CUISINE AND CULTURE AT COMPTON VERNEY
By Ann Evans
Photos courtesy of Rob Tysall, Tysall’s Photography
Although it’s very nearly the end of the season for enjoying everything on offer at Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park in Warwickshire, there’s still time to see some amazing exhibitions – and to treat yourself to some of their delicious food.
But it’s not just a matter of eating at Compton Verney, the main thing is to enjoy the rich diversity of paintings, sculptures and fantastic creations both historic and contemporary. And the team at this historic building and park have created a mix of classic and modern, old and new, which go hand in hand perfectly.
There are six permanent exhibitions to discover: Chinese Bronzes, Neapolitan art, British Folk Art, British Portraits, Northern Europe Art and the Marx-Lambert Collection plus temporary exhibitions. Currently you can see the thought provoking Periodic Tales: The Art of the Elements. With more outstanding events planned for next year.
Compton Verney are all for getting the whole family involved, with activities for the children and guided tours to help everyone get the most out of their visit. And of course there’s the 120 acres of parkland and lake landscaped by Capability Brown if you just want to stroll and enjoy the fresh air.
The house and grounds belonged to the Verney family from the 15th century. The house was rebuilt in the Georgian era. However the 19th baron sold it all off in 1921 after which the house gradually deteriorated although it was commandeered in World War II by the army for smoke screen testing. It was also the setting for A Midsummer Night’s Dream staring Judy Dench in 1968; and the BBC’s series The Bell in 1981.
In 1993 the site was bought by The Peter Moores Foundation and later gifted to the specially-created charitable trust – Compton Verney House Trust. A multi-million pound restoration project turned it into the magnificent art gallery of today.
Progress and new development never stop. Current projects include the pathways being re-established; and a brand new new visitor’s welcome centre being built ready for the spring.
If you’ve worked up an appetite during your visit, you can enjoy light bites such as jacket potatoes, soup, cakes, scones etc. at the Compton Verney Café or a waiter service lunch in The Lawn Restaurant with an excellent choice of hot options for starters, mains and desserts, a good selection of wines and a children’s menu too.
Restaurant Manager, Simon Marsh made photographer Rob Tysall and myself very welcome on our visit to The Lawn Restaurant, which has a friendly, fresh and bright ambience. There was lots of choice on the menu. Starters included autumn soup of the day, duck liver pate, smoked salmon and crayfish tian – which Rob chose; and Portobello mushrooms stuffed with Welsh rarebit – my choice.
It has to be said, both starters were beautifully presented and totally delicious in their own ways. The smoked salmon and crayfish tian was light and fresh with its micro herbs and wholemeal toast. And the two large Portobello mushrooms were so tasty I asked for the recipe!
With Christmas approaching, Rob chose roast crown of turkey with duck fat roasted potatoes, stuffing, vegetables and cranberries with the presentation given a delightfully modern twist. All beautifully cooked by head chef Ricky Leemoore.
My main course was stone bass on a bed of green salad, with baby potatoes, tomatoes and olives. I’d never had stone bass before and enjoyed it immensely. Lovely crispy skin and a very nice tasting fish which worked well with the olives.
Restaurant Manager, Simon suggested a French Sauvignon Blanc to accompany the fish courses and a Chardonney tierra antica from Chili to accompany the turkey. Excellent choices.
Although neither of us really had room for a dessert, it was impossible to resist. Rob had blackberry and apple pie with custard and I had spiced plum upside-down ginger cake with custard. And despite the fear that it might be heavy, it was as light as a feather.
Rob said, “All the dishes looked perfect and tasted beautiful. The chefs had got the balance just right. In particular the fruit pie wasn’t too sweet, as sometimes puddings can be. But this was just perfect, you could really taste the fruit.”
The desserts, cakes and scones for the restaurant and the café are baked by chef Pat Brain. She popped out to smile for our camera along with head chef Ricky Leemoore and Executive chef Tim Potten.
Tim explained that he is part of the New Folium based in Banbury, who also caterer for weddings and special events. Becoming a chef was a natural progression for him, as his father, grandfather and uncle are all chefs.
“Here at Compton Verney we source the products as local as possible, and make the menus seasonal wherever we can. We’re quite a small close knit team which is nice. You get to know people on a personal level.”
Head chef Ricky Leemoore had worked at Walton Hall previously to coming to Compton Verney. He said, “I hadn’t planned on being a chef after leaving school but I can’t imagine doing anything else now.”
Further details at: http://www.comptonverney.org.uk/