Tasting menus are a talking point for a whole range of reasons. For some customers they represent the ideal – turning a regular meal out into a special event. After all, a tasting menu provides an opportunity to enjoy a wide range of ingredients, flavours, textures and techniques in a way that could only usually be experienced by multiple visits to a restaurant. Best of all they achieve this without any of the risks of palate fatigue that come with the larger platings associated with a la carte.
For the chef, tasting menus are a win-win scenario (unless you count the extra work involved, of course). Beyond the obvious fact that they afford a chance to showcase a wider range of skills and produce, they also make it possible to better control the supply chain. In comparison to the unpredictability of a la carte, there’s less wastage (and so greater freshness), more opportunities to adapt to the changing seasons, and an ability to construct a meal with a greater sense of flow and progression.
There is, of course, a downside or two. Not everybody wants all the bells and whistles, for one thing. Sometimes people simply want to be fed well and in a timely manner. Tasting menus also inevitably reduce or even eliminate choice for the diner. Not everybody wants to place themselves wholly in the hands of the chef. People have preferences. They like to choose.
With all this in mind, we’ve been working to develop a new approach to our menus. The aim is to offer an ideal middle ground, with a trio of multi-course menus that combine a customer-chosen backbone of starters, mains and desserts, with a series of chef-selected ‘inter-courses’ that link everything together. Changing on a seasonal, often even daily basis, these additional courses will be just as crucial to the overall meal as those primary elements… just as they would be in a more familiar tasting menu format.
We’re not reinventing the wheel here. It’s not something that hasn’t been tried before. But we’ve spent a good deal of time over the last few months (hence the lack of blog updates) developing something that gives will hopefully deliver the best of both worlds… for both the kitchen and our diners. In doing so it will also give us the freedom to push our style of cooking even further. To that end we’ve been hard at work tweaking a few old favourites, including Skate on Ice, Pork in Orchard and Beef on a Drystone Wall, as well as developing a good number of innovative new dishes equally inspired by our fantastic local produce and its natural environment.
The new tasting menus, dubbed allium5, allium8 and the allium12, are set to launch in the next few weeks. Watch this space for further details and a sneak peek at some of the exciting new dishes we’ll be offering. The evolution continues…