You may not have heard of Mark Poynton at Caistor Hall but this is the latest addition to this historic building, purchased by the team behind Brasted’s, in 2021. Offering a tasting menu under executive chef Mark Poynton, famed for running the Michelin-starred Alimentum in Cambridge as well as MJP at The Shepherds in Fen Ditton, this restaurant brings something different to the Caistor Hall dynamic. Team nourish headed along one lunchtime to find out more.
For those of us who have been to weddings at Caistor Hall in yesteryear, Mark Poynton at Caistor Hall is held in what once was the ballroom. The team has redesigned the neutral space, turning it into a high-end restaurant, with luxurious seating and chandeliers. At one end is the restaurant’s own bar, while at the other end of the room is a pop art style collage of a Battenberg cake by the brilliant @autistic_ian; somewhat intriguing, until you discover Mark was famed for his apricot and almond Battenberg dessert. And yes, you get to enjoy it on the tasting menu.
Mark Poynton at Caistor Hall opened its doors on 23 March this year. On the stoves alongside Mark is Head Chef Bryon Franklin, who also works with Mark at The Shepherds. Offering lunch and dinner from Wednesday through to Saturday evenings, Mark Poynton at Caistor Hall offers a choice of a five or nine course tasting menu at lunch, with the full nine course menu only available in the evenings. There is also a full vegetarian tasting menu. There are also wine flights available, plus wines by the glass and bottles from an extensive wine list.
Manager Pippa Smith ensures the restaurant runs smoothly, and she is supported by Jack Mace. Having taken our seats, and with the joy of a tasting menu, of course, is that there are no decisions to make on what to eat, we soaked up the surroundings, with the sun streaming in through the windows showing the patio and landscape outside. With a glass of champagne, we relaxed and waited for the first of the canapés.
The first of these was described simply as ‘oyster pearl’. Incredibly delicate, it was filled with oyster and ginger, with pickled cucumber and caviar atop. Not only did this look delicate, but it had to be eaten delicately, being filled with a savoury custard. It was a visually stunning start to the meal.
Next came a trio – beetroot and goat cheese tart, Cromer crab puri, and Comté and black truffle gougeré. We ate them in the order suggested, starting with the tart, which was incredibly fresh with the zing of the beetroot. The gougeré was rich in cheese, although I am not sure why the black truffle was hidden inside rather than being gloriously celebrated. The crab puri, with its burnt apple and almond additions, was delicious, especially with the terrific crunch from the puri.
Warm bread in the form of treacle and Guinness sourdough followed, with the most delicious mushroom parfait, topped with madeira wine gel and thyme, and Bungay butter. The crunch of the bread was utterly delightful, especially with the earthy richness of the parfait and the sheer indulgence of the butter.
A chilled apple and wild garlic velouté followed. Underneath the green, almost sherbet-like foam, was a home-cultured cottage cheese. With the fresh apple, this was another zingy course.
Next came possibly our favourite course of the menu – asparagus, chicken skin, and grapefruit. This was so good; the asparagus was cooked perfectly and charred to perfection, with the saltiness of the chicken skin – atop and in a chicken mousse – the perfect foil for the fresh pops of pink grapefruit in the salad. This was a very well balanced dish, and we were glad we had kept some bread back to mop up the flavours!
The main course was halibut with brown shrimp and fennel. Served in a seaweed broth, the fish was beautifully cooked, and was topped with a lemon and parsley mousse. Pops of cucumber and a fennel purée completed the dish.
The menu has an extra dish available for a supplement of £10, labelled ‘Binham Blue, Granny Smith’. In reality, it is a generous slice of Norfolk’s finest blue cheese with a warm miniature apple tarte tatin served on top. Where the tatin sat, the cheese slowly melted, creating different textures as you ate the cheese from the outside working towards the middle. It was an intriguing dish, and very moreish.
Dessert was a rhubarb baked Alaska, with perfect pops of rhubarb adding a sour note to the dish. The Alaska reminded me of rhubarb and custard, with a rosemary parfait around rhubarb sorbet. This was such a playful dish, with the shards of candied rhubarb adding a welcome crunch to the meal. Again, there were zingy elements with the rhubarb purée providing balance against any possible sweetness. It was a great dish!
We ended the meal with coffee and petit fours, with the double espresso hitting the spot nicely. The petit four were the aforementioned apricot and almond Battenberg, in miniature, and a mango and passionfruit tart. Both were delicious, and the mango and passionfruit adding, again, a zing to the meal.
Mark’s aim is to make his restaurant at Caistor Hall the best it can be, and it is clear he has started as he means to go on. With the busy summer season coming up, Mark Poynton at Caistor Hall will be the perfect destination for those wanting to enjoy a fine dining experience in a beautiful setting, with great service and food that gets the table talking.
• Prices start from £45 for lunch, with the full tasting dinner menu priced at £100.
• For more information and to book your table, visit mjpatcaistorhall.co.uk