New venture from Masterchef Professionals winner 2019, Stuart Deeley, serving appealing dishes
Smoke is the latest incarnation of dining at Hampton Manor, a charming, family owned 5 star hotel in the delightful village setting of Solihull. Hampton Manor already has its Michelin starred Grace and Savour nestled in the Walled Garden grounds and by the conservatory of the estate lies their new, more casual eatery from Masterchef The Professionals winner, Stuart Deeley. The menu is modern British, but in a reassuringly, down to earth cooking style, served within an alluring and rustic setting. The food menus range in price from £60 for 4 courses at lunch to £80 for 4 courses at dinner. The dinner had on this occasion demonstrated vey warm hospitality from head chef and staff, a knowledgable sommelier who looked after us very well during the night and a gratifying menu throughout. I’d like to come back here and try their menu in a different season as this will be worth it.
The meal started with a series of canapés including crab tacos with mayonnaise and Granny Smith apple and pale ale crustades with a delightful Berkswell cheese and onion ketchup inside. Whilst the sourdough was more brown breadlike in its boule form, it was a good vehicle for the sensational butter that was subsequently hoovered up very quickly.
The table tried as many dishes as possible. First up on the starters was Chalk Stream trout, golden beetroot tartare with an elderflower and sour cream on top which was a great, new combination not had before and worked very well. The Devon smoked eel and tenderstem broccoli had a delightfully light preserved lemon foam around and the eel held a very good balance of saltiness.
The aged striploin tartare was another very good starter served with red pepper, orange and a glorious pine nut oil with a few pine nuts as well; this was a brilliant version of tartare for flavour combinations and nicely diced. Monkfish came with cocoa pod glaze, a lovely Jamón butter sauce and maitake mushroom – the Monkfish itself was cooked perfectly with a lovely, crisp exterior. In short I thought all starters were actually all knock out and a very good intro to the meal. An interlude course of Sea bass came with a smoked Espelette butter sauce and cocoa bean cassoulet which was very enjoyable, with quite a strong kick of espellette for two of the diners; perhaps if this was toned down even more it may be even more of a delicate dish.
The mains chosen were very tender Iberico pressa, artichoke, king oyster mushroom. The meat was melt in the mouth and the accompanying jus was deep and rich. Guinea hen, with thin and crispy skin, parsnip, black truffle likewise came with a superb jus that made the dish. Hereford cote de boeuf for two, came with a Béarnaise sauce, oak leaf and Lollo Rosso salad which was a very welcome bit of veg that was also a lovely salad with dill and garlic cream and dried onion sprinkled on top. The beef itself didn’t create fireworks in comparison to other cuts enjoyed at other options experienced at places such as Smith and Wollensky or The Cut at 45 Park Lane, but was cooked perfectly and came with a very generous helping of béarnaise. All was served with boulangère potatoes to share which is always a lovely touch for a table and looked very pretty. No skimming on the portion size here and the caramelised onions provided much sweetness.
The desserts were a pleasant mix. Coffee and Manjari delice with macadamia and coffee liqueur was a creative dish with snow-like textures. I thought the miso and brown sugar brulee was sensational made with mandarin and excellent gingerbread pieces. The custard was beautifully set with delicate sugar roof and a wonderful flavour combination with the miso and the lightly gingered bread pieces. The Colston Bassett, Pink Lady apple tarte tatin with lemon verbena was a fun dish to combine blue cheese with a dessert albeit being a little out of kilter. Cheese will always be good with a selection of sweet chutneys, fruit or sauterne jelly, so no issues with the two being together, but it was a little unclear whether they were to be combined fully or had separately (the blue cheese being quite overpowering for the available sweet) however, it was a fun and new dish.
Petit fours included passion fruit and misu macron along with hazelnut and chocolate chocolates. Such is the family orientated homeliness of Hampton Manor, we were ushered to having these by the fire in the main Manor drawing room which is also where we enjoyed a lovely welcome glass of sparkling wine when we arrived for staying over. This is such a simple and effective touch. Smoke is a short walk away from the Manor House, as is Grace and Favour, the latter having its own accommodation.
All in all, Smoke is a lovely and originally rustic restaurant with some quality dishes. I would recommend staying over at Hampton Manor if you are driving a distance to get to the restaurant as this is likewise a lovely place to stay as well – a spot of electric charging wouldn’t go a miss for a 5 star hotel, but then again I would say this driving one! I will be very happy to come back and try Smoke again in a different season.
Food Grade: 74%