Eating Out

Meltons, York

York is perhaps one of the UK’s most perfect cities, with its beautiful Minster, ancient city walls and medieval ‘Shambles’, it manages to combine a vibrant history with contemporary attractions such as independent shops and restaurants. Since my son, Felix, has been studying at the University of York, I have been fortunate to have the excuse to visit on a few occasions, and can definitely vouch for its wonderful selection of restaurants. Recently, at the end of our trip to the Yorkshire Dales, we spent our final night there and revisited one of my favourite ‘York’ restaurants, Meltons.

Chef Michael Hjort and his wife Lucy opened Meltons in 1990 and have since continued to serve high quality modern British food to much acclaim. On our first visit a year or so ago, we were extremely impressed by the standard of the food and presentation of the seasonal dishes, in fact, we expressed our surprise to Lucy, who runs the front of house, that they didn’t have a Michelin star. She rather refreshingly admitted that they had decided some time ago that they would not concentrate of this accolade as they were fortunate to have a successful business and did not need it to encourage more custom, indeed it would only have put more unneeded pressure on the chef and staff (a complaint often cited against the Michelin star system). Perhaps it is this decision that gives Melton’s that extra edge, the dining room is relaxed and informal, whilst the fact that Lucy is still very much front of house reflects the personal investment they have in the business and ensures the high standard of service.

On our recent visit we were once again impressed by the food and service, admittedly the position of our table, upstairs, was not ideal (I would recommend trying to book a table downstairs in the main restaurant), but we managed to make our own atmosphere. It was a wonderful dinner out, in fact, it was our last for some time, as on our return, London moved into tier four…and now, of course, we have national lockdown.

Our meal started with some delicious canapes before we enjoyed our starters, ‘Hand Dived Scallop with Salsify, Chicken Wings and Maple Vinegar’ and ‘Pigeon with Panisse, Blackberry, Chive Emulsion, Hazelnut and Pickled Shimeji’, both had subtle sweet and savoury flavours and were perfectly cooked. Moving on to our main courses we enjoyed ‘Longhorn Beef, Sirloin, Shin Croquette, Kohlrabi, Maitake, Onion, Persillade Emulsion’ and ‘Pork Fillet, Shoulder and Belly with Cauliflower, Jowl Bon Bon, Burnt Apple and Watercress’ these dishes were generously flavoured with interesting elements and a combination of textures – all really delicious. Finally, desserts ‘Dark Chocolate Delice’ and a ‘Caramelised Pear and Brown Butter Tart’ – both exquisite.

Our dinner was the perfect ‘last supper’ before returning to London and discovering we were to be confined to tier four and thus a restaurant hiatus!…Hopefully, with new vaccinations on the horizon and the chance that life will return to a new normal in the not too distance future, you too will soon be able to enjoy a meal at Meltons. If you are a Londoner like me, remember that it is possible to visit York for the day, by train it takes just an hour and fifty minutes(!), so Meltons would make a great lunch excursion!…

The Blue Lion, East Whitton, Yorkshire Dales

If you have read my blog recently you will know that in early December, just after the second lockdown, we managed to take a short break in the Yorkshire Dales. Before going away I researched restaurants in the area, this is something that I love to do; I trawl through various websites, comparing reviews before finally compiling a shortlist. I get great satisfaction trying these restaurants, especially when I know I have chosen a winner!

The Blue Lion, made my shortlist, but I was a little sceptical about it as I had read some negative reviews on TripAdvisor, at the same time I am always rather sceptical about reviews on TripAdvisor, as I often find them irrational! Fortunately, I went with my gut instinct; having read reviews from other websites, I made the decision to visit The Blue Lion.

Originally an 18th century coaching inn, The Blue Lion still retains a lot of character with a  roaring fire, flagstone floor and sturdy oak tables, it is a proper English pub but one which serves restaurant quality food. We visited The Blue Lion for lunch, having enjoyed a lovely, somewhat cold walk on the nearby Dales, it was wonderful to enter this cosy pub, with its roaring fire and comforting smell of wood smoke. Apart from four other customers it was just us, and we were fortunate to have the table beside the aforementioned fire. The chalkboard menu had some great, seasonal dishes, many inspired by local Yorkshire produce. We decided to share a starter – ‘Blue Wensleydale, Cos and Walnut Salad with Croutons and Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing’, it was a nice, light yet tasty start to our lunch. The main courses definitely confirmed that we had been right to choose to visit The Blue Lion… I had ‘Rack of Yorkshire Dales Lamb, Rosemary Fondant Potato, Yellisons Goat Curd, Piccolo Tomato Confit in Aged Balsamic & Rosemary’, it was a generous plate of food, the lamb was cooked perfectly pink and was super tasty, and surprisingly light – the tomato confit gave it a lovely fresh flavour. Nick opted for the ‘Roast Crown of Yorkshire Partridge, Confit Leg Bon Bon, Liquor of Blackberries & Sweet Potatoes’, a wonderful, seasonal, meaty dish, particularly flavoursome with the blackberries. We chose traditional desserts – Nick couldn’t go wrong with the delicious Sticky Toffee Pudding, whilst I enjoyed the ‘slightly’ lighter Crème Brûlée – wonderful!!

We could have stayed in the snug bar of The Blue Lion all afternoon, in fact I did have a sneaky, relaxing Irish Coffee at the end of my meal! It was a really perfect lunch. Whilst we relaxed over our coffees we wondered about the negative reviews it had received, they mainly complained about the service (unfriendly and slow) and that the food was overpriced. Whilst it is true that the food is expensive by ‘village pub’ standards (more ‘London loaded’), the quality of the food and the portions, in my opinion, justified the prices – the food is restaurant standard thus priced accordingly. When we visited, the pub was very quiet so it is difficult for me to say how the speed of service would be under busier circumstances, but our service was good, not too slow or fast, whilst our waitress was friendly, although admittedly not particularly animated.

So, if you are in the region of Wensleydale, I would definitely recommend a visit to The Blue Lion – if you have anything like our experience you will not be disappointed!

The Angel at Hetton, Yorkshire Dales

December, 2020

My recent ‘foodie’ travels in the Yorkshire Dales, took me to the wonderful Angel Inn at Hetton. Any self-confessed lover of fine food could never visit the Dales and not visit this renowned Michelin starred gastro pub, so unsurprisingly it was on my restaurant list! The Angel is widely regarded as the UK’s original gastropub – it has origins which date back to the 15th Century! In recent years, it has been regarded as a destination establishment for fine food whilst the arrival of patron chef Michael Wignall in 2018 has taken it to a legendary status. Wignall and his wife have not only taken the food to an outstanding level but they have also redesigned the interior of this old pub; they have sympathetically brought modern to the old, introducing a stylish, contemporary, clean oak interior whilst keeping the original oak beams and some of the fireplaces – it totally suits the beautifully plated food that they serve.

