Bites: Asparagus Tips

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Passione, 10 Charlotte Street, London W1 (020-7636 2833). Mon-Fri lunch and dinner, Sat dinner. The chef at this newish Italian that's struck a chord with the Fitzrovia crowd is making the most of English asparagus while it lasts. He has it as a starter, steamed, with Parma ham and parmesan (£8.50), with courgettes as a sauce for tagliatelle (£7.50 as a starter, £9.50 as a main), and blended into a sauce, also with courgettes, for pan-fried seabass (£16). Lunch or dinner's around £30, including drinks.

Passione, 10 Charlotte Street, London W1 (020-7636 2833). Mon-Fri lunch and dinner, Sat dinner. The chef at this newish Italian that's struck a chord with the Fitzrovia crowd is making the most of English asparagus while it lasts. He has it as a starter, steamed, with Parma ham and parmesan (£8.50), with courgettes as a sauce for tagliatelle (£7.50 as a starter, £9.50 as a main), and blended into a sauce, also with courgettes, for pan-fried seabass (£16). Lunch or dinner's around £30, including drinks.

Leaping Hare Vineyard Restaurant, Wyken Vineyards, Stanton, Suffolk (01359 250287). Wed, Thur lunch, Fri, Sat lunch and dinner, Sun lunch. As a part of the vineyard, gardens and shop package, the restaurant excels in its choice of local produce (vegetables and fruit and rare-breeds meat) imaginatively but simply used in Italian, French, English and even New York recipes. Currently, Suffolk (where much of it is grown) asparagus is served grilled, with rocket, gremolata and parmesan for £5.75. Add a couple more courses and wine (theirs or a small choice of imports) and a meal is £25-£30.

The Plough at Ford, Ford, near Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire (01386 584215). Daily lunch and dinner. A Cotswolds pub that hasn't come over all gastro - there's a room where the regulars play cribbage and dominos - but does have simple and exceptionally good food in any of the other small rooms. For the next month, supplies of locally grown asparagus should be constant. This means you'll be able to get a bundle with butter or hollandaise and bread and butter for £9.95, or half a round with cold ham or smoked salmon for £8.95.

Lygon Arms, Broadway, Gloucestershire (01386 852255). Daily lunch and dinner. The country cousin of the Savoy hotel takes tradition very seriously, and marks the season with an asparagus menu for £39.50. Choose from three starters and three main courses, all of which feature it: first cream of soup with morels, in a tart with truffled leeks and tarragon sauce, or simply warm or cold spears with hollandaise or vinaigrette; then with roast scallops and king prawns, with tournedos of veal, butternut squash or salmon with carrot and sauternes sauce. The price includes pudding and coffee and petits fours in the baronial splendour of this Tudor hotel.

Village Restaurant, 16-18 Market Place, Ramsbottom, Greater Manchester (01706 825070). Wed-Sat lunch and dinner. Owners dedicated to sourcing the best produce for this estimable restaurant have a secret source of asparagus, just across the Cheshire border. They snap up the sprue for soup which they freeze and bring out as a treat over Christmas, otherwise the fresh spears are served with unsalted butter and lemon juice for as long as the season lasts. £3.50 for a small portion, £6.50 for a large one. Lunch and dinner at £6.50 for two courses also includes asparagus as a starter. Otherwise à la carte dinner is £20-£30 including wine, lunch £15-£20.

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