Really good food can make people nervous.
Most of us just aren’t used to it, if truth be told. Even if it’s not always open the packet, slam it in the oven or boil in the bag the amount of preparation seldom goes beyond varied forms of slicing and dicing.
And then there is all the paraphernalia of fine dining. So many pieces of cutlery. And don’t get me started on the mysteries of the Correct Wine. White for fowl, red for beasts and rosé for when you’re not sure.
For those of you who wish to take a tentative first step in fine dining I can heartily recommend the Titchwell Manor Supper Club which is proving quite a hit. Food as you normally only see on MasterChef (The Professionals that is) and very good company, if my experience is anything to go by.
Why is it good for the novice? Well, not to put too fine a point on it, you get what you’re given, saving all that agonising over choosing food you’re unfamiliar with. Here you receive an amuse-bouche, two starters, a main and a dessert. Each night is themed. Previously they have had mussels night and the like. When I went last Tuesday it was quail.
Always the food is locally sourced by Eric Snaith, who has been head chef at Titchwell Manor for 11 years (his parents have run it for the past 26 years).
“I want it to be a fun night and really show off the best of local food,” said Eric. “We have a really good mixture of people come in and the aim is to open their minds up to something a little different while enjoying good company.
“We call it a club but anyone can come. We just want people to have a good time.”
This local produce had not had far to come being produced by John and Ellie Savory, near Fakenham.
This young couple have only been in production for a few years and although tiny compared to the huge caged quail French producers they are up against are starting to make a name for themselves with their ethically-produced birds – the first ‘free-to-fly quail meat and eggs in the UK.
The quail night saw 56 pack into the bar of the pub. We started off with KFQ with sorrel mayonnaise, which was a delicious quail homage to the chicken in breadcrumbs served by a certain fast-food chain.
That was followed by coronation quail, poached quail, curry, pickled vegetables with sultanas, which showed off the versatility of the bird superbly. The quail may be small but it punches above its weight as far as flavour goes. Think game rather than chicken.
Next there was fried quail egg, English muffin, crispy quail, truffle and smoked hollandaise. My only brush with quail before was with the eggs and this ‘mother-and-child reunion’ showed it off to good effect.
The ‘main’ of quail breast, watermelon belly, kohlrabi and brown butter jus blended the differing tastes and textures of meat and fruit in perfect balance and the meal was superbly rounded off with mango, almond pannacota and verjus (yes, no quail).
The wine – readily replenished all night – was expertly chosen, One raised an eyebrow as a chardonnay (not everyone’s favourite apparently), but the French Domaine des Pourthie Chardonnay 2012 seemed the perfect accompaniment as did the Chilean red, vina Edmara pinot noir.
The supper club is held every six weeks or so on a Tuesday and costs £40, including wine and VAT. The next event is Simon Letzer’s Seafood and Norfolk Saffron evening.
Call Titchwell Manor on 01485 210221 if you are interested in attending and book a place at the table.
I am sure you will not be disappointed.