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A STAR UNDER THE STARS ///

Such has been the last twelve months that the idea of eating a Michelin starred meal inside the confines of a greenhouse doesn’t feel that strange. And here we are, tucked away in the garden of Hampton Manor in a working one, sat by the eucalyptus plant and being offered blankets with our welcoming glasses of Nyetimber, whilst the heaters above us warm the air that passes us on its way out of the ventilation points on all four sides. A menu rests on the table in front of us, tied with a little string and rolled-up so only the words ‘PEELS IN THE GARDEN’ is visible.

We are here: Spring has sprung, and only a slight frost from the last lockdown remains. The glug of the Nyetimber is a long one as I immerse myself in the terroir. The first night of freedom never felt so good. 

The idea of upping the formal setting of Peels and moving it to the garden for four weeks is a bold one that pays off instantly. The cuisine has always been led by what comes out of the ground that week, and here it feels more attached to its surroundings than ever. The highlights from the seven or so courses include wild garlic soup poured table side onto a potato salad with a jumble of herbs, before moving on to asparagus with bits of duck, cured yolk, and a Berkswell cheese sauce. Lamb comes as both pink fillet and braised breast, with sprouting broccoli and a sauce high in sherry vinegar gastrique. It all sings of spring; that wonderful season where the sun and the rain work together to make everything come to life. 

I won’t spoil the ending, but after the almond cake with the rhubarb jelly you are moved to an area which involves fire and blankets and making your own petit fours, from which I never wanted to return home, more so after indulging in the paired drinks and then some. It’s all change at Hampton; Peels have a new Head Chef in Darren Meacham, a new bakery is afoot, and those who choose to venture into the garden will see the bones of a very ambitious project in the works. But for now — for the next few weeks — they have the most incredible experience under the stars in their garden. It’s a cause for celebration. Normality is almost here. Peel's in the Garden →

MAKING A MASTERCHEF ///

Not content with teaching Masterchef The Professionals champ Stu Deeley how to make an omelette, Halesowen College have opted to keep their suppliers in business with possibly Britain’s best value ‘at home’ meals. Bistro at B63 serves up a weekly changing menu of two mains, two desserts and two soft drinks for a wallet breaking £12, or £15 if you make those drinks boozy. Sorry I haven’t told you this sooner but I’ve been looking at house prices in the Black Country. 

Speaking of Stu Deeley, he’s doing a rather beautiful menu over two weekends with the Bistro. Yours for £50 for two people (or £55 with wine), I suggest you beg for a slot immediately. Bistro at B63 →

GIN! FIREMUSIC! FOOD! GIN!!!

Got plans for May bank holiday? Cancel them immediately.

Campfire Feast's inaugural event — catchily titled Campfire Feast #1 — in a woodland near Ashby De La Zouch is an evening festival of food, fire, music and gin, hosted by Sipsmith on May 29th. Amongst the six courses is rumoured to be venison cooked over the flames with a paired smoked venison gin. Yes, really. I can smell the forthcoming hangover from here. Tickets here →

Each week I'll be sharing an insight into my food and drink highlights. 
Deb's Hot Sauce

Fellow Harbonite Deb makes hot sauce which is good and a sweet chilli jam that is life changing. We’ve progressed from the little jars to the special order half litre daddies, yours for a tenner. It will change your mediocre home cooking forever. Order via the 'gram →
 
Peacer 

Ordered a pie to eat whilst tipsy and some extra cold slices to eat the following day. It was my best decision all year. Peacer spent lockdown 3.0 reworking their dough and the tomato base. The hard work has paid off; superb. Website →
Jascots Wine 

Been getting some rather brilliant service from these suppliers to some of the best restaurants in the land. Case one is now but a dream with this Albariño the pick of an excellent bunch. Case two is being ordered imminently. Website →
The Plough

Trips one, two, and three of freedom were unsurprisingly to The Plough. Went off kilter by ordering pasta with beef ragu. Will 100% be ordering pasta with beef ragu from them again. I’ve missed you, bae. Book a table →
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