Ambition is a trait I really admire. Therefore head chef of the Ryder Grill, William Dimartino, is someone I immensely admire. Rather than taking the easy route and slinging out the same dishes month in, month out to his captive audience of golfers and businessmen, he has introduced a seasonal a la carte menu. Each menu will be launched via a two night, seven course tasting menu – priced at the ridiculously generous £40 (with wine pairing at £25) – and I was lucky enough to be invited along to the first summer menu tasting.
We start the evening with amuse bouche which come in the form of pork cheek croquettes, topped with a burnt apple puree and wholegrain mustard. Classic flavours, with tender pork enclosed in a crisp shell, these are a winner with the whole table.
Lichfield asparagus, duck egg mayonnaise, brioche crumb and burnt onion powder combine in my favourite dish of the evening. Served chilled, it’s light and refreshing whilst still packing a huge amount of flavour. I also get some serious plate envy at this point.
A solid rendition of a chicken liver parfait is up next, made more interesting by it’s companions: savoury granola, pineapple, vanilla gel, demerara sugar, rum and garlic flowers. Nice, but if I was choosing a starter from the a la carte menu the asparagus would win hands down.
Sea trout divides the table, with nearly half of us professing their hatred for trout. The chef happily whips them up an alternative, but their loss is my gain; the sea trout topped with a chorizo crumb works perfectly, although I’m not so keen on the almond puree that accompanies the fish.
Up next is confit shoulder of lamb and rack of lamb, served with artichoke hummus, sweet red pepper oil, broad bean and feta. It’s probably the only dish of the evening that doesn’t work in the tasting menu – although I do think it would be fine as an a la carte main, here there is too much food. The cooking of some elements wasn’t quite right, but I’ll chalk that up to first night nerves. The artichoke hummus was bloody outstanding though. I’m still dreaming of it weeks later.
The entire table agreed that both desserts were outstanding. ‘Creme Brulee’ appeared as a bite sized puff of pastry, with beautifully sweet poached strawberries, dehydrated strawberries, basil and creme fraiche. My companion’s plate was licked clean before I’d even taken a photo – that’s how good it was.
Passion fruit tart was served with meringue, mango gel, brioche breadcrumbs, chocolate and coconut sorbet. Tropical flavours and faultless execution, this was declared a star of the evening.
Service struck a perfect balance between being friendly and formal, with the staff clearly passionate and all knowing their stuff. I can’t tell you too much about the wine – I was too engrossed in the food – other than that they were all lovely and very well matched. Dimartino’s ambition has led to a an interesting and well-executed menu which I would happily eat again. Especially for £40 bloody quid – it’s criminally good value.
I was invited to the taster evening as a guest. Information about The Ryder Grill and details of the next taster evenings can be found here. The Belfry Hotel can be found on Lichfield Road, Sutton Coldfield, B76 9PR.