It’s Friday lunch time. Judging by the number of posh motors in the Hambleton Hall car park, quite a few people are starting the weekend early.
Hambleton Hall overlooks Rutland Water, the largest man-made lake in Western Europe. (It’s good hiking, sailing, fishing and riding territory.) The house is actually older than the water, explaining why some views from inside, such as from the dining room, are a bit less impressive than you might expect. Though grand, the building’s scale is one step down from the full stately home experience. Given this relatively homely scale, it might be better if the service was a bit more laid-back. But service though impeccably correct, is formal and efficient to the point of intrusiveness. Perhaps that explained why many of the couples perusing menus in the elegant parlour sat in hushed silence, or exchanging whispers.
One side of the menu is devoted to a selection of good-value menus, available at various times during the week. This helps temper the vertigo induced by the prices opposite, where main dishes are typically £30-£40. Aaron Patterson’s cooking, however, is sure-footed and deeply rooted in classical style. Main dishes avoid flashy combinations and are weighted to first-class game and meat dishes. Fireworks tend to be reserved for the twiddles: a beautiful, if simple foie gras amuse bouche, wonderful bread, artful puddings and some interesting petit fours (white chocolate with olives anyone?).
Owner Tim Hart is a well-known wine lover and the list — though French-inclined, and including a good number of wallet-emptying bins — has numerous and varied mid-priced options. So, if you’re looking for a destination for a traditional-style blow out, away-day or weekend stay, this is a destination which – if certainly no bargain – has a good deal going for it.