Leicestershire and Rutland may not be the UK’s biggest region, but its culinary scene is growing fast. Over the past few years interest in food has surged in the area, with more cafés, gastropubs and restaurants opening up than ever before. We chat about the region’s gastronomy with Aaron Patterson, head chef at Michelin-starred Hambleton Hall.
Aaron has been heading up the Hambleton Hall kitchen for 24 years, and in that time has seen many trends in the industry come and go. ‘Recently, I’ve noticed gastronomic trends have gone full circle,’ he says. ‘People have grown tired of dishes that exist merely to show off an array of technical skills. Food now is all about simplicity, maintaining clarity of ﬂavour and sourcing the ﬁnest-quality ingredients.’
As Aaron explains, sourcing top-quality ingredients is not difficult in a region renowned for its excellent produce. ‘It’s important to me to support local producers, but quality is something I will not compromise on,’ he says. ‘We are fortunate enough in this area that we have the best of both worlds, with some of the most dedicated producers who work tirelessly to ensure that the ﬁnest ingredients are available right here on our doorstep.’
Aside from things like the game and freshwater fish the region is celebrated for, there’s plenty of opportunity for foraging too. According to Aaron, ‘hedgerows are great for things like berries, horseradish, and ﬂavoursome weeds such as hogweed and chickweed, which I like to incorporate into springtime menus at Hambleton.’ He continues, ‘our riverbanks also yield fantastic ingredients including watercress and wild garlic.’
For those of us for whom cooking is more of a hobby than a career, it can be difficult to know where to look for delicious local produce. We asked Aaron for some recommendations:
‘Places like the Rutland County Show and Melton Mowbray Farmers’ Market are fantastic for celebrating the region’s excellent produce. There’s such a vast array of exciting ingredients, from unique local cheese to the ﬁnest wild rabbit; engage with the sellers and you’ll discover some true gems.’
With its exceptional produce, fantastic eateries and bounteous food markets there’s never been a better time to dine in Leicestershire & Rutland. As Aaron says, ‘It’s going to be another exciting year here in Leicestershire and Rutland, so go out and appreciate the brilliant ingredients, fantastic suppliers and great restaurants on your doorstep.’
Read the latest review of Hambleton Hall here and for more about dining in the region, check out the latest edition of the Leicestershire & Rutland Food & Drink Guide.