SPRING is the peak season for English asparagus, with it officially beginning on St George’s Day on April 23, signalling the start of longer days and warmer weather.

The Mutton in Hazeley Heath treated its customers to an unforgettable dining experience in tribute to English asparagus, with a five-course tasting menu celebrating the versatility of this ingredient.

I have always been a big fan of asparagus but would never have described it as being a versatile vegetable. Its unique, subtle flavour and tender texture mean it can simply be accompanied by nothing more than a drizzle of butter.

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Basingstoke Gazette: The MuttonHowever, The Mutton’s talented team proved that these tender spears can be cooked and used in a variety of ways – even a dessert!

To honour the beloved ingredient and demonstrate its incredible versatility, The Mutton’s head chef Rob Boer designed an impressive menu showcasing the beauty of English asparagus, with each dish meticulously crafted to elevate this seasonal delicacy to new hights.

“The arrival of English asparagus is a momentous occasion for any chef,” he said, adding: “Its delicate flavour and vibrant colour inspire creativity in the kitchen, and I am thrilled to present a menu that pays homage to this cherished ingredient.”

Joined by a fellow asparagus-loving friend, we arrived for the tasting menu at The Mutton, a former 19th century post office, turned public house, which was awarded Pub of the Year at the National Pub and Bar Awards 2024.

As you would expect from a pub housed in a lovingly restored slice of English history on the fringe of a nature reserve, quintessential country charm was in abundance, from the large, exposed brick fireplace to the low-beamed ceilings and multi-panelled Georgian windows framing stunning views of rolling countryside.

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The Mutton reopened in 2022 following an extensive refurbishment to preserve the building’s quirky character, transforming it with the help of interior designer Jojo Barr, of House of Nine Design, to create a warm and homely vibe radiating casual sophistication.

We were welcomed by the friendly team and shown to a table in a small, intimate dining area that was bright and airy.

The first course – panned asparagus with saffron yoghurt – was the perfect, crispy sharing nibble to start, giving us a chance to catch up and enjoy our drinks as we settled in.

The next course of crispy potato wrapped egg with shaved asparagus salad had me intrigued as to how an egg can be wrapped in potato. All was soon to be revealed.

The effort and skill that must have gone into making a crispy potato covering for the egg, with strands of potato the thickness of spaghetti gently wrapped around it to create a crispy basket, was impressive. When cut, it revealed a deliciously oozy orange egg yolk perfectly paired with the fresh asparagus salad.

We thought it couldn’t get any better, and then the fish course arrived.

Basingstoke Gazette: The MuttonThe flaked cod with wild garlic and barbecue asparagus was divine. The crispy fish skin had been placed atop the cod as a culinary sculpture and the vibrant green wild garlic sauce sang of the colour of spring. Let’s not forget the asparagus, of course, which had a delicious, barbecued flavour contrasting with the delicate fish.

The main was roasted chicken with Jersey Royal and morel creamed sauce, with a touch of wild asparagus, which was equally as tasty.

My curiosity was satisfied with the arrival of dessert as I was eager to discover how asparagus could be used in a sweet dish.

Strawberries were combined with white asparagus ice cream – something I had never tried before. The initial flavour was vanilla ice cream before a gentle, but distinct taste of asparagus came through. It was delicious.

The Mutton draws inspiration from locally sourced British produce to create fresh dishes that capture the different seasons. The asparagus tasting menu was a real tribute to this popular British vegetable, and a chance for its team to showcase their talent and skills in creating a menu executed with finesse. Each course was delivered with pride, by a team clearly passionate about the food and service they provide.