Having just finished a rather bracing walk (and having changed out of our muddy boots!) entering this pub was like being hugged – the warmth of the fires was inviting whilst the modern interior was very comforting after getting lost once or twice on the damp Dales! Seated in front of one of the wood stove fires, we decided that we deserved a glass of champagne – I have since decided that all walks should end like this! We then had the joy of reading the menu, everything seemed delicious…

In the end we opted for starters of ‘Scallop with Oscietra Caviar, Dill, Apple & Frozen Buttermilk’ – this was in my opinion flavoured to perfection, a real joy, and ‘Sweetbread with Artichoke, Sunflower Seed Purée, Winter Truffle & Vin Jaune’, was similarly executed wonderfully. For our main courses there was ‘Loin of Venison, Butternut Squash, Pumpkin, Teryaki Shitake, Pak Choi, Cocoa & Brioche’  and ‘Steamed Turbot with Salsify, Sea Leek & Smoked Pike Roe Butter Scented with Kombu Vinegar’, both of these dishes were exquisitely presented and all the flavours were combined masterfully. Finally, dessert –  ‘Bergomot Set Cream and Curd, Olive Oil Cake, Candied Pistachio, Yogurt & Pomelo’ and ‘Caramelised Pineapple, Bitter Chocolate, Indonesian Coconut & Marigold’,  both were faultlessly flavoured. The whole meal was a carnival of flavours all cleverly complimenting each other.

It was without doubt a wonderful lunch, however at the end of this exquisite meal we were left just a little ‘unfulfilled’. The courses at the Angel are beautifully presented (picture perfect) and without doubt absolutely delicious….but they are very small. Admittedly this goes hand in hand with this type of rich food, however, normally, a restaurant of this calibre, and one which serves this type of cuisine would serve amuse bouches and palate cleansers between courses, and this is what our meal at The Angel missed – that small gift from the chef which brings the meal together and the dining experience to a higher level. Even with our coffees, we didn’t receive the normal small plate of petit fours – instead just one, tiny, jelly each.

I am perhaps being harsh as despite this slight disappointment, I would still recommend The Angel at Hetton; food and chefs of this excellence don’t appear everywhere, especially in the Yorkshire Dales – there is no denying Michael Wignall’s talent. So, yes, I would certainly return, and perhaps I would enjoy this restaurant more second time around, knowing not to expect ‘ those extra gifts’!…

Yorebridge House, Bainbridge, Wensleydale

December, 2020

If you have read my blog recently you will know that last week we managed to escape to the Yorkshire Dales for a short break. It was so refreshing to get away from ‘reality’ for a few days, even if we were masked up and still in tier two! Before going, the weather forecast was rather miserable, but in actual fact we managed to have some beautiful walks, and we didn’t get too damp. It was wonderful to be in the middle of the fields surrounded by sheep and the odd hare – Covid seemed out of sight for at least an hour or so. The highlight of our break was the food, although, as you know, I love cooking, it is always a treat to be cooked for, especially when the quality of the food is high. We had chosen our hotel not just for its location but also for its reputation for food…and it did not disappoint!…

Conveniently situated in the heart of Wensleydale, Yorebridge House is a former schoolhouse that’s now home to 11 individually designed rooms. Our room, Carabeo, was beautifully appointed and overlooked the river Ure and the ‘sheepy’ Dales. For me the beauty of Yorebridge House was that after a refreshing walk around the Dales we were able to return to its warm, relaxing interior, and in the evening enjoy its cosy bar where we could have a cocktail before a great gourmet meal – I felt totally spoilt. The service for our entire stay was fantastic, friendly and relaxed yet totally professional.

The food was in fact better than I had expected(!), not only was it was elegantly presented but adventurous and full of flavour. One of the problems with staying for four nights in one place is that often the menu doesn’t change, and so you are stuck with the same choices. Although this was the case at Yorebridge House, it was not a problem as all the choices appealed to me, and each evening I looked forward to trying each and every one of them(!), in fact, the one evening that we did venture to eat out was a disappointment. Before our dinners, each evening we were presented with a different velouté (a mushroom, a goats cheese and a sweetcorn), all were perfectly light and creamy, the perfect amuse bouche before our meal. Starters included a’ 62’ duck egg with Butternut Squash & Chorizo Jam’ – slowly poached to perfection, ‘Cured Scottish Salmon with Mooli & Exmoor Caviar’, a particularly memorable dish, subtly sweet with just the right amount of saltiness from the ‘caviar’, whilst ‘Beef Carpaccio with Kohlrabi & Pickled Shimiji’, was unusual and pickled to perfection!…For our main courses we enjoyed ‘Gigha Halibut with Cauliflower & Hazelnut’, this was cooked beautifully, with a crunchy nut crust whilst the cauliflower was lightly spiced, ‘Gressingham Duck with Red Cabbage & Puy Lentil’ was cooked ‘sous vide’ and was incredibly tender, finally ‘Pork Belly with Pigs Cheek & Peas Pudding’ – was ‘delicious’ with perfect crackling! To end our meal, after a refreshing pre-dessert (a Lemon Posset with Fennel and Blackberry), we enjoyed a ‘Christmas Pudding with Meejool Dates & Courvoisier Sauce’ which was more of a light sponge, so delicious that Nick decided to have it two evenings on the trot! There was also ‘72% Chocolate with Honeycomb & Manadarin’, which was a lovely, rich chocolate dessert cut by the subtle, bitter ‘marmalade’ flavours from the manadarin, and finally a ‘Passionfruit Cheesecake with Mango & Ginger’ which was fabulously creamy yet light and refreshing.

I would definitely like to revisit Yorebridge House in the spring/summer to enjoy a different seasons menu and to experience the beauty of the surrounding dales in the warm, fine weather. Although I would recommend a stay at this beautiful boutique hotel, you don’t have to stay at Yorebridge House to enjoy its food… so if you are visiting the Yorkshire Dales you must book a dinner at its wonderful restaurant!

