When you think of gastronomic destinations, Peterborough might not be the first place that springs to mind. For a city of around 200,000 people, the choices have always been a little limited. But that’s changed over recent years with a number of new restaurants opening. One of the most notable has been House of Feasts, which began offering European and Polish rustic fine dining in June, 2017.
It’s actually located in Eye Green, which is a short 10 minute drive from the city centre. And noted chef Damian Wawrzyniak recently invited a group of bloggers and journalists to sample a new 12 course tasting menu to demonstrate why it’s definitely worth the journey.
Damian has a comprehensive pedigree as a chef. He’s been voted a UK Top 10 Food Pioneer by BBC Good Food, appeared on the BBC Mary Berry Easter Feast programme, gained experience at the world-renowned NOMA, and was a Head Chef at the London 2012 Olympics. And he’s also recently become the first chef to be awarded the Polish Knights Cross, a prestigious award equivalent to an OBE in the UK. He also cooked for Prince William and Kate Middleton during a Royal visit to Poland, including the traditional Polish Smalec pictured above.
But despite his accolades, House of Feasts mixes tasting menus including the ‘Feast 5’ and ‘Feast 7’ with more affordable set menus and roasts from £18 per person for two courses, and outdoor events including hog roasts and barbecues. And the vast majority of ingredients come from nearby East Anglian suppliers, including Damian’s own garden on some occasions.
The House Of Feasts: ‘Feasts 12’
The menu for my visit actually consisted of 13 courses. And that certainly wasn’t unlucky as it allowed the dishes to cover a wide range of British and Polish influences. Obviously it was a considered selection, which encompassed a variety of meat, fish and vegetable delicacies in a way which allowed the meal to flow from one combination to the next.
And it started strong, with an Aged Beef Tartare, accompanied by a cured egg yolk and pickles. If House of Feasts occupies a light, airy and pleasant former pub location, the food delivered the impact you might be needing. The beef was perfect, and the dish was lifted by the sharpness of the pickles to be the perfect starter for me. In fact, I could have quite happily eaten 12 more portions and not tired of it.
The tartare was followed by the Smalec, which is a traditional Polish pork lard spread. The House of Feasts interpretation is made from three cuts of British Pork with apple, herbs and in-house made pancetta. Plus a choice of Sourdough bread, charcoal bread, and pickles.
Charcoal then reappeared as a Tuile de Pan, alongside a beetroot puree and lemon pear to accompany another of the highlights of the Feast menu, which was a Cured Herring. I’ve tried various cured and pickled herring dishes in various trips to Europe, and this was certainly one of the best. Delicately balanced, moreish, and just delicious.
Next up was the visually impressive Leek Tree in tempura, with a light cream and smoked cheese. Served on hot coals, it provided a break before the double act of Beetroot Cured Salmon, followed by a particularly nice Sea Bass with fermented asparagus and lovage leaves. If the salmon was another delicate fish dish with leek ash and star anise cured beetroot, the sea bass was perhaps even better.
It was time to move towards the meatier end of the menu, via a Potato Cottage Cheese and Ash dish with spinach and potato ash to lift what might have otherwise been a little too plain, even as a palate cleanser and respite. And with hindsight, it was a good break in the menu before we were served a deliver Short Rib of Beef with preserved elderberries and cured carrot, a wonderful Lamb with preserved nettles from Damian’s own garden and a lamb jus, and a Brined and Slow Cooked Pork Belly with Pickled Tindora. In the midst of this meat trio, there was an unusual vegetable dish with ‘All about Parsnip’ involving lemon preserved, honey cured, and pickled examples of a generally overlooked vegetable.
Just about the only criticisms of the entire meal came with a perhaps slightly underdone example in my trio of parsnips, and a pork belly which was perhaps a tiny bit over. Which meant both dishes were only good, rather than amazing. But when it’s up against the sublime Beef Tartare, Cured Herring, Sea Bass and the extremely tender and tasty Lamb, it’s hard to keep perspective about any dish which is good but not great.
Finally came the desserts and two more highs. First was a Faworki Mille Fuille. The combination of the French pastry slice with deep-fried Polish pastry worked brilliantly. It’s possible to order home-made sourdough bread for collection from the House of Feasts online shop, but I could quite happily order a box of the Faworki Mille Fuille and finished them before I finished the 10-minute drive home.
The final of the 13 courses was an aerated chocolate mousse which rounded everything off nicely. And it’s fair to say that after so many delicious plates of food, it was almost a struggle to finish the final spoonful. Although I probably could have been tempted by just one more plate of tartare or another mille fuille.
The House of Feasts Tasting Menus are available on selected dates, and start from £48 for a five dish selection accompanied with Amuse Bouche. Normally, you can choose from the A’La Carte Menu from Wednesday to Saturday, and the Sunday Roast, along with the special events offering a more set menu at a lower price. It’s certainly something I’d recommend as a treat for anyone with an interest in amazing food and casual fine dining. Damian has also opened a similarly modern Polish-influenced restaurant named Jan in Clapham, London, so it’s proof that you don’t need to travel to the capital from Peterborough any more to experience extremely high quality food from an accomplished and renowned chef. You don’t even need to drive down to Cambridge. Instead you just need to take a trip out to Eye Green. And if you’re not from the area, it’s more than worth making a detour and a stop-over for.
House of Feasts is located at 41 Crowland Road, Eye Green, Peterborough, PE6 7TP. Find out more and make a reservation, book a wedding or BBQ, or purchase from the shop on the House of Feasts website.
Disclosure: The above meal and drinks were provided to us for the purposes of unbiased and independent coverage.
Also published on Medium.