We’re huge fans of Great British Menu. If you have read this blog before, you will already know this, and you may even have read some of our interviews with the chefs taking part. One of the chefs we were lucky enough to interview was Matt Worswick, head chef at The Lawns restaurant at Thornton Hall Hotel.
Unlike when we are normally invited to try out a restaurant or to go to an opening night, this time we were fortunate enough to try something that we had felt truly involved in, so we genuinely couldn’t wait to try Matt’s cooking out in the flesh.
The Lawns are currently offering a set menu of his four WI inspired courses. Before all of that came to our table, though, we were presented with a delightful amuse bouche of pork crackling and taramasalata (not normally my favourites but made into something truly special here). This was brought out alongside an official scorecard, GBM style (along with the marks Matt received from Sat Bains in the regional heats of the show), giving us the feeling that we were truly being asked to critique his menu!
The atmosphere inside The Lawns restaurant is very decadent and the wallpaper was really eye catching, making for a memorable setting. For those of you who are cheese fans, the cheeseboard was also visible, making for some mouth watering pondering during the main meal!
We sat back and enjoyed the setting (hoping and praying that our three month old little lady would allow us the chance to enjoy the experience, which she did!) whilst we tucked into some divine fresh bread and Northern Irish butter (I’m not sure if this is particularly special or not but it was pointed out to us by the very attentive waiting team). We quickly scoffed down the onion bread and the wholemeal and white options and sat back and waited for the Great British Menu to come to us!
Having watched the show, we felt like we knew what to expect in terms of appearance, but to see the first course, Game Old Bird, appear in front of us was still a magical moment! Of course the first bite could have been a let down given the months we spent watching the show and the excitement we had, but instead the lovely partridge tasted divine and was balanced wonderfully by the blackberries and the blackberry caviar.
These ingredients added a lovely sharp (but still somehow sweet) taste to the dish and left us feeling very happy with how things had started! In particular, the lovely jus had left my mouth watering as we waited to enjoy Grandma’s Garden! For those who are interested, we scored the dish a solid 8.
With the starter done, out came the fish course: Grandma’s Garden. This was a beautiful, fresh looking dish that we both thought looked wonderful and made us want to dive in and devour it all straightaway. The dish itself was dressed beautifully with the nasturtiums and a lovely array of baby vegetables.
Of course while the baby carrots and baby leeks looked lovely, it was the fish (or rather, seafood) element of the dish that made this truly special. The lobster claw was exceptional and cooked to perfection, with my only complaint being that I ate the dish far too quickly! The dish scored a well deserved 9!
The next dish was one that we truly couldn’t wait to try as it had looked amazing on TV and had earned a 10 from Sat Bains, a man who is not easy to impress! Sure, the dish had got a 10 from him but would we feel suitably impressed to score it the same?
To be honest from the outset, this dish was wonderful. It really was. It shows why coming to try the menu is worthwhile and why the dish itself got so close to being at the banquet. This was cooking of lamb at the very highest level in a few different ways and the dish left us blown away by how good it was. The hotpot was the best I have ever eaten and the roast best end of lamb had so much flavour in it that you almost wondered if it had been modified to be more ‘lamby’ (if such a thing can be done and if such a word exists!). The meat sang through so well that it carried the dish all the way to a 10 on our scorecard.
After such a high, you normally expect to come down and face a low. Here, Matt made sure this didn’t happen as he then produced his wonderful Grandma’s Humble Apple Crumble. This dessert arrives in a beautiful fake apple that could convince you that it was actually a real giant green apple! We loved this presentation.
Once we felt brave enough to lift up the lid, we were met with a wonderful smell of apple crumble that had been de-constructed but still retained that wonderful smell you expect to receive when you get an apple crumble from your gran (although my gran normally goes for blackberry crumble!).
With a nice bitter taste at times (complemented by the cider taste) and at other times the beautiful sweetness shining through, there was also an intriguing texture change between the different aspects of the dish. We scored the dish an 8 and felt that the low mark given to Matt in the TV show was unfair!
All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed the menu and had been blown away by how good the food and cooking was. We were also impressed by the cohesion of the menu; the dishes did feel like they should be following on from each other rather than just randomly mixed and matched.
This was a great experience and a must try for any fan of the show. We are now huge converts to Matt’s cooking and need to come back in the future to try out his excellent a la carte menu or perhaps a future Great British Menu tasting menu!
Categories: Restaurant reviews