Yummy Cow, Herne Hill, SE24

November 2020

Last Wednesday, on the eve of the new lockdown, we enjoyed our ‘last supper out’ for what will probably be some weeks. My neighbour had recommended a local restaurant, Yummy Cow, which had opened recently (despite the covid conditions!), and we wanted to show it some support, before this second lockdown! I find that ‘word of mouth restaurant recommendations’ are usually the best recommendations and our visit to this restaurant did not disappoint. The interior of Yummy Cow is rather rough and ready, and very pink (!), but completely suits this casual dining restaurant, and anyway who cares about the interior when the menu is so good?!…The three founders of Yummy Cow share Sri Lankan and South American roots, and the flavours of their dishes reflect this, with seasonal British ingredients injected with international flare and subtle spices.

To start with, the menu offers a couple of house cocktails, which in my opinion is always a good sign – I tried the Chilli Margarita, which was the perfect start to my pre-lockdown meal! Then we moved on to the main event – the food. The menu offers a lot of sharing plates, which you could choose to share as a main course or have one as a starter and then move on to their listed main courses. We chose to do the latter, as I’m not very good at sharing my food! It was difficult to choose only two plates from the sharing menu as they all looked delicious, with really interesting flavour combinations, but in the end we chose ‘Roast Pumpkin, Ricotta, Miso and Cavolo Nero’, it was spectacular with sweet and salty flavours, whilst the ‘Rice n’ Cod Fritters with Sweet Chilli’, were instantly gratifying with their subtle Caribbean spices and were very moreish! Moving on to our mains, I enjoyed a particularly well cooked piece of ‘Plaice with Red Dhal Mash, Leek and Parsnip Crisps’, it was a beautiful dish, really well executed. Nick chose the ‘Rump Steak, Carrot Puree, Broad Beans, Sweetcorn, Rosti Potato and Red Wine Jus’, the steak was cooked to perfection and very tasty, however we weren’t so sure on the accompaniment of the broad bean and sweetcorn, but the rosti potato was a great salty addition. Finally, on this occasion we didn’t have a dessert as such – although we were very tempted by the ‘Doughnuts, Caramel, Chocolate Mousse’, instead I wanted, or perhaps needed, something a little stronger to end my meal before yet another lockdown!…so opted for the Latte Martini, which was on their dessert menu, it was a little like a Brandy Alexander, creamy, so like a dessert, however with the addition of  brandy it was definitely a cocktail!

What a shame we are going to have to wait at least four weeks until we can return to the Yummy Cow, I am honestly thrilled to have this well priced restaurant on my doorstep; our bill was around £75, so was great value. If you are in this corner of London, you must try it!

Franklins, East Dulwich, SE22

October 2020

We returned to our local restaurant, Franklins, on Saturday night. Our ‘home from home’ – a local institution which rarely fails us. How lucky are we to have this restaurant serving quality, traditional British food on our doorstep.  The menu is a meaty affair with earthy and robust flavours, often featuring game and offal, although it does offer fish and vegetarian plates. We have been eating at Franklins since it first opened, around 20 years ago, so it must be doing something right! Admittedly, it can occasionally disappoint, but more often than not the quality of the food is consistent. Situated in an old pub, the restaurant offers a casual dining experience, retaining its ‘pub’ atmosphere; it is a quintessential local, neighbourhood haunt.

On Saturday night, on entering, we were greeted by Boris Johnson, on the front of house TV, in the bar area (the dining area is at the back). He was announcing another national lockdown, this would probably be our last meal out for at least four weeks, so we were determined to enjoy ourselves!

We started our meal with a couple of cocktails – as Espresso Martini for me and of course a Negroni for Nick. For starters we had a ‘Pea & Mint Soup’, a bowl of warmth on what was a dreary, rainy day, and ‘Smoked Haddock Brandade & Piquillo Peppers’, the combination of the smoky fish and the sweet pepper was great, whilst the salad on which it sat was well dressed. Moving on to our main courses, Nick choose, ‘Ham Hock Hash & Fried Egg’, whilst I opted for the ‘Red leg Partridge, ‘Spiced Red Cabbage & Crab Apple Jelly’; earlier that day we had ventured out to Kent for a very wet walk, and having got lost a few times(!) we were pretty exhausted, so these main courses were definitely well deserved – perfect comfort food! Finally, desserts, I can never resist Franklin’s traditional desserts, on this occasion I opted for the ‘Chocolate Rice Pudding & Raspberries’ – a little ‘hug on a plate’, whilst Nick choose the ‘Bread & Butter Pudding’, which was “fantastic”.

So our ‘last supper out’ for a few of weeks did not disappoint! Franklins is an excellent neighbourhood restaurant that everyone needs and should have on their doorstep…

The Five Fields, Chelsea, SW3

October 2020

We had a wonderful fine dining experience at the weekend, we returned to The Five Fields restaurant in Chelsea, and I must say that this Michelin starred restaurant, once again, did not disappoint.  The Five Fields focuses on seasonal, British produce serving menus inspired by the seasons, in fact, a lot of the vegetables and herbs that they use are grown in their own kitchen garden in Sussex, something they are rightly proud of. Our waiters were particularly animated when describing our dishes, especially when the provenance of a certain ingredient, such as the celeriac we were eating, was from their own garden – it definitely made our dining experience more personal and it was encouraging to see the staff so engaged with the food that they were serving. The dining room is elegant and sophisticated, and most importantly small enough to retain a special, intimate atmosphere, which food of the calibre that they are serving, deserves.

Chef Taylor Bonnyman and his team are known for their beautiful, creative menus, and on the evening that we visited we could find no fault. The set tasting menu was perfectly executed (with gluten free options for me) – it was cooking at its best, creative yet not overly fussy, with superb flavour combinations. (Unfortunately my photos really do not do the food justice – I’m afraid I was more interested in enjoying the food rather than getting the right camera angle!!)

Our meal began with an array of canapes (salmon, leek, foie gras and oyster), they were the perfect amuse bouche before we moved onto the ‘Celeriac with Black Truffle & Pastrami’, it is difficult for me to describe the incredible flavour that this celeriac dish managed to deliver, it was sweet and meaty yet retained the lightness of the vegetable – I will never see celeriac in quite the same way! Our next course was ‘Turnip, Seaweed & Scallop’, an inspired combination, the turnip totally complimented the sweetness of the scallops, and the hint of saltiness from the seaweed was a fabulous finishing touch. Next up was ‘Brill with Velvet Crab and Monk’s Beard’ which was absolutely beautiful, the broth was exquisite. This was followed by ‘Fallow Deer with Jerusalem Artichoke & Pear’, I must say that the venison was one of the best I have tasted – it was extremely tender, cooked to perfection, and with the Jerusalem artichoke which was both puréed and lightly fried, it was a luxurious dish. To prepare us for our dessert we were served ‘Honey, Milk and Marzipan’, a milk ice cream with delicate marzipan ‘flowers’, drizzled with their own rich and floral Sussex honey. Our main dessert, ‘Plum, Elderberry & Sake Lees’, was essentially a plum tart but one which would be difficult to match, the slightly sticky plum ‘flower’ was presented in a crisp tart with a delicious custard which was salted to perfection. Finally, with our coffee we were presented with petits fours – what a perfect end!

