The Toft Country House Hotel and Golf Club, Bourne
Caroline Bingham visits The Toft Country House Hotel and Golf Club
The love of the hospitality industry runs in the blood of certain families and successive generations excel in their field. This is proving to be the case with the Reid family. Robert and Julia Reid, with a pedigree themselves of over thirty years’ experience in the hotel and catering trade, have very valuable assets in their daughter Isobel and chef son-in-law Adam.
While Julia concentrates on their Jackson Stops Inn at Stretton and Robert continues with his catering side of the business, Isobel and Adam are at the helm of this busy country house hotel and golf course just outside Bourne.
We visited The Toft Country House Hotel on a Friday evening and the bar was already busy with a mix of nineteenth hole refreshment takers and early evening diners. The bar is relaxed and well furnished with lots of inviting chairs and cushions to sink into. After a drink and making our choices from the dinner menu we were shown to our table in the restaurant. This is a spacious room with large windows, which in daylight give a pretty view over the hotel gardens and golf course opposite. On this evening we were thankful for the drawn curtains, which kept us cosy and warm.
My companion already had high expectations, as one of her judging criteria for any menu is how many choices she could have happily made. There were several on this occasion and I had to agree; this is a well thought out dining offer.
For starters I chose a timbale of home ‘hot’ smoked Shetland salmon, freshwater crayfish, North Atlantic prawn and dill with a lemon and baby caper dressed baby leaf salad while my companion had potted Cromer crab, lemon and baby caper dressed salad, served with freshly baked bread. Other options were pearls of galia, honeydew and cantaloupe melon; a three bird terrine of Toft pheasant breast, Gressingham duck breast and free range corn fed chicken supreme, wrapped in Parma ham; free range chicken liver and Gressingham duck liver pâté, or a chef’s homemade soup of the day.
The contrast of textures and flavours was excellent in the timbale. Clean and refreshing, it was my idea of a perfect starter. The crab was judged to be perfectly pitched, spreadable yet meaty with its buttery lid.
For our main course I continued along the fish theme with oven baked paupiette of line caught Rutland Water trout, served over saffron scented fondant potato with a chive and parsley sauce vierge. My fellow diner chose Doom Bar ale, Groovy Foods farm Aberdeen Angus steak and flat mushroom pie, encased in golden, buttery shortcrust pastry. We shared a dish of five seasonal vegetables, served piping hot and perfectly cooked. I thoroughly enjoyed the trout; a hearty portion yet not overwhelming with its delicate sauce. The pie, I was told, was rich and meaty with delicious gravy. A side portion of chips did defy my companion’s appetite but accompanying a great seasonal dish. Our other choices could have included Somerset brie, sautéed button mushroom, cranberry and chestnut puff pastry wellington served with a white wine parsley sauce; fillet of haddock wrapped in Parma ham and served over parsley scented mashed potato with a white wine velouté; twice roasted honey glazed Grasmere belly pork served over caramelised apple and thyme mashed potato with a sage and calvados jus, or slow braised lamb shank served over a root vegetable and garlic trivet with a cooking liquor and redcurrant reduction.
Desserts were equally enticing. I had a berry and custard tart served with ice cream and berry compote, while my companion finished her meal with chocolate Pavlova, topped with Belgian chocolate ice cream, homemade brownie pieces and white chocolate sauce. These definitely made show-stopping finales to our meal but equally we would have been happy with a selection of local cheese and biscuits, or maybe traditional vanilla crème brûlée with cranberry shortbreads or baked wild blackberry and vanilla cheesecake with Toft pear sorbet and blackcurrant puree.
Every dish was served with a smile and the utmost professionalism. The Toft is right on course to please its diners.