The Wicked Witch, Ryhall

November 30, 2012

Finally got over to Ryhall near Stamford this past weekend to get reacquainted with the work of Dameon Clarke at the Wicked Witch. I wondered whether he might have been chastened by the failure of his previous venture Assiette into a simpler, crowd-pleasing style.  Not a bit of it, it seems. The five of us who went over enjoyed a thrilling range of dishes, full of both invention and hard work.  It’s not really a place for those who like a simple, not-messed-about-with approach – which is an entirely honorable position to hold – but will delight those looking for exciting flavour combinations, artistic presentation and technical skill of  the “I couldn’t possibly reproduce this at home” variety. The venue is smart, but clings on to being a dining pub rather than just a restuarant. Nevertheless  it seems the kind of place to start with cocktails and they were very good  – the rhubarb and prosecco-based Rhububble being a particular hit. We started of with an amuse of earl-grey scented consomme with truffle – beautiful, elegant and ‘shroomy. My starter was a boned quail, wrapped in parma I thinnk,  coming with a fantastic quail scotch egg – runny yolk and all – and sweetish almond gazpacho. A great plateful of flavour and texture. Others enjoyed an immensely elegant beef carpaccio,with all sorts of little extras like more quails eggs and pickled mushrooms that had a hardened anti-fungi person on the turn. Seafood was well represented – a tuna sashimi starter was given a resounding ten out of ten, and other dishes of sea urchins and scallops also impressed. My main course showed the potential dangers of Clarke’s high wire approach  – you might think you shouldn’t do much to rump of salt marsh lamb but this had been given a long marinade resulting a strrong, almosy gamey flavour. I loved it, but others having a taste weren’t so sure. I loved the roasted sweetbreads with it too and the coriander risotto was suitably restrained – an overly assertive flavour here could have killed the dish   Lincolnshire beef with horseradish hashbrowns and roast beetroot went down very well –  a cod dish with gnocchi, seaweed and crispy chicken skin less so, though it was acknowledged this was down to personal preference rather any fault of cooking or ingredients.  I was enjoying myself far too much to take detailed notes but the other mains of pork and duck were throughly enjoyed for the liveliness and invention of the cooking. Deserts were extraordinarily pretty – I had a pecan tart with incredibly fine pastry and a maple syrup parfait that was just enough to moisten the fairly dry tart. And just look at the tonka bean desert with chocolate mousse and orange jelly  pictured right – what an absolute beauty.   The relentless pace of invention continued across the deserts  – a refreshing cider sorbet here, an intense grapefruit jelly there. By the end you definitely felt well fed, but you also felt entertained. Given the work that must go on in the kitchen prices are not that high – you could eat three very good courses for £30 plus drinks and service – and there’s nothing stuffy about the place. It adds up to a perfect place for those who want to push their culinary boundaries a little. Just wish it was a bit nearer Leicester.

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5 Responses to “The Wicked Witch, Ryhall”

  1. […] Finally got over to Ryhall near Stamford this past weekend to get reacquainted with the work of Dameon Clarke at the Wicked Witch.  […]

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  2. Neil said

    Cheers Tim … reading this has made me feel quite underwhlemed by the salad perched sorrowfully on my desk this lunchtime.
    An excellent night (aside from the unexpected bit of racist ‘banter’ from one of the locals afterwards) – I’d happily go back to The Wicked Witch again and again.

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  3. […] The seven restaurants include Hambleton Hall, Langar Hall, Berkeley Arms, Marquess of Exeter, The Olive Branch, The Red Lion (Stathern), and the Wicked Witch, Ryhall. […]

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  4. […] a pub in Leicestershire. I think of Brian Baker at the Marquess of Exeter, Dameon Clarke at the Wicked Witch and Adam Grey at The Red Lion in East Haddon as among the local boys who’ve returned from […]

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  5. […] the bad news.  The splendid Wicked Witch in Ryhall, near Stamford, closed this summer. Now the good news – it’s reopened […]

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