Throughout our meal the service was impeccable yet friendly and unpretentious, the staff seemed genuinely proud and invested in the food that they were serving. Our sommelier particularly deserves  a mention, we had wine by the glass, he presented us with wine choices which complimented the courses wonderfully, yet were not ridiculously priced.

So what else can I add but ‘Wow’ …and that I think that this restaurant deserves more than one Michelin star!!…

I would recommend that you treat yourselves – a visit to The Five Fields would make a wonderful Christmas present!

Chez Bruce, SW17

October 2020

If you live in South London, you will probably know or would have heard of the restaurant, Chez Bruce. Chez Bruce is a gem in South London’s restaurant scene, situated on Wandsworth Common it first opened its doors in 1995 with the intention of ‘serving the best food and drink but within a relaxed, informal yet professional environment’, it has certainly achieved its goal and 25 years later is still as successful as ever.  I must admit, that as a South Londoner myself, I have been a customer for most of those 25 years, and have never been disappointed with the food – now that is an achievement!

A couple of weeks ago Nick and I enjoyed our first Sunday lunch there since before lockdown and I was so happy to see that little had changed. In fact we were planning to return at the weekend for dinner with friends, but unfortunately due to London entering tier two of Covid restrictions we had to cancel our reservation. However, I am happy to be able to share our fantastic Sunday lunch visit with you.

Chez Bruce serves a modern menu of food based loosely on classical and regional French/ Mediterranean cuisine. The price is fixed for 3 courses, depending on whether you are having lunch or dinner and on which day – the Sunday lunch option at £50 is a particularly good choice. The restaurant itself maintains a lovely neighbourhood feel, its simple dining room has a relaxed interior, with service which is on a par with any top Michelin starred restaurant in town.

On arrival for our Sunday lunch we were pleased to see that everything seemed to be as great as ever; it’s the little extras that Chez Bruce exceeds in, for instance, on receiving the menu you are also presented with their light, crisp parmesan biscuits (and for those who are gluten free, like me, toasted spiced nuts – very moreish!). After these and a cheeky lunchtime glass of champagne, we were more than ready to tuck into our starters, for me, ‘Loch Duart Salmon Rillettes with Horseradish, Smoked Salmon, Potato, Beetroot and Dill’, it was a winning combination of classic flavours and beautiful textures. Nick chose one of the restaurants classics, ‘Foie Gras and Chicken Parfait with Toasted Brioche’ – creamy and fantastic, as always! Moving on to our mains, I wanted something autumnal to suit the outside, blustery Sunday afternoon, so it had to be the ‘Venison Loin with Glazed Game Burger, Cabbage à l’ancienne and Celeriac Purèe’, it was exactly what I wanted, ‘a proper plate of food’! Nick couldn’t resist the ‘Roast Beef with Dripping Roasties, Crushed Squash, Stuffed Mushroom and Yorkshire Pudding’, with its refined flavours it was an elegant take on the traditional English roast. Finally, desserts, Nick opted for Chez Bruce’s classic ‘Hot Chocolate Pudding with Praline Parfait’, as always a winner, whilst I had the ‘Baked Cheesecake with Rum & Raisin Ice Cream and Candied Peel’ – honestly, I think that this was the real winner!

Eating at Chez Bruce is a win-win event and, is thus, money well spent, plus the complimentary chocolate truffles at the end of the meal are more than worth the visit!

Brawn, E2

October 2020

This weekend, Nick and I went over to Columbia Road in Hackney, for a stroll and to browse around some of the independent, very ‘on trend ‘ shops. One of these shops included the pop up boutique, Studio Wylder, which belongs to my old friend, Tasha, in which she sells her own designs, including gorgeous one off sheep skin jackets, hand sewn bags and jewellery. It was really refreshing to be around this energetic area of London and, of course, it gave us the perfect excuse to revisit ‘Brawn’, Columbia Road’s neighbourhood restaurant. Situated on a corner plot in a converted warehouse, Brawn’s dining room, a light filled space with a casual interior, was perfect for our lunchtime jaunt. As on our previous, pre-lockdown visits, we found that the atmosphere was ‘buzzy’ and friendly, and most importantly, that the food was delicious.

The menu is seasonal, with lots of interesting flavours such as the starter of ‘Raw Scallop, Almond, Apple, Sorrel & Horseradish’, which was delicious with beautifully balanced flavours. We also shared a platter of Coppa which was really fresh and flavoursome, and ‘Gnocco Fritto, Schiena’, little pieces of lightly fried dough also wrapped in Coppa, these were very light and moreish. For my main course I chose the ‘Partridge, Rainbow Chard, Quince, Lentils & Pancetta’, it was good, the quince really held this dish together with its slight sweetness which complimented the saltiness of the lentils, however, I must admit to having ‘plate envy’ for Nick’s chosen course, ‘Onglet, Fried Violet Artichokes, Shallots, Anchovy & Chicory’, the flavours of this were divine; the deep fried artichokes particularly stood out. Finally desserts, an amazing ‘Chocolate Tart’ – the fondant was smooth whilst the pastry base was crisp and light, and a ‘Vanilla Rice Pudding, Figs, Walnuts & Boozy Prunes’ – need I say more?…it was a perfect autumn afternoon hug!

Although Brawn isn’t necessarily cheap, it is the type of place where you could pop in for just one course with a glass of wine to simply enjoy the casual, friendly dining room (they have an interesting wine list of mostly biodynamic wines). It definitely isn’t a bad place to while away an afternoon or an evening!

Daffodil Mulligan, EC1

September 2020

Following the recommendation posted on the Instagram page of one of my favourite cookbook writers, Diana Henry, we tried a new restaurant last week, Daffodil Mulligan.

