The Collyweston Slater

July 19, 2010

 

[Update 3/03/2011 – Dameon Clarke has now moved on and has opened Assiette in Stamford]

A couple of years back I had a great meal at Nick’s restaurant in Oakham, courtesy of chef Dameon Clarke. Yes it was bit a showy, a bit bling, but for all the complex plates and modish foams and jellies there was a focus on flavour that made the meal a resounding  pleasure.

Clarke is now established as chef patron at the Collyweston Slater, a handsome pub over on the Rutland/Lincolnshire border near Stamford. There’s a bar menu on offer but one look at the a la carte shows he is still interested in pushing the boat out – one starter involves rabbit and foie gras terrine with carrot jelly, pistachios, carrot and parsley salad and deep fried mustard ice cream.

A little note on the website mentioning that he’s willing to create a seasonal tasting menu for those interested had raised our interest, so four of us headed out from Leicester on a Friday night prepared to be impressed. And we were. Mightily.

First of all the pub. There’s low ceilings,  a quaint exterior, and sympathetically modern interior.  There’s plenty of room for local drinkers and an informal dining area staffed by refreshingly enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff.

Now for the food. First off, a lobster latte – an intense fishy broth in tall glass topped with beautifully judged parmesan foam, and accompanied by spoonful of lobster meat with veg and a cube of mild ginger jelly.  Great combinations of flavour and witty presentation.  Next up were some seared scallops, topped off with a crab foam and prettily laid out with cauliflower puree, samphire grass, asparagus, quail’s egg, crispy pancetta and cubes of cauliflower panna cotta.  Another wonderful collection of flavours put together with technical skill, even if the texture of the final item was not welcomed by everyone.    

scallops

 

Clarke had been happy to talk to us in advance about likes and dislikes but we had left it mainly to him to surprise us and the surprises kept coming. What was particularly pleasant was that our waiting staff seemed almost to be having as much pleasure at bringing and introducing our various dishes as we were in scoffing them.

An exquisite carpaccio of beef followed – a lovely piece of meat complemented with more quails egg, truffles, wild mushrooms and a  horseradish cream. It may all sound a bit busy but none of it overwhelmed the terrific centrepiece.

carpaccio

The next dish was probably voted our overall favourite – a cracking piece of sea bass with immaculately crispy skin, was perched on a beetroot risotto – probably the tastiest, definitely the prettiest food I’ve eaten all year. Grilled artichoke gave additional texture and flavour. Sadly the photo below fails to capture the vibrancy of the risotto, but let me asssure you it was simply lovely.

The “main” course was some excellent belly and fillet of pork with generous shavings of truffle and a sweet squash puree.  The potatoes  – a kind of champ duchesse – were probably the only less than excellent element of the whole night, having a rather unpleasant texture.

Coming towards an end now and we were treated to a very superior desert  – a somewhat deconstructed rhubarb crumble  cheesecake with rhubarb sorbet. The fruit came in a layered cocktail glass – a jelly, a compote and toped with a light crumble spiked with a touch of popping candy, some super- rich cream and a chocolate covered wafer filled, I think, with more cream and mascarpone.

rhubarb

A gratifyingly stinky collection of cheeses finished off what had been a memorable meal. Friends compared it very favourably to a tasting menu taken late last year at  Michelin-starred Glyn Purnell’s in Birmingham. At £45 this was better food, much better value, none of the corporate feel, and staff who not only put you at ease but were enjoying themselves. 

This kind of complexity is not going to convince everyone. But while there’s always a pleasure in, say, a simple salad picked fresh from the garden,  sometimes it’s nice to sit back and say to a chef “come on, impress me”. If that’s what you’re after, get to the Collyweston Slater quick.

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6 Responses to “The Collyweston Slater”

  1. Jessica & Mike said

    Wow- that sounds amazing, definitely one to put on the to do list. Thanks for the tip!

    I’m also intrigued by the idea of a beetroot risotto, and seeing as we got some in our Whetstone veg box this week I might just give it a go 🙂

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    • riponia said

      Excellent – I tried it as well with a freshly dug root from the allotment of Mr and Mrs Rhys-Jones. I went the roasting route and while it wasn’t a patch on the one at the Collyweston Slater it was very good. The roasting seemed to intensify the sweetness. I roasted in big wedges, then pureed half and added to the cooking risotto and cut the remainder into small chunks and added just before serving. That helped give colour as well as texture and the taste.

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  2. Kevin said

    Nice review Tim. This is definitely one to put on the Special List.

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  3. Neil said

    Great review Tim – just reading it makes me pine for a return visit. I should also add that Dameon rustles up a mighty fine breakfast for anyone staying over at the Collyweston … our bellies were too full from the previous night’s feast to manage anything more than some light and lovely scrambled eggs on brioche but the full english was tempting.

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  4. Jessica & Mike said

    Well, Jessica tried the risotto. Read here for how it went… http://www.community-harvest-whetstone.org.uk/recipes/beetroot-risotto

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  5. […] again in charge. I know strictly speaking this is outside Leics and Rutland but I’ve written several times about Coalville-boy Dameon’s cooking and am pleased he’s got another chance to do his […]

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