Last night I visited Hambleton Hall hotel in Rutland for a surprise birthday meal for my Dad’s 60th. I thought I’d share this with you as of course there was plenty of wine and the food was out of this world.
Hambleton Hall is special, its positioning on the outskirts of the stunning village makes it somewhat secluded, but its existence is no secret with 5 well-earned stars and a Michelin Star. The hall was built in 1881, way back when the reservoir wouldn’t have even existed but the views would have still been glorious. It was built originally as a hunting box by a chap called Walter Marshall, he hunted with the Cottesmore, Quorn, Belvoir and Fernie hounds, sensibly never marrying and living the life of a true bachelor. You’ll see lots of old hunting art, some of which has hilarious captions about the trials and tribulations of riding a hireling out hunting (that’s when you hire a horse for the day, can be quite risky). I have been lucky enough this year to have had a few days with the Cottesmore and the Quorn and I can see how the location of Hambleton Hall is in the mecca of hunting country, you can reach all of the best meets with ease and no doubt throw outrageous parties afterwards, it would have been perfect.
From old transcripts that have been found and no doubt poured over with excited eyes, it seems our Walter lived up to the hunting playboy image we can construct of him, right up until his death in 1899. He left the hall to his sister, Evangeline Astley Cooper, along with his shares from Cannon Brewery Company, something he had dabbled in in later life.
Eva died in 1944 and the hall was put on the market, some 40 years later presumably Lord Trent (the original owner of the pharmacy Boots), the purchaser, put it up for sale again and the current owners, Tim and Stefa Hart, have owned it since 1979.
Thank goodness a pair like Tim and Stefa Hart showed up because what they’ve done with the hall is remarkable really. It’s a fairly small hotel that has been tastefully decorated within and thanks to Rutland Water’s assemblage in the 1970’s the views have been transformed outside too. They have held their Michelin Star since 1982 and received a number of awards since, most recently The Good Hotel’s Guide 2018, Luxury Hotel of the Year César Award.
Hopefully all of that has set the scene for the location, now I’ll get stuck into the food and wine. It’s safe to say that Dad was a little overwhelmed by the wine list itself, pages and pages of extraordinary wine makes coming to a decision extremely difficult. Thankfully, the Sommelier, Dominique Baduel, came to the rescue and already knowing exactly what we were ordering suggested he choose us a white for the starters and a Syrah based red for the mains. I got a bit carried away asking Dominique a million questions about wine and asked if he could show me the Coravin method of extracting fine wines without removing the cork. This is where I should mention that all of the staff are very friendly and welcoming at Hambleton, they make you feel right at home and as if they have all the time in the world to listen to you yet somehow never leaving anyone else waiting.
The Coravin system was invented by Greg Lambrecht, a medical device inventor who had a passion for wine alongside his knowledge of innovative technology. Greg wanted to create something which allowed him to drink exceptional wine, without having to commit to the whole bottle. This isn’t a new idea, and Dad tells me that they did a similar extraction in The Haycock years ago but it’s new to me and perhaps to you too.
Here’s a video of the Coravin system in action with the bottle of white we started with:
As you can see and maybe hear, the needle goes through the foil and cork to extract the wine while a pump simultaneously fills the space in the bottle with inert argon gas. The needle is so fine that when it’s withdrawn the springy cork ‘re-heals’ and the wine will remain in the same condition and age as normal. Dad was a bit concerned about the needles cleanliness but after a little bit of research it looks as though it’s self-cleaning and founder, Guy, will happily prove to anyone that the needle will not transfer TCA. Of course, wine is a sentimental subject so people will always be suspicious of such modern technology handling sometimes, very old wines. However, I think we should celebrate that the Coravin is allowing people to try wines they would perhaps not have considered before due to the price of a bottle, or the fact that they simply can’t get their hands on it.
Clos Floridene, Graves Blanc, Bordeaux, 2014
Dad was starting with squid and my sister Harriet and I had opted for scallops so Dominique suggested this white wine. It’s 55% Sémillon, 44% Sauvignon Blanc and 1% Muscadelle. First of all, you notice that this wine is a lovely colour, it’s a very pale peach verging on orange. It’s quite pungent with sharp notes of Gooseberry and underlying notes of oak, I have to admit that the smell reminded me of cats it was that Sauvignon Blanc(y) and I was a bit scared. However, the taste is thankfully rich and floral in comparison.
It was surprising how much it changed after tucking into the citrus based dish of the scallops, the perfect pairing. The marinated scallops came with Yuzu, Miso and Apple so there were lots of tangy flavours to contend with, it was a complete education for my tongue, in fact the whole evening was.
Sijnn Red 2010, Malagas, South Africa
Dominique chose this as Dad had told him he liked Syrah based wines. This is a blend of; Syrah 41%; Touriga Nacional 27%; Mourvedre 18%; Trincadeira 10%; Cabernet Sauvignon 4% so predominantly Syrah heavy. My sister, Mum and myself were having the Merrifield farm duck and Dad went for the venison. This wine got me really quite merry, it’s knock your socks of red (14.5%) that’s delicious, leathery and earthy with hints of chocolate. Dad’s dish also had elements of chocolate in it which made this a taste explosion of richness alongside meatiness. It’s very dark crimson, robust and exactly what Dad wanted from a wine.
The duck was served with mandarin and black beans, I had mine medium-rare and as you can see it was simply exceptional.
Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos 2014 Hungary
This is a dessert wine that I had with a ridiculously delicious Almond Souffle. It’s sweet but not sickly, fresh but not sharp – a very refreshing end to the meal!
I also had a sherry – Puerto Fino – which sent me off to bed perfectly!
As we’re blessed to be living in a close vicinity of Hambleton and my mother’s recent aversion to alcohol (great for driving), it meant we didn’t stay for the night. However – if you’d like to it’s really important to know that this hotel lets you bring your dog on holiday too. As long as you let them know in advance, your canine companion can go on a wonderful little adventure too!
As always – please feel free to get in touch if you spot a mistake or would like to give me more information, or ask a question!