By its own admission Daffodil Mulligan ‘embodies the heart, soul and mischief of the Irish, but with international food influences’, I was intrigued to see what this meant exactly!…I must admit on entering the restaurant I was a little sceptical, as it was rather like a modern American bar with tables, not my preferred choice of interior, whilst the ambience was quite lively and rather noisy. When seated at our table we were hit by how cold it was, and looking around we noticed that most people were wearing their layers – the woman seated near to me was wearing her partner’s jacket! When I asked the waiter if it was possible to turn down the air conditioning he apologised, saying that it wasn’t possible and that it was something to do with Covid(?) – I must admit I didn’t actually catch the full explanation as it was muffled by his mask!…Anyway I ended up wearing my leather jacket throughout the evening.

So all in all not the best start to our night out! But, of course we were there for the food and that didn’t disappoint …

We started our meal with a couple of ‘Old Fashioned’ cocktails – they were really well made, properly with bourbon rather than whiskey (my pet hate), so this definitely warmed us up – a bit!

The menu has lots of small tasting plates as starters, in this way the restaurant is more suited to groups of friends rather than couples, as you really do want to share as many as possible – they all sounded delicious. Nick and I shared the Salt Chilli Chicken with Cucumber Pickles and Beef Tartare with Oyster Cream, they were generous portions; both were really unusual, delicious and moreish. For our main courses , I choose the ‘Hannan’s Sugar Spit Pork, Swiss Chard, Gochujang & Smoked Tomato’, the pork was seriously good, literally falling of the bone, it had a beautiful sweet, smoked flavour subtly spiced with the gochujang (the only regret I have is that my waiter didn’t advise me to order a side dish, which it needed, as it was literally just a piece of meat with a few leaves of rainbow chard). Nick chose the ‘Prawn Goan Curry with Ginger & Mango Salsa’, an unusual choice for him, one which the waiter had recommended as they had run out of the sirloin that he had wanted(!), it was good but not groundbreaking, probably not the best choice. Desserts were superb, I had ‘Wood Fire Fig, Brown Sugar Meringue, Mascarpone & Autumn Spice Ice Cream’ – the figs  were unusually spiced and beautifully complimented by the brown sugar meringue, Nick had the fantastic ‘Caramel Crème with Tipsy Prunes & Sable’ – the prunes soaked in Armagnac were the winner here!.

So, would I recommend Daffodil Mulligan?…from a food  perspective definitely – I’m pleased to say that, unsurprisingly, Diana Henry was right on this level! However, if you do visit I would recommend you do so with friends, it’s not really suited to couples both from the noise level and from the point of view that being in a group would allow you to share more of the delicious starters! Finally, make sure you wear a couple of layers as the air conditioning is a killer!…

Clarke’s, W8

September 2020

A word of advice to anyone starting a new relationship – make note of the smallest of anniversaries as they will give you the excuse to celebrate in the future! Hence last week, Nick and I had the perfect excuse to treat ourselves to dinner at Clarke’s; we celebrated our ‘first meeting’ anniversary (28yrs!). Sally Clarke’s restaurant, Clarke’s, first opened its doors in 1984 and it has been a highly regarded resident of North Kensington since, winning much critical acclaim. Indeed, I remember that when I was a student living in Notting Hill, my bus route used to pass the restaurant and I always dreamed of eating there, but in those days it was way beyond the realms of my student budget. Fortunately I can now afford to treat myself! Clarke’s menu prides itself on using the best, seasonal ingredients and our meal last week was as fresh as ever; even though the plates seem simple, the flavours are very sophisticated, and I should point out that the photos I have taken do not do the food justice!

Entering the restaurant, you almost instantly feel like your worries are left at the door; the warm, classically designed room creates a welcoming ambience whilst the staff are very attentive, without being oppressive. The icing on the cake for me is the white tablecloths – as I’ve mentioned before, I do love a white clothed table – it gives that sense of occasion that I yearn for when eating out in a restaurant of a certain calibre.

On the evening of our visit, the menu had early autumn overtones, which was perfect as the weather had suddenly dropped 8 degrees! For my first course I chose a Salad of Burrata with Purple Figs, Sussex Leaves and Toasted Cobnuts, whilst Nick chose the Home Made Foie Gras with Onion Marmalade, Celery, Radishes and Baguette – both were beautifully seasonal with clean flavours, they were a great start to our meal. For his main course, Nick had the Grilled Correze Veal Chop with Padron Peppers and Baked Fennel, Baked Heritage Carrots and Bitter Leaves; the size of the chop was impressive, a T-bone cut, cooked to perfection whilst the baked fennel was particularly outstanding. My main course was the Rhug Estate Fallow Deer Loin Roasted with Purple Plums and Fresh Walnut, Rainbow Chard, Root Vegetables and Spelt, the venison was beautifully cooked and its gamey flavour (fallow deer can often be particularly gamey), was cut with the sweetness of the plums whilst the rainbow chard was really delicious – I made a personal note to myself to cook this vegetable more at home! Finally desserts, Soft Meringue with Chocolate Ice-Cream and Honeycomb – a seriously good meringue, very chewy, just how I like it, and a Cheesecake which was incredibly light.

Clarke’s is by no means a cheap restaurant but it is definitely money well spent, they also offer a great set lunch, £29.50 for two courses which would be a great introduction to their beautiful, seasonal food. You must find an excuse to treat yourselves!

Lorne, London SW1

September 2020

Lorne, London SW1

We returned last week with friends to Lorne, a lovely restaurant that we discovered a few years back. Its location, on the backstreets near to Victoria station, gives this restaurant a ‘neighbourhood’ feel, which I really like. It has a lovely light, clean interior that lends itself to a casual atmosphere yet the food is very special. I was pleased to find that post lockdown, during our Friday evening visit, it seemed to be ‘busy’, and that the service was, as always, friendly and attentive. Most importantly their modern British menu was as pleasing as ever.

We started our meal with a couple of aperitifs, a Lorne Aperitif for me, which was a combination of white port, rosemary and Chartreuse, it was little like a fresh sherry but with a  more elegant finish; it was an unusual choice for me but was a perfect beginning to our wonderful meal. Nick opted for a Negroni which was apparently one of the best he’s had in a long time – coming from the ‘Negroni connoisseur’, this was an excellent compliment!

