Dine on the Queen’s efforts at Tichwell Manor

The menu at Tichwell Manor has what you’d expect: sea bass, pork loin and sole, among other staples. They are prepared prudently and presented with an aim to impress. The trained eye, however, will find a gem that’s not exactly hidden: organic red poll sirloin. The first label will catch the attention of the environmentally engaged, but “red poll” means much more – the former cow on the plate traces its roots back to the Queen.

Tichwell Manor sits across the street from a sea-adjacent marsh in Norfolk, England. The boutique hotel emphasizes a sense of home, with a teddy bear on every bed and old fashioned metal keys instead of the now ubiquitous key cards. Ostentation is eschewed in favor of the serenely mundane … which seems to be the underlying theme. What elevates Tichwell Manor to brilliant, though, occurs in executive Chef Eric Snaith’s kitchen.

At only 29, Snaith is a surprise in the top culinary job. He took the position to help the hotel’s owners, Ian and Margaret Snaith. Eric is their son, and the first taste of the first course of any of his meals makes it pretty damned clear that he’s doing much more than a favor to the family. The self-trained chef turns standard fare into edible masterpieces through the instinctive use of presentation, ingredient pairing and local sourcing. The last of these evokes plenty of passion from the main man in the kitchen.

[Photo of Sandringham Estate (where the cow used to live) by chris friese on Flickr]

For Snaith, the menu starts as close to home as possible. Herbs are pulled from the on-property garden that several guestrooms face. From there, he tries to stay within a 25-mile radius, as long as the goods are of sufficient quality – for scallops, for example, Snaith has to reach a little farther. The chef believes that it’s important “to have a source [for ingredients] that we can put on the menu.” Provenance matters – from confidence in the food to satisfying the guests.

This is a trend that’s gained importance in Britain over the past several years – provenance has arguably overtaken the other “green” factors considered in the food product space, such as organic. In general, it’s a point of pride, especially for that “red poll” sirloin.

Sandringham Estate lies not far from Tichwell Manor. It bears the distinction of belonging to the Queen (not the state) and is known for the quality of the organic livestock. The meat provided by Sandringham is distributed only to Tichwell Manor and two other restaurants, making it a rare product. Snaith balances the red poll sirloin with peas, oxtail, horseradish and risotto to craft an experience that is not to be missed.

You can find a solid executive chef at any number of English hotels, and Snaith measures up. But, Tichwell Manor is where you’ll come closest to dining with the Queen.

Disclosure: Visit Britain shelled out some cash for this experience, and British Airways supplied the flights.

Photo of the Day (4/11/07)

Flor
Tonight I’m going with a shot from my own photo pool to serve as a simple and small reminder on the upcoming Historic Garden Week all across the state of Virginia happening April 21-28, 2007. Not that I actually mentioned it before, but for those truly interested this is my cluing you in. This particular flower shot comes from the Norfolk Botanical Gardens where I paraded around the property slightly disappointed in the flower selection and the gray storm clouds looming over that day. While trying to make it through the entire outdoor Norfolk attraction without getting wet I managed to miss the name of this pretty flower. Anyone out there with a green thumb or fancy for flowers care to share the name?