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The Leaping Hare, Wyken Vineyard, Stanton

The Leaping Hare

“The Leaping Hare? Splendid... jump to it!”

Reviewed 4 March 2014

This was a pre-planned cop-out from self-catering on the day before my wife and I departed from a few days’ holiday in Suffolk. It was the right choice!
We ate lunch in the restaurant. The menu straightaway reassured with plenty of reference to seasonal and local ingredients.
My pigeon breast starter was delightful. The artichoke and garlic puree undercut the sweet, seared richness of the perfectly cooked meat.
My wife’s smoked pheasant and bacon salad was just as flavoursome but sprawled across the plate in contrast to the pigeon’s careful triangular placement. Maybe this suggested too large a portion to my wife. I minded little as I was invited to finish it off!
We were tempted by all the mains but both chose lamb… and then sat grinning stupidly and smugly at each other as we tucked in. The confit shoulder was as rich and sexy as George Clooney but the rack managed to impress equally with tender nuggets of more delicate flavour. I confess to dribbling mentally; at the quality of cooking… not thoughts of George!
The Wyken Vineyard wines were a great accompaniment here. We side-stepped the problem of seeking out a ‘guest’ Pinot Noir or gamey Rhône to match the different approaches to cooking the meat. Rather, we had a glass each of the Bacchus and the Madeleine Angevine. Sunshine through the barn windows was a distant echo of what the grapes had struggled to find in a difficult growing season. Those grapes have still produced lovely wines which, although not our usual choice, seemed totally in keeping with the occasion.
Time for the pastry chef to shine! Our desserts did not disappoint. Crème fraiche tart, apple and star anise compote with blackberry sorbet gave my wife a well-judged hit of creaminess and tangy accents. I insisted on the truly seasonal blood orange and buttermilk panna cotta with rhubarb. Panna cotta was good and behaved well with enough wobble. Blood orange jelly atop (once it was turned out) gave just enough hint of its shy citrus. The rhubarb was a challenge, taken no further than blanching. However, this allowed the leaf stalk to state its proper qualities honestly - and I did enjoy that honesty! The scatter of crunchy, gingery crumble was just the element to complete a fine plate of contrasting textures and harmonious flavours.
Service was attentive but not intrusive and the restaurant support of ‘Slow Food’ meant that we could forgo requests for a break between courses.
We were relaxed by the atmosphere and surroundings but most of all we were seduced by cooking from a kitchen on top of their game. I know we asked for our thanks to be given to those responsible but I’ll repeat them here.
Prices are reasonable for food of this standard - we have reluctantly paid the same for so much worse.
I have to reserve an excellent rating for other, even more deserving, places. However, this was certainly a great way to spend an afternoon and gave as much overall pleasure as any other food outlet we have visited.
We have just about exhausted our sight-seeing in Suffolk but we would gladly make this restaurant our excuse for another visit.

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