Moving on to our first course we opted for a white Burgandy, which our waitress recommended, it was fabulous and complimented our food perfectly… For our first courses we chose Roast Quail, Celeriac, Pear, Hazelnut Pesto & Endive, I loved the sweetness of the pear which was cut by the hazelnut – a very light and fresh dish, whilst the Chanterelle, King Oyster Mushroom and Wakame Seaweed Tart, Leek Fondue & Crispy Kale, ticked all the boxes. For our main courses, the Guinea Fowl Breast, Pied de Mouton, Purple Sprouting Broccoli & Sweetcorn, was ‘stunning’. The Roast Sea Bass, Curried Cauliflower Purée, Rainbow Chard, Dukkah & Cornish Mids, was well presented; I felt that it could have benefited from a light ‘jus’ as it was a slightly dry, but I must admit the flavours, particularly the rainbow chard and the purée, were really delicious. Finally the desserts, these really were the winners of the meal; Roast Fig Tart, Honeycomb, Cream Cheese & Fig Leaf Ice Cream, ‘fabulous’, and Chocolate & Blackberry Mousse with Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, an unusual but fantastic combination of flavours which truly hit the spot!

Lorne, with its unassuming exterior and location is a true ‘gem’, a restaurant which has the winning combination of an unpretentious atmosphere and a creative menu which is light but packed with lots of flavour.

The Pig, Brockenhurst

September 2020

I celebrated another friend’s big ‘5’ ‘0’ last weekend(!), we marked the occasion with a day out in the New Forest. My friend now lives in the area, so her London friends, myself included, took the train down to have a celebratory lunch at the Pig, Brockenhurst.

The Pig, Brockenhurst, describes itself as a restaurant with rooms, and since opening in 2011 it has opened other similar ‘Pig’ establishments in the south of England. Their ‘simple and honest’ philosophy is to serve food using only produce that they can grow in their own kitchen garden or source within 25 miles of the restaurant.

The train from London to Brockenhurst is direct, just under two hours. From there the Pig is a fifteen minute taxi drive, so it is a very ‘do-able’ day trip from the city. Fortunately, my friend could drive the five of us around (masked up!), so first of all, to whet our appetites and loosen our limbs after our train ride, we drove over to the nearby coastline to have a short, bracing beach walk before our lunch.

After that, we most definitely deserved a cocktail, so on arrival at the Georgian country house which is now home to the Pig, we took our aperitifs on their front lawn, enjoying the last of the summer sun. The grounds are lovely and include their impressive kitchen garden, I didn’t get the chance to see it on this occasion, but have seen it on a previous visit!

The restaurant itself, the Greenhouse Restaurant, so called for its shabby chic, conservatory setting, is in the heart of the house. It serves ‘British kitchen garden food’ focused on simple and fresh flavours, the ambiance is relaxed, and in my opinion, particularly suited to small groups of families and friends. To start our lunch, we all opted for the Pickled Mackerel salad, it was a good choice with fresh flavours. Moving on to our main course we enjoyed the Lamb Barnsley Chop with Chargrilled Courgette, which was served with a rich and  flavoursome gravy, very British and very tasty – if I am absolutely honest I would have preferred it cooked a little more pink, however it was still delicious. Finally, for dessert, Baked Plums with Ewes Milk Curd – sweet and salty, it was a good end to a very satisfying lunch which had uncomplicated, fresh and honest flavours.

So, I am pleased to give you another recommendation- if you fancy a day out in the New Forest, The Pig, Brockenhurst would be a good spot for lunch with the possibility of walk in the woods nearby, alternatively you could choose to have a weekend break and stay overnight in one of their rooms!…

The Wolseley, Piccadilly

September 2020

This week it was my son Felix’s birthday so naturally I had another excuse to dine out in style! The Wolseley Café & Restaurant, has been a family favourite of ours since it opened in 2003 (when Felix was just three!), over the years we have enjoyed either breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner there on various occasions, and so for Felix’s birthday we decided to return for the first time since lockdown.

The Wolseley has a fascinating history, originally built on Piccadilly in the 1920’s as a car showroom (for Wolseley Motors), the interior was designed to impress with marble pillars, archways and a high domed ceiling. Now transformed into the dining room of the Wolseley Restaurant, it is possible to appreciate this wonderful, unique architecture, indeed, it is for this reason that the dining room is one of my favourites in London. It is always buzzing whatever time of day, admittedly, being in the heart of London, it can be touristy, but in my opinion this adds to its cosmopolitan charm, whilst the chance of spotting a familiar famous face, always injects a little extra buzz; over the years I’ve spotted various celebs, and on this recent occasion Zoe Wanamaker was dining close by. The food has never let me down, it is not necessarily outstanding but always well done. It is a brasserie style menu with classic dishes such as ‘steak tartare’, ‘ coq au vin’ and ‘Chateaubriand’.

So on this, our first visit since Covid started, I was keen to see how the Wolseley was faring in a quieter central London. On entering, I was happy to see that the old buzz was surviving, although it was slightly quieter with more spaces between diners, it was as charming as ever with its beautifully laid tables and attentive service.

After cocktails (including my favourite espresso martini and Nick’s negroni), we moved on to first courses, ‘Dressed Dorset Crab’ and ‘Seared Scallops with Pommes Mousseline & Garlic Butter’; both very delicious, and a Cocktail of Prawns & Avocado, which was good but not quite matching the high standard of the one I had a few weeks ago at Foxhill Manor! Our second courses were Holstein Schnitzel (with anchovies, capers and a fried egg), Cannon of Salt Marsh Lamb and an Entrecote Steak, all were very well done. Finally desserts, an Apple Strudel which was particularly scrumptious and a Chocolate Pot du Crème which although was rather plain to look at was exceptionally good. In conclusion the food did not disappoint, our bill was on the expensive side as we did choose the most extravagant starters but then we were celebrating! I would undoubtedly recommend the Wolseley, you don’t necessarily need to go there for a full blown meal like we did, you could just do breakfast or a light lunch, it’s worth visiting for the combination of food, service and atmosphere – the Wolseley is a great treat, it is almost like stepping into a bygone era!

Trinity, Clapham, South London

August 2020

Trinity, Clapham

Over the next few weeks I will be celebrating a number of birthdays of friends and family…so I have the perfect excuse to eat out! This week it was my friend’s big  ‘5’ ‘0’, so we decided to treat ourselves to a fine dining experience at Trinity, Adam Byatts restaurant which is local to us in Clapham. I have been fortunate to celebrate a number of special occasions in the past at Trinity and I was pleased to see that post lockdown, under the new Covid conditions, that it was still buzzing with energy. We ate in the Michelin starred restaurant downstairs, but there is also a more casual dining room upstairs which serves small plates designed to share (I haven’t tried this yet but it is on my ‘to eat out list’…watch this space!). Downstairs the dining room is a lovely, bright modern space with white tableclothed tables (I love a white tablecloth!), it is all very stylish but still manages to retain the charm of a neighbourhood restaurant.

