good for them, I say. Let’s applaud a restaurant that regards service as an inclusive part of the meal, rather than something that has to be met by way of an additional payment.