We first heard of the Hammer and Pincers while stalking Ben Chaplin on Instagram. The Merchant’s head chef mentioned it as being his favourite restaurant so it’s been on the hit-list for a while. The Valentine’s Day 6 course tasting menu looked like the ideal opportunity to take a drive out and sample Wymeswold’s finest. It took us around half an hour in the car from the city centre, so it’s not too far for a special occasion.
On arrival we were welcomed with a passionfruit bellini while we made our menu choices for the starter and main courses.
We began our meal with a tuna & langoustine dish which was fantastic, giving us high hopes for the courses ahead. Small medallions of tuna sashimi were rolled in sesame seeds and nori seaweed, accompanied by a lightly battered tempura langoustine. The tuna was terrific and we both wished there was more (but reminded ourselves we had another five courses to go and shouldn’t be so greedy). I usually find even tempura batter too heavy, but here it was perfectly cooked, allowing the sweet, buttery flavour of the langoustine to punch through. Little dollops of intense wasabi added a fiery kick to the dish and the seaweed cracker added a little crunch. After just one course we knew we were onto a winner so we sat impatiently for our second course of pigeon and black pudding.
This arrived looking very impressive with the black pudding element actually taking the form of a perfect scotch quail’s egg, which worked wonderfully with the pigeon – the flavour and texture combination was delicious. The pigeon itself was incredibly tender. The slices of breast were served atop a crunchy pastry base, which we originally thought to be strange choice but deemed it very clever cooking indeed on the first bite. The pastry addition hinted at game pie, adding texture and a lovely biscuity flavour. Another success!
A cucumber, dill and lime sorbet arrived before the main course as a palette cleanser.
It was an unusual marriage of flavours: the initial savoury, almost gherkin-like flavour of dill gives way to refreshing cucumber before the finish of sweet lime takes you by surprise. It was weird in a good way (a bit like Emily) and like nothing we’ve tasted before – I could’ve eaten this three times over, it was superb!
For the main course, we were tempted by the option of halibut and samphire but decided it would be sacrilege not to order a local fillet of beef.
I think we definitely made the right decision, the quality and flavour of the fillet was second to none, tender inside with a slight bite to the outside – just as it should be. Although we usually eat beef a little pinker than served, it was gorgeous. It was served with a rich jus and wild mushrooms that added a lovely earthy texture. The accompanying mash topped with a slow-cooked beef was pure indulgence, forcing embarrassing grunts of appreciation with every mouthful. Although Emily usually wouldn’t touch anything with a mustard taste she wolfed the mash down happily. The heritage carrot and broccoli were also amazingly fresh and sourced from a village allotment down the road. These guys certainly care about the food they serve, the entire dish was the Wymeswold community on a plate. Fabulous.
Dessert was our least favourite course – an asiette of chocolate to share. We had a trio of baked chocolate mousse, a dark chocolate and coffee sphere and a chocolate torte with a passion fruit layer and passion fruit sorbet.
I’m not a massive chocolate fan to be honest – I’ve got a selection of desserts that I like and rarely stray from and none of them involve chocolate. Although Emily is more of a chocolate fiend, I didn’t appreciate this plate as much as others might. I don’t like dark chocolate or coffee so Emily had the sphere to herself. Certainly a spectacle, we used our sooons to crack through the chocolate to reveal the creamy coffee mousse inside, which was deemed creamy and delicious. A slightly thinner shell would have worked better here as it was a lot of chocolate to eat. The baked chocolate mousse was like a mini soufflé and also wasn’t to my taste, unfortunately. Emily enjoyed it but it didn’t blow either of us away. The rich and unctuous chocolate torte was the star of the show, owing largely to the gorgeous passionfruit sorbet. The chocolate ganache was smooth and creamy which was delicious with the tangy fruit.
For the final cheese course arrived as a giant cheese-filled trolley. It was incredible, I want a giant cheese table at our house. There was a great range of cheeses to choose from and we selected a few to try, from stinky blues to delicate bries.
The highlight here was a soft blue cheese that had been soaked in port – it was strong and punchy, but with a sweeter wine taste from the port – soooo gooood! I also tried a Red Leicester, a strong, mature Lancashire cheddar and sheep’s cheese, all of which were lovely. There seemed to be a great amount of thought put into the cheese selection, every wheel was lovingly selected for great taste. We also loved the idea of the cheese being served at your table so you can ask questions about each one and choose what takes your fancy so you love every bite.
Overall, wow what an amazing meal – the highlight being the beef and tuna. We are definitely looking forward to visiting again at some point to eat from the a la carte or set seasonal menu – we’d definitely recommend you do the same. Wymeswold, you’ve got a good’un.
Overall score: 9/10
Atmosphere and surroundings: 10/10
Emily & Stuart