I am pleased to say that the food was, once again, ‘show stopping’, not only well presented, but bursting with beautiful flavours. The dinner menu is a four course menu. For my first course I had Poached Salmon, Dressed Summer Beans, Cockles & Lovage, the salmon was beautifully cooked whilst the subtle flavour of the lovage and the bright, fresh flavours of the cockles and beans really lifted the plate. We also tried the Salad of Beetroots, Cherries and Graceburn, Rye Bread and White Soy – which was equally delicious. Second courses were Buttered Cornish Crab with Provençal Tomatoes, Gazpacho & Fig Oil – the light gazpacho was particularly memorable, and the Norfolk Quail with Scottish Girolles & Summer Squash was apparently ‘incredible’. Third course was Wild Turbot braised with Tomatoes & Fennel Lyonnaise; the aniseed flavours of the fennel took this dish to a superior level, we also chose Stuffed & Pot Roasted Sutton Hoo Chicken, Ceps, Leeks & Summer Truffle –  exquisite. Finally the fourth course was Fig Leaf Soft Serve Ice Cream – a connoisseurs ‘Mr Whippy’ ice-cream, seriously smooth and creamy with a gorgeous fig syrup, and also a Savarin with Blood Peaches – ‘heavenly’. We enjoyed all of this wonderfully executed food with a beautifully, well balanced, White Burgundy wine. What a wonderful evening…it was one of those meals that you would like to return to and savour all over again!

So if you haven’t already tried Trinity, I definitely recommend that you put it on your ‘to visit’ list – either the main restaurant, where we dined, or ‘upstairs’ for a less formal menu – I am sure you won’t be disappointed!

Tillingham, East Sussex

August 2020

We enjoyed a trip to Rye at the weekend, I must admit that we hadn’t been there for some years and had quite forgotten it’s wonderful charm and character. We had a lovely stroll around its streets, some of which are cobbled, and were enchanted by is crooked, half timbered medieval houses and it’s quaint Norman church. Staying the night with friends who live nearby, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the restaurant of Tillingham , a natural and biodynamic wine producer in nearby Peasmarsh.

The Charm of Rye

Tillingham, first and foremost a vineyard and farm, opened a restaurant with rooms in their stylishly converted barn last September. Downstairs there is a wine bar serving their own wine and those of their favourite producers, and upstairs there is a restaurant; a wonderful, modern space with views across the vineyards. Outside, in the middle of their ‘farmyard’, they have converted a dutch barn into an outside kitchen and a terrace, where they serve pizzas. 

The restaurant, where we dined, serves a set menu and is open Wednesday to Saturday night, but after speaking with the owner it seems they are contemplating also opening for Sunday lunch – which would be great for us London day trippers!…

We enjoyed a fantastic meal, starting with a Salad of Tomato, Goats Curd & Herbs – the flavours were beautifully lifted by the addition of the dill and mint. This was followed by Pappardelle with Courgette & Cora Linn (a salty sheep’s milk cheese). As I am gluten free I didn’t have this dish (although my fellow diners assured me it was delicious), instead I was served a Warm Salad of Lentils with Courgette, Beans and the aforementioned Cora Linn – it was extremely good, with salty overtones from the cheese. For our main course we enjoyed Roast Romney Lamb from Suffolk, with Green Beans, Dijon & Almonds; a simple dish but with beautiful, clean flavours. We opted for the additional cheese course, Brightwell Ash Goats Cheese with Sourdough Crisps and Pickled Cherries, I had never tasted pickled cherries before, and I discovered that they are a lovely, tangy accompaniment to a creamy cheese. Finally for dessert, we tucked into Baked Plums and Strawberries with a dollop of thick cream – a truly tasty, British pudding! Our meal was complimented by bottles of their Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir, both bioganic wines, which although still very young and rather crisp, complimented the simple yet very tasty flavours of our food.

I would definitely recommend Tillingham for dinner and very much hope they decide to open for Sunday lunch, as not only would it be an easy day trip out of London but also, during the day, we would really be able to appreciate the views across its vineyards on to Romney Marsh and out to the sea. It is possible to stay the night, they have 11 rooms, I must admit that I did not personally see them, however, looking at their website, they seem to be stylishly designed.

So there you have it, a perfect excuse for a weekend getaway in which you can enjoy great food in-house and the beautiful countryside around this corner of East Sussex – I particularly recommend a stroll around Rye and Winchelsea, while there are some great coastal walks nearby!

The Cotswolds

August 2020

This year like most of you, our summer holiday plans have been scuppered. Due to the current COVID-19 restrictions we decided to not venture abroad but stay closer to home. The Cotswolds is home to many boutique hotels and not too far from London, so we chose this area as our destination for our mini break. We wanted to be spoilt, and more than anything we wanted the food be top quality – we wanted a break in ‘Foodie Heaven’. After a lot of discussion we chose to stay in two hotels, one, Foxhill Manor for 3 nights and the other, Thyme Hotel, for two nights.

I thought that, as we have a common love for food, that I would share some of my experiences. I do not claim to be a food critic, this is just my personal experience of eating out and staying at these establishments; I will admit that reviewing is a learning curve, more than anything I found remembering to take photos of the food before tucking in the most difficult part!… You will see evidence of this in my photos – both the lack of photos of certain plates and the inclusion of half eaten ones!

Foxhill Manor

We had, in fact, already had the pleasure of staying at Foxhill Manor for a weekend last year, pre-pandemic, and our decision to return for a second visit is testament to the success of our first visit. Foxhill Manor’s motto ‘whatever you fancy, wherever you fancy it’, is a true invitation to be spoilt. With only eight bedrooms this hotel offers tranquillity, yet as part of the Farncombe Estate it has plenty of private land to explore as well as two sister hotels, The Dormy House and The Fish which offer a change of scenery (and a spa) if needed. For us the main attraction of this hotel is the concept of their service and restaurant, all guests are invited to chat with the chef who will design a dinner based on what you fancy and the availability of the freshest, local and seasonal ingredients. When we visited the first time, we were not expecting such a personal approach to the food, we were very impressed with this concept and the incredible standard of the cooking. So returning under Covid conditions would be a little risky as obviously the atmosphere was bound to be different, but we were willing to take the chance…

Our Experience and the Food:

Before arriving at Foxhill Manor last week, Nick and I had already been discussing with great enthusiasm what we would be asking the chef to cook us. It had become a ‘last supper’ conversation and we were becoming rather confused about what we really wanted!…In the end we decided that at some point we would like a rack of lamb, and Nick also fancied a dover sole but apart from that we thought it best to allow the chef to guide us with his suggestions.

