It is a great time of year to be eating game - and an even better time to be eating it at the William Cecil in Stamford, where head chef Phil Kent is the recently crowned Game Chef of the Year.
By way of celebrating his achievement at the CLA Game Fair in August, Phil put together a five-course game dinner at the Stamford hotel with wines perfectly matched by Chris Church from nearby Adnams wine store.
The first surprise of the night was the prosecco - fresh, crisp but not at all sharp, and punching above its weight for a very reasonably priced Adnams own brand.
The Gamekeepers broth - a delightful roasted pheasant, wild rabbit and hare soup - was everything I hoped for: warming, thick, tasty. Sautéed girolles added texture and shredded scallions an alternative flavour, and this came served with a peachy Saronsberg Viognier 2012.
I wasn’t sure what to make of the Burghley Estate venison carpaccio but it turned out to be beautifully seasoned and came with crisp confit salsify, unbelievably good smoked chestnuts with a leafy borage salad - and was accompanied by the first red of the evening, a full-bodied and fruity Mercurey 2013.
A palate cleansing iced Cointreau sorbet was followed by the main course - a choice of two. Pan seared breast of partridge and roasted leg, duchess potatoes, a rich, creamy parsnip puree and a real winner in the shredded thyme and maple sauce created a stunning collection of flavours that leapt off the plate. The Saint Joseph 2012, a classic Shiraz with a real peppery aftertaste, fitted like a glove.
The alternative was an excellent stuffed and rolled saddle of wild rabbit, which was a treat in itself, served with mini rabbit pie and fricassee of wild mushrooms, pearl barley, port syrup and red wine sauce. A real plateful accompanied by a Monte Real Reserva Rioja 2009 - silky smooth with all the qualities of a tempranillo.
The full on dessert wine - a Chateau Raymond Lafon Sauternes 2009 - grew on me - and was certainly more palatable in tandem with the fruitiness of the baked and pressed English pear tart tatin, salted caramel sauce, and the refreshing vanilla bean ice cream.