Rudding Park with its golf course and rolling acres and its upright, proper and perfectly good Clocktower restaurant is not the first place that comes to mind for pushing at the wilder shores of gastronomy but – trust Squidbeak – Horto is something special and different.
It’s housed, along with posh spa, indoor and rooftop pools, in a new building behind the main hotel. The restaurant sits on the ground floor and it’s drop-dead gorgeous in a very minimalist way. Floor to ceiling glass overlooks an outdoor dining terrace; tables are generously spaced, there’s no decor save for the brightly upholstered chairs and bold splashes of abstract art.
By day it’s dainty salad and sandwiches while in the evening Horto comes into its own with a three course à la carte and a seven course tasting menu from its ultra hi-tech kitchen.
Head chef is Callum Bowmer came to Dudding as an apprentice and worked his way to where he is today.
Bowmer runs an a l a carte and a seasonal tasting menu that’s full of surprises. A typical highlight was a ‘snack’ of tomato and mozzarella. If a dehydrated tomato slice, whipped mozzarella and ‘tomato water’ doesn’t sound up to much, get ready to believe. It packs a serious punch. Potato, smoked eel and grains was another dish big on taste and texture.
Whitby crab comes with a sharp hit of yuzu; cod comes in a mild curry sauce. The meat course of venison was the least convincing, but a vibrant herby sorbet got us back on track.
How often do restaurants claim to grow their own veg, then put barely a leaf on the plate? Horto lives up to the promise of using the produce from the fabulous Rudding veg garden, created by Adrian Reeve, (do go and tour it) and fittingly the ‘kitchen garden salad’ sings with leaves and herbs and freshness. One of my dishes – and meals – of the year.