Russell came relatively late in life to professional cooking, switching careers in his late twenties, but cooking is clearly his calling (so better late than never) and when we ate at Sienna, we found a chef who had a strong sense of what he wanted his food to be about and who executed brilliantly on that idea. We loved our meal there which we found fresh and honest, and having heard from so many people that Russell is 'a lovely guy', we were also lucky enough to have opportunity to spend time with him to discover ourselves how true that is.
A seasonal menu today, with a nod to the forthcoming summer (even if rain clouds were gathering outside), we put ourselves in Russell's hands. Some tasty canapes to start, venison on celeriac remoulade, duck liver and foie gras parfait with apple chutney and a piquillo pepper tart made an appetising start to the meal.
Our starter is elegant, offering fresh summer colours and appealing textures, it's a take on Panzanella, the Florentine salad of bread and tomatoes. There's some nice touches here, the focaccia is fried on one side and soaked in the tomato juices on the other, a variety of tomatoes and a variety of tomato preparations are used, there's olive oil emulsion, Balsamic vinegar and mozzarella. It's very very tasty, well constructed and that word again, honest; we think it is a thread that is common to all of Russell's food (from what we saw) and it means the food is the best of its kind, not over reaching and missing, not pretending to be something it's not but rather, declaring very clearly what it is and delivering that well. For a summer start, this dish is just right in terms of flavours and weight and sets you up quite nicely for the next course.
The next course again relies on the light touch of a chef getting the best out of his ingredients: pan fried potato gnocchi, English wild asparagus, 30 month aged Parmesan and a chive butter sauce. It's nicely done, nicely constructed and well balanced, the gnocchi too just right, not too heavy or gummy; the dish is perfect for a May lunchtime.
Our final main is West country sirloin with spring vegetables, beef essence, and a shallot and tarragon butter. We love spring lamb but it's nice to have a spring beef dish for a change and it does exhibit the flavours of the season. We also think that as well as good plate construction, thought has also gone into menu construction so the overall menu is well balanced and coherent, pushing the meal forward in a satisfying way taking you the diner exactly to where you need to be in the meal at the right point. We think that some restaurants miss this but it's not lost on Sienna.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Sienna and if we lived in Dorset, we'd probably move in. We'd be fascinated to eat the menu over the year's seasons as Russell responds to what's available. As it is, passing through, we just feel lucky that we stopped there and, on this occasion like Michelin, we recommend that if you're anywhere near Dorchester, you stop there too, you'll have a great meal we're sure.
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