Restaurant Review: The Avenue, Lainston House (March 2020)

Phil Yeoman’s return to Lainston House, now as Executive
Chef, allows full scope for his creative talents. He runs a calm kitchen of
five chefs, an approach which aids retention which in turn promotes consistency
in cooking. Ideas for new dishes are bounced around his team and adapted before
appearing on the menu.  They may appear
first in The Avenue, the Chef’s Table opposite the passe, where six diners can
comfortably watch Phil and his team dress dishes on the six course tasting
menu. This theatre of food showcases the depth and breadth of his rejuvenated
passion for cooking.

[Executive Chef Phil Yeomans at The Chef’s Table]

Phil’s cuisine, based on the classics but employing modern
techniques, is unashamedly complex. Dishes are multi-component, showing a
skilled approach with a clear understanding of technique and flavour. Invention
is tempered with a keen culinary intelligence. Combinations of ingredients may
occasionally surprise, but all satisfy in terms of taste, texture and
temperature. Often using seasonal and local ingredients, including those from
the hotel’s Kitchen garden, dishes might also include more exotic produce
reflecting his travels as a chef. Cooking is accurately timed, seasoning is judicious,
and saucing accomplished but restrained. Presentation is clean and precise,
devoid of elaborate flourishes, each element serving a purpose on the plate.

Fine Dining Guide visited The Avenue on a mid-week evening
in March, finding much to admire in the chef’s tasting menu – there is a
vegetarian alternative –  and flight of

Lainston Canapes

A trio of canapes served with pre dinner drinks delighted in
their creativity and meticulous attention to detail. These included freshly
cooked crisp coated arancini exuding the heady aroma of truffle; dainty lemon
emulsion tarts; and delicate chicken crackers with chicken crumble which simply
melted in the mouth.

Lainston Bread

A selection of well baked breads comprised seeded roll, herby
rosemary focaccia and, best of all, an accomplished brioche with paprika and

Lainston Mousse

An amuse bouche featured an ethereally light foam of Lyburn
cheese from Winchester layered onto sweet onion puree seasoned with Worcestershire
sauce. These deep, rich flavours and soft textures were balanced by crunchy croutons,
fresh apple cubes and a drizzle of spicy lovage oil.

Lainston Trout

Another local ingredient was expertly employed in the first
course.  Chalk Stream Rainbow trout,
farmed in Romsey on river Test, cured in Bombay Sapphire gin and spices had a
firm texture and vibrant flavour. Dressed in yuzu to cut through the oily fish,
it worked well with candied and pickled beetroot with beetroot jam, which
provided an earthy freshness. Finally, a brilliantly innovative yuzu, white
chocolate and horseradish ice cream, at once giving elements of sweet, sour and
spicy tastes, elevated the dish to higher plane. The zesty Chablis with orchard
flavours did full justice to this composite fish dish.

[Wine: Chablis, Domaine Colette Gros, Burgundy, France 2018]

Lainston Celeriac

A complex autumnal vegetarian course saw the distinctive
earthiness of tender salt baked celeriac and celeriac puree paired with the creamy
nuttiness of gruyere cheese. These were complemented, but not overwhelmed, by
crispy onion crumb for a little acidity, pickled blackberries for sourness, and
Marsala jelly for richness. Shitake mushrooms (from Fundamentally Fungus), black truffle oil
and micro rocket gave contrasting elements in taste and texture. As a final
flourish which imitated the shaving of truffle, caramelised white chocolate
which had been cooked at 90 degrees for 12 hours, was grated over the top at the
table. This was not just a playful theatrical effect as the chocolate gave a
gentle sweetness, reminiscent of Caramac, the dish needed. Overall, this was a tour
de force
of vegetarian cookery which balanced a variety of flavours and
textures in satisfying mouthfuls. The matching white wine, with its hint of oak
and citrus notes, proved a well-chosen partner.

[Wine: Vidal, Reserve Chardonnay, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand 2017]

Lainston Halibut

Perched on a base of sweet cauliflower puree, an accurately
timed fillet of halibut had glistening white flakes of meaty fish. These mild
flavours were given a lift by an intensely rich crab bisque, a crisp crab and
tapioca crisp and a light crab foam. Fresh apple and calamansi jam added a
zingy freshness, making this another perfectly balanced dish. The accompanying
fresh white Burgundy, with notes of white peach with a hint of chalk matched
this course well.

[Wine: Bourgogne Aligoté, Domaine Roux Père & Fils, France 2018]

Lainston Pork

The beautifully presented meat course starred pork belly
which had been cured for 3 days in wild garlic salt cure, smoked in house, then
slow cooked for 24 hours. Inevitably, the result was beautifully succulent,
fully flavoured, melt in the mouth porcine treat. A bon bon of pork shoulder
added a barbequed smokiness. Turnip puree and pickled baby turnips, and compressed
fresh apple compote were suitable accompaniments, while a baby potato croquette
with wild garlic, apple blossom, and a light sauce served separately completed
the dish. My only reservation, as a greedy carnivore, was that I would have
liked a bigger portion of pork, but this understandably would have imbalanced
the whole tasting menu! Nevertheless, such a refined and elevated classical
dish needed a classical, rich red wine, in this case served Coravin style

[Wine: Chorey-Les-Beaune, Domaine Tollot-Beaut, Burgundy 2017.]

Lainston Souffle

The first hot and cold dessert proved to be an excellent
palate cleanser. Passion fruit souffle was well risen, fluffily textured with
an appealingly sweet tartness. The accompanying coconut Malibu sorbet was
smooth and intensely flavoured. The lingering citrus finish of the sweet wine
worked well with this course.

[Wine: Royal Tokaji Late Harvest, Furmint, Harslevelu, Hungary 2016]

Lainston Dessert

The skills of the pastry section were also shown in the
second layered dessert. The gentle bitterness of dark chocolate and lemon
ganache was balanced by a honey cremeux of velvet like texture. A ginger
biscuit base gave texture and a quenelle of honey ice cream gave added richness
with a contrasting temperature. This accomplished, boldly flavoured dessert
deserved the glass of rich Maury which partnered it.

Wine: Lafage, Maury Grenat, Vin Doux Naturelle, France

Lainston Chocolates

Homemade orange, caramel and Baileys chocolates, worthy of a
master chocolatier. completed a memorable meal, one showing harmony and balance
within each course and across the whole menu. The chef himself was at hand to
explain the composition of the dishes and the techniques employed. In addition,
sommelier Alberto, who has served Lainston in various roles for 19 years,
showed an extensive knowledge and expertise which enhanced our enjoyment of the

Clearly, the Chef’s Table at The Avenue is the highlight of
the food and drink offering at Lainston House – a true gastronomic experience.
Phil Yeoman’s reputation as master chef is well established, and his current
tenure shows him at the height of his powers. Fine Dining Guide wishes him
continued success and will follow his career with interest.

from Fine Dining Guide