THE Stag and Huntsman is nestled within the pretty village of Hambleden and this year there is a special Valentine’s menu available all over the weekend of February 14 to 16. Last week, I was invited to test the menu.
The dining room is very atmospheric, sumptuously decorated with red velvet curtains and art nouveau wallpaper.
The wine list had an excellent selection of old and new world with prices to suit all. We chose a bottle of Pontè Pietra, an Italian Rosato, which complemented our meal choices.
To start, I chose the roast asparagus with crispy Serrano ham, poached egg and hollandaise sauce. The locally-grown asparagus was fresh and vibrant and the mixture of smoky ham with rich egg and hollandaise was truly indulgent.
The combination is a classic and it was executed perfectly. My partner chose the tempura fried oysters with Bloody Mary sauce. The dish was beautifully presented in a bowl and decorated with a celery leaf. The delicate oysters were complemented by the punchy sauce; I could taste a hint of vodka and celery mixed in with the fresh tomato. This was an innovative and exciting dish.
A pink Champagne sorbet was then served — fresh and zesty with a hint of grapefruit. It was a lovely touch to this special Valentine’s meal and was the perfect palate cleanser.
Chef Connor O’Shey created the most stunning feast for us with the main courses.
My choice was a pan-fried chicken breast served with a beurre blanc sauce, pomme purée, sun-blushed tomato mousse with baby leeks and carrots for me. Every element of the dish was seasoned and cooked perfectly but the tomato mousse was a triumph. It bound the dish together to form something fresh and dynamic. I urge the head chef to make this dish a permanent fixture on the menu as it really was heavenly.
My partner’s choice of main was an unexpected surprise and yet another triumph — a slow-braised shoulder of lamb tian, with crispy lamb croquette, mushroom-stuffed cabbage leaf, wild mushrooms and a rich mushroom sauce. It looked nothing short of Michelin standard — and tasted just as good.
The local lamb was juicy and tender, and the mushroom sauce complemented it perfectly. But it was the golden croquette and stuffed cabbage leaf that really set this dish off.
For pudding, I chose a generous portion of raspberry crème brulée topped with a tortoiseshell disc of caramel. This was delicious — the sharpness of the berries contrasted perfectly with the sweet custard.
Our other sweet offering was a chocolate nemesis served with a blood orange sorbet. This was beautifully presented — a rich, gooey brownie-style chocolate cake which had a crisp edge but was soft and warm in the middle.
The chocolate kick was offset by the burst of citrussy flavour from the sorbet. These were two delicious, indulgent desserts which were the perfect end to our romantic Valentine’s meal.
The Valentine’s menu has choices to suit all palates and costs £35 per person, which, taking into account the excellent quality of cuisine and service, we considered to be very good value.
To book for a Valentine’s meal, call the Stag and Huntsman on (01491) 571227. Visit www. thestagandhuntsman.co.uk for menu details and future offers.