Much depends on the sausage...
All that stuff about eating well in England by eating breakfast three times a day is wrapped around a kernel of truth. There is something joyfully self-indulgent about sitting down to a full English breakfast – and all too often the only time we allow ourselves this luxury is when we are staying in a hotel. Whoever may be paying, the prospect of not taking up the hotel on the breakfast part of the Bed and Breakfast contract seems wasteful. All of which means that I could describe my recent trip to the sprawling but feisty East Midlands Food Festival as an objective survey of Leicestershire breakfasts.
As you would expect from the land of Stilton and Melton Mowbray pork pies the Full English in these parts is a lavish affair. Which brings me to the sausage question – in much the same way that a lacklustre cup of coffee at the end of the meal can undo all the kitchen's earlier good work, if the sausage is not up to scratch the breakfast is unlikely to impress. The sausage trap is an obvious one – hard pressed chef seeks to make good margins and sees that some sausages cost three times as much as others, he succumbs offering up the prayer that no one will notice. Trouble is you do notice and he ordinary sausage has done its fell work.
At the very comfortable country house hotel – Stapleford Park - the breakfast menu dashes from eggs Benedict to Kippers by way of the full English. "Rutland sausages, slow roast tomatoes, free range eggs, back bacon, black pudding, fried bread", the Rutland sausages are very good indeed, plump, porky and highly seasoned – truly a sausage from bygone days when salt made things tasty rather than dangerous. Plenty of pepper too. It seems that Rutland is the descriptor of choice when Leicestershire butchers want to add a whiff of the exotic to their produce. The Dickinson & Morris sausage shop in Melton also offers a Rutland sausage although this one is made from pork, Stilton and plenty of pepper.
At the Sysonby Knoll hotel – a friendly establishment on he fringes of Melton – the original house has been extended every which way, but that cannot detract from the A class view. This is one of a very short roster of hotels which proudly boasts its own honey, they also offer "pick your own" honey which is a brilliant idea given the parlous state of the honey bee – any encouragement of apiary is a grand idea. Breakfast options here are slightly less elaborate than at Stapleford but the "English Breakfast "bacon, sausage, fried egg, tomato, baked beans and fried bread" is very sound and the sausage doesn't let the side down. The honey is very good indeed with a soft floral sweetness that can almost make you forget the rain lashing at the windows.
If you want to be sure of eating well in England, pay some heed to the sausages!
Stapleford Park, Stapleford, Near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire LE14 2EF (01572 787000) www.staplefordpark.com
Sysonby Knoll Hotel, Ashfordby Road, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire LE13 OHP (01644 563563) www.sysonby.com
Dickinson & Morris, Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe, 10 Nottingham Street, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire LE13 1NW (01664 562341) www.porkpie.co.uk