Review: Walled Garden Feast
Restaurants are all well and good, but luxe safari style dining is all the rage daahling, don't you know? We dropped in on the latest pop-up sensation in Lamport Hall's stunning walled garden to find out what all the fuss is about.
The fascinating and often tumultuous history of Lamport Hall has seen some wild and wonderful characters in residence and these rather gorgeous walls have battled their way through many a storm. At various times Lamport has been a family home, flats, a country club, an army base, prisoner of war camp and the Northamptonshire Records Office but, having been restored to its former glory by the last residing Baronet, Sir Gyles, in the 1970s, the stately home was placed in trust to be used as a centre of culture and education.
Lamport is probably best known for its historic art and furniture collections, elegant formal rooms and gracious musical soirees. Trad jazz in the gardens and chamber music concerts have been a staple here for many years and there are regular outdoor theatre productions too, but this year sees the inaugural Walled Garden Feast and Muddy got first dibs on the pretty fabulous menu.
Set in the estate’s enormous walled garden (obvs), which is half perennial cuttings garden (the largest cuttings garden in England) and half immaculate lawn (they have a robotic mower with its own little house – squee!), the Walled Garden Feast is safari lodge meets boutique food festival but with class. Trainers are perfectly acceptable if that’s your jam, but you can go big on the glam too, especially if you bag one of the igloo style dining pods decked out with fairy lights and sheepskins – gorgeously atmospheric in the evenings.
You can choose to book an igloo, bell tent or picnic blanket to spread out on the lawn, and you’ll then need to pre-order your food, of which more later, but the options made me gasp with delight. There’s also a champagne bar, where the Veueve Clicquot is kept chilled in the back of a Land Rover Defender, and an oyster bar and seafood shack where you can grab oysters whenever the urge takes you (in my case, often).
The food is a collaborative enterprise and the various options mean that The Walled Garden Feast can appeal to a variety of wallets too. Win! Award-winning Danny Tompkins, formerly private chef to Earl Spencer, takes the helm for the sumptuous à la carte menu (think: wild garlic and celeriac velouté, blackened asparagus and puffed wild rice; or soy glazed flat iron steak, pickled shimeji mushrooms, crispy shallots, charred tender stem broccoli and black garlic) as well as tailoring the posh picnics. The Oyster Box are in charge of seafood, including brioche lobster roll and Cromer crab mac and cheese, whilst The Delicious Factory deliver the towering afternoon tea cake stands crammed with macarons, choux buns, scones, pastries, tarts and sarnies.
We opted for Danny’s posh picnics, me having a Cheesy Box and my plus one gobbling up a Piggy Box, accompanied by a glass of champers, of course. The picnics come in takeout style boxes generously packed with the type of picnic grub you’d pick up from a swanky deli.
The Cheesy Box was fairly self explanatory , consisting of a selection of English cheese, oat biscuits and sourdough, onion marmalade and plenty of grapes and figs. It was the perfect cheeky lunch and not too overwhelming (though I can really pack away the cheese). The Piggy Box is the meaty option and was beautifully thought through, from the black pudding bon bons to the ham hock terrine, chorizo and pork belly sausage roll and what I’m told was a rather magnificent scotch egg.
My lunch buddy and I obviously could not resist a quick visit to the Oyster Box, where chief shuckers Ryan and Darryl were on hand to see to all our seafood requirements. But which dressing should we choose… Tabasco, Mignonette, chilli, spring onion and lime…? Well, frankly one of each. It’s not often we get the chance to neck fresh oysters here in landlocked Northants, and when the opportunity arises I reckon it’s only right to embrace it.
You can’t technically stay at Lamport just yet, but my sources tell me that there is glamping on the cards fairly soon, to be accompanied by more foodie pop-up fun, so watch this space…
OUT AND ABOUT
Lamport is plonked in the middle of a gorgeously rural part of Northants, which boasts the largest number of stately homes of any English county, so you can always combine your explorations at Lamport with more grandeur. Nearby you’ll find Cottesbrooke Hall , Boughton House, Kelmarsh Hall and Coton Manor, as well as Pitsford Water, which is a SSI for migratory and nesting birds.
Rushden Lakes is also a short drive from Lamport, with loads of top chains and indie retailers, plus outdoor adventures on the River Nene by canoe and kayak, or some great accessible walking routes.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: A fizz-fuelled girls’ night out, well-heeled family reunion, romantic soirée or picnic lunch with the Mudlets in tow, dress up or down, The Walled Garden Feast is pretty much nailing it on every level. The wide open space and private dining pods mean that you can make it into your own little world.
Not for: The less adventurous of spirit might find their expectations challenged. Whilst there is shelter if you’re in an igloo or bell tent, or under the canopy at the bar, the weather will play a part in your dining experience, so come prepared and if that’s not your bag then stick with what you know.
The damage: Pick a number. A picnic blanket booking will set you back £20, bell tent £40 and an igloo £60 for a maximum of 6 people pr booking. You then add your food on top, which can be any combination of items from the menu. A Cheesy Box comes in at £14, afternoon tea is £18.50, whilst the 4 course menu will set you back £65 a head. Oysters are £2 each and a British seafood platter for 2 is £80. The house wine is £17.50 but the champagne bar is well-stocked if you’re looking to splash out.
The Walled Garden Feast, Lamport Hall, Lamport, Northamptonshire