Sal’s Kitchen reviews… Dan Moon at the Gainsborough Restaurant

Dan Moon has only been the head chef at the Gainsborough Hotel for 18 months, but he’s made such an impression that in July, the restaurant was renamed in his honour. With a fresh mix of seasonal inspiration, classic combinations and clever little twists, Dan Moon at the Gainsborough Restaurant is causing a bit of a stir – so naturally, I started feeling nosy and decided to find out what all the fuss was about.

The Gainsborough Hotel is the perfect place to head when you want to dress up and feel a little bit special. It’s fabulously grand, from the towering façade in golden Bath stone, to the elegant interior, recalling a Roman villa with its white columns and mosaic floors. The restaurant is particularly stunning – it’s classy without being dull, pale grey walls and crisp white tablecloths balanced by witty little details, like the jewel-coloured glass water goblets and the clean, sharp lines of the industrial-style light fittings. The staff are extremely attentive and very knowledgeable. And if I’m being completely honest with you, the tasting menu is an absolute steal at just £60 for 6 courses, or £88 with an accompanying wine flight.

Gainsborough Hotel
Bread heaven

We started with a little bread to nibble on – I’ve been to the Gainsborough once before and I hope Dan won’t be too offended when I say that the bread was one of my absolute favourite things. A selection of neat little loaves, one with ham and cheddar, one sprinkled with a mosaic of different seeds, and one with rosemary and sea salt, served with butter whipped into a lighter-than-air cloud and dusted with sea salt and black pepper. It was all so mouth-watering that even though we had plenty of other amazing things to eat, we ordered a whole second round of bread, and no, I’m not ashamed to admit that.

Getting down to business, our first actual course (top image) was a chicken liver parfait, with apple sorbet, granola, apple blossom and blackberry. I must admit that liver is not my favourite, but the combination (particularly with the blackberry) was really delicious.

 Gainsborough Hotel
Caramelised white onion velouté with wild mushrooms

For our second course, we tried a caramelised white onion velouté, with hazelnut puree, wild mushrooms, shavings of truffle and a little quail’s egg in crispy breadcrumbs. It was a much more autumnal dish than the first one, and the onion velouté was absolutely exquisite – rich and velvety, perfect with the wild mushrooms. The one thing I didn’t really like was the hazelnut puree. However, I did think the accompanying wine was a gorgeous match – a Cuatro Rayas Verdejo, with hints of fennel and a slight sharpness that was just right to balance the sweetness of the onion soup.

The third course was a smoked loin of rabbit, with confit rabbit and foie gras terrine, pickled radish and parsley puree. I absolutely love smoked game, and the big flavour was lovely combined with the sharpness of the radish. To wash it down, we had a Chenin Blanc from Stellenrust in South Africa – it was gorgeously aromatic, smelling of the most glorious ripe cantaloupe, and tasting of honey. The sweetness was delicious with the strong smoky game.

Gainsborough Hotel
King prawn risotto

Our fourth course might just have been my favourite – just thinking about it now is making my mouth water. Perfectly cooked, butter-soft sauteed scallops were served on top of a rich king prawn risotto, with yuzu pearls that burst in the mouth, seasoning the seafood with a bright spark of citrus. I could have eaten it three times over. The wine pairing was Trebbiano di Romagna, with a light peach flavour that complemented the scallop without overwhelming it.

For the fifth and final savoury course, we tried one of Dan Moon’s signature dishes – roast Creedy Carver duck, with a confit duck spring roll, plum and sesame. Of course, it’s not a ground-breaking flavour combination, but it was delicious – I particularly enjoyed the confit spring roll, which had a lovely combination of textures. We washed it down with a glass of Gran Ducay Gran Reserva, a big full-bodied red, packed with the flavour of redcurrants.

 Gainsborough Hotel
Dessert: a beautiful work of art

I always think that the mark of a good tasting menu is that you’re not too full for dessert, and in this case we just about made it. A deep, dark chocolate ganache was served with honeycomb, rhubarb sorbet and vanilla mousseline, and accompanied by a glass of Maury Lafage, which just happens to be my favourite dessert wine. I’m not normally a fan of fruit and chocolate, but the rhubarb went beautifully, and the homemade honeycomb was gorgeous.

In short, it was an exquisite meal in a gorgeous setting, and I can’t quite believe it comes at such a reasonable price. If you’re celebrating a special occasion (or heck, a Tuesday) then you’ve simply got to try it.

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