When was the last time you visited Santo’s at Higham Farm? I expect for many of you reading this it has been a little while, but please take a fresh look as Santo’s continues its heavy investment into refurbishing this beautifully positioned hotel.
The latest Santo’s investment is in the kitchens bringing them right up to date with a refurbishment in excess of £130,000 with state of the art equipment, all adding to the efficiency and enabling the chef to spend time to beautifully create new and exciting dishes.
Ray, the head chef, has known Santo for 26 years. As a 16 year old he worked with Santo and when Santo came to Higham Farm he asked Ray to join him. Through the years Ray progressed to the position of head chef. Ray left Higham to gain more knowledge and returned two years ago. Some of the current staff Ray has in his brigade have been at Santo’s over 15 years.
The emphasis is very much on fresh local produce, with meat from local award winning butcher Owen Taylor and the vegetables sourced locally. Their aim is to produce everything in their own kitchen, from their beautiful selection of home made fresh breads baked daily, right down to churning their own butter! The cheese bread and wholemeal Stilton were a particular hit.
Santo’s aim to cater for everyone. The early bird Monday Pizza menu is perfect for a night out with the family – with pizzas from £6.00, and the Sports Bar menu offers more traditional bar food.
We were there to sample the new A la Carte Spring menu. This was put together over the last few weeks with input from all the chefs, and was tasted by the waiting staff to tweak the combinations and flavours. Already they are starting on their Summer menu to come up with new ideas and flavours!
We went along to sample all the new spring menu and to be fair every dish was fantastic! For starter my personal favourite was ricotta ravioli, filled with simple basil, pepper and ricotta. It was served in a spring vegetable consommé, and drizzled with Scotch bonnet chilli oil which gave it a very subtle kick without being over powering. The fois gras is also a must, served with a truffle brioche with a caramelised top which gave it a little crunch and sweetness; Morel mushrooms and gooseberry relish accompanied this.
My partner sampled the mackerel, which came with stripes of pickled cucumber and a touch of horseradish snow that was more like a sorbet that added an inspirational touch fusing the cucumber and mackerel together .
The main course that stood out for me was the smoked corn fed chicken breast with confit potato, black garlic purée with roasted garlic, Iceberg lettuce and a butter sauce. The vegetarian option is also a little different – sautéed gem lettuce and arancini, one arancini is filled with asparagus and the other with crispy hen’s egg yolk served with feta cheese and confit tomatoes.
A clear winner in my partners opinion was the 12 hour spiced belly pork with saag aloo, tikka foam and served with mini black pepper poppadums, put simply a deconstructed pork curry. The belly pork just melted away, and with flavours of Asia it was a great combination and one my partner highly recommends.
If possible make room for a dessert. The lemon meringue with all butter puff pastry and lemon curd is a perfect sweet but sharp dessert with to finish your meal. The aerated chocolate and popcorn ice cream with salted caramel and peanut brittle honeycomb is fantastic too if you have a sweet tooth. Each dish is exquisitely presented – showing the care and detail they put into each component.
If Santo and Roma, the hotel manager, were out to impress, then I can honestly say they’ve succeeded. The food excelled, the staff were trained to silver service level; friendly and helpful.
Santo’s at Higham Farm is truly on the ‘foodies’ map , whether you’re looking for a meal to help you through the working week, some where to take the family, a quiet meal for two or a special occasion celebration. With ample parking and reasonable prices, their new spring menu fired our imagination and we know it will yours too.