Stapleford Park, Stapleford
Caroline Bingham visits Stapleford Park to experience a Gourmet Evening culinary cruise
Stapleford Park is a magnificent country house sitting in 500 acres of Capability Brown- landscaped parkland and although it is only a short distance from Melton Mowbray and a busy road, the peace and quiet of its location enveloped us as soon as we arrived. I felt spoilt from the moment a young man appeared at the side of the car holding an umbrella and opened the door for me to step out.
We had come to experience one of Stapleford Park’s monthly gourmet evenings and the theme was ‘The Best of Around the World.’ We were also lucky enough to be staying overnight which seemed the ideal way to enjoy this six course menu with wine and not have to nominate which one of us would abstain and drive home.
Each room is individually designed and named and we were shown to ‘Savonerie’ to unpack and dress for dinner. This was an elegantly decorated, spacious room in the main house with views over parkland and the golf course in the distance. Given the choice I would have stayed for the whole weekend.
At 7pm we went down for pre-dinner drinks and enjoyed a glass of champagne and delicious canapés as we met some of our fellow Gourmet Night diners. There were fourteen of us in total seated comfortably at the covered playing table in the Billiard Room, including our wine expert from wine merchants, House of Townend. He had chosen a wine to accompany each course and would explain to us its provenance and give us some pointers to tasting wine effectively.
We started our ‘trip’ in France with Croque Madame; lightly toasted slices of brioche encasing ham, served with a soft poached egg. Our wine for this course was a Viognier, Vin de Pays called L’Aristocrate. I thought I could taste peach and apricot but we were then shown how to really get the nose of the wine before tasting it. Our wine expert explained how to get the air into the glass before taking a sip and trying to inhale air across our tongues and the wine to really make the flavour come alive. The ladies amongst us found it hard to aspirate in quite the right way without choking or dribbling wine down our chins but as I was sure this is a technique which needs practise, I looked forward to the next course and accompanying wine. It certainly was a quick way to break any remaining ice with the other diners and there was a relaxed, dinner party feel to the whole evening.
Our next port of call was Spain with tapas of pimientos Padron, tortilla Espanola and bunuelos de bacalao. These were served with a Tempranillo from Navarra called Pleno. I tried my wine tasting technique to better effect this time and could really begin to taste the red fruits in this wine.
Next, followed a course of classic sushi which was accompanied by Sake. I have tried this fermented rice wine in the past and decided to pass but the sushi was fresh and dainty with soy sauce and wasabi as condiments.
We continued our Far Eastern part of the tour with red snapper fillet wrapped in banana leaf served with coconut fragrant rice. This Thai inspired dish was served with a Colombard called Malaga from Monsoon Wines. I hadn’t realised there were Thai wines before and certainly never tried one so this was an entirely new experience. We were told that the vineyard is located on a former elephant compound and it definitely had a trace of pachyderm to it.
Our first dessert was a beautifully presented tropical fruit Pavlova served with a Semillon called Noble from Mitchell vineyards in the Clare Valley, Australia which was a lovely combination of exotic fruits in this not too sweet dessert wine. There then followed a second dessert called peanut butter and jelly, as our course from America. A parfait of berries was sandwiched with a disc of grape jelly between peanut butter cookies and served with a very dramatic spun sugar frond and marshmallows. My favourite wine of the evening was served with this course. Elysum, a black Muscat dessert wine is from the Andrew Quady vineyard in California which oozed cassis. We finished our world tour with coffee and petit fours.
Head chef, David Ellams, had certainly taken our taste buds to many parts of the globe and we congratulated him and his team when he came to talk to us over coffee. The variety of the wines and the expert guidance had really added to our enjoyment of the evening, especially the chance to sample wines I would not have dared to buy by the bottle without trying first.
Each month the Gourmet Evenings have a different theme with the next one being ‘Champagne and Shellfish’ on 20th May. Stapleford Park has a range of dining options ranging from afternoon tea served in the drawing room to casual dining in the Lounge or Old Kitchen to fine and private dining in the Grinling Giddons Restaurant.