We were not disappointed by his recommendations. On our first evening we enjoyed  foie gras which was subtly flavoured with ginger and pear, whilst our main course, the rack of lamb we had requested, was served with a light, summer white wine jus with some delicious dauphinoise potatoes. Dessert was a very elegant take on the flavours of Eton mess; cream was encased in meringue set beside a strawberry sorbet and fresh strawberries combined with a mint and thyme syrup. Although thunderstorms were on the forecast, the sun continued to shine for us and we ate al fresco, enjoying a glass of champagne followed by a bottle of a Gevrey-Chambertin, which perfectly complimented the lamb – how perfect England can be when the sun shines!…Of course, in a very British way, the weather didn’t last for us and the following day the rain forced us inside to dine – not a bad thing in any case considering that the interior of Foxhill is so beautifully designed. The next two days we continued to be spoilt eating an array of dishes – all executed to a very high standard. As starters we enjoyed a light and refreshing crab salad with fennel, also mackerel with a wasabi cream and, on another occasion, an incredible prawn cocktail – I must admit that it was probably one of, if not the best, that I have eaten – with a mixture of shrimps, prawns and crayfish in a light marie rose sauce. As main courses, Nick had his pre-ordered dover sole simply grilled, but to perfection, whilst I enjoyed a sea bass with a tomato butter sauce, it’s vibrant colours along with fresh broad beans was a feast for the eyes and my taste buds confirmed that the flavours were just as vibrant. The following evening I chose pork loin with a confit of pork shoulder with black pudding (incredible!) served with an light apple jus whilst Nick chose a ribeye steak.  Desserts included a chocolate fondant with white chocolate ‘aero’, a sticky toffee pudding, a cheesecake with apple and peacan nuts and a memorable peanut parfait.

It wasn’t difficult to relax into the ‘Foxhill” lifestyle, apart from having to wear our masks around the indoor public corridors, we were happy to see that little had changed since our last visit. Foxhill Manor is by no means cheap, however the price is all-inclusive, including champagne 24-7(!). Rooms are spectacular, each one is beautifully designed, huge and well appointed (we stayed in Chestnut). It’s not surprising that our days at Foxhill revolved around food and drink, so much so that we really did very little other than enjoy relaxing in our beautiful surroundings, we had originally planned to take a few walks but initially with the overbearing heat from the surprise heatwave it seemed silly to push ourselves and even when the weather turned to the normal damp English weather to which we’re accustomed, we chose to relax in our surroundings, after all, once you’re at Foxhill, why on earth would you want to leave?!…

Thyme Hotel

After our three nights at Foxhill we were rather sad to be leaving, and a little apprehensive about how Thyme would compare. Once again our main attraction to Thyme was its reputation for its food. Their chef, Charlie Hibbert, is well respected and highly regarded for his farm-based and plant-inspired menu at the Ox Barn, Thyme’s main restaurant. Thyme describes itself as ‘a village within a village’, situated on the Southrop Estate they have a gastro pub, a cocktail bar named rather cleverly ‘Baa’(!), a shop, pool, spa, the aforementioned Ox Barn restaurant, and of course the hotel; all are surrounded by the greenery of its working farm.

Our Experience and the Food:

I must say that entering Thyme’s grounds, even in the summer drizzle was quite spectacular, the estate drive takes you from the picturesque village of Southrop through their fields of black sheep to their ‘village’ of stylishly renovated farm buildings. We were greeted by friendly staff and were initially very impressed as we were shown around the property – all beautifully designed with modern rustic flare. However, when we entered our room we were rather underwhelmed. We had been expecting that the room, in comparison to our Foxhill palatial suite, would be a simpler affair, but we were rather taken aback by how small and tired looking it was. There was no wardrobe, just a small rail in a cubby hole with four coat hangers, the bathroom was tiny and the rug was water stained (we were soon to discover why..). We were willing to ignore these ‘niggles’, but our disappointment was to turn to frustration when using the shower before dinner we discovered that it caused the bathroom to seriously flood – probably the reason for those water stains on the rug! On the way to dinner we mentioned to the hotel reception the problem and hoped they could remedy it – or at least remove the sopping wet towels we had used to mop up the floor. Returning to our room after dinner we were bemused to find that the wet towels were still on the floor; given that the price of the room was not that much cheaper than Foxhill Manor (particularly when you add on the extra charges for breakfast and dinner), we decided to cut our losses and check out early the next day! Certainly, our bedroom needed to be updated, but you get the feeling that staying guests are not Thyme’s priority. The problem is, that it seems to be a restaurant and a cookery school with rooms rather than vice versa, and thus you feel like you’re staying in a B&B on a stunning estate, but paying rates of a luxury hotel.

Our dining experience at Thyme was fortunately more positive. The Ox Barn is an impressive room with an incredible high, beamed ceiling. The atmosphere is energetic, the restaurant takes bookings from non-staying guests and it is obviously a popular local venue. I must admit that I was rather pleased that Covid restricted the number of guests, as I feel that it might have been a little too noisy under normal circumstances. The food was executed to a high standard – a fennel, blue cheese & apple salad and a porchetta tonnato, then as main courses, hogget (aged lamb) pea, anchovy & parsley sauce and roast pork with borlotti beans & sauce vierge, finally for dessert, gooseberry ice cream and an almond tart. However despite the presentation and the individual ingredients being impressive, the flavours were rather underwhelming, both Nick and I both agreed that there was ‘something’ missing, and that our lunch experience earlier that day at the ‘Wild Rabbit’ (review below) was much better. Perhaps if our dinner hadn’t been preceded by the ‘shame of the shower’ we would have been more forgiving  – the flavours of food, in my opinion, are generally linked to an overall experience. 

So our escape to ‘foodie heaven’ was generally a success, undoubtedly I would recommend Foxhill Manor, although to eat there you have to stay there – so it would be an expensive meal! You can, however, dine as a non-staying guest, at their sister hotel, The Dormy House; we had our first lunch here, and both enjoyed a beautiful piece of salmon; I would definitely dine there again. Obviously, I cannot recommend a stay at Thyme Hotel on the back of our experience – I’m truly gutted to say this, as the staff were genuinely welcoming and the grounds stunning. But if I was passing by again, I would definitely give it’s Ox Barn restaurant a second chance, it would be a good lunch option.

The Wild Rabbit, Kingham, Cotswolds

August 2020

Situated in Kingham, Oxfordshire and owned by the Daylesford Estate, this restaurant was one of the highlights of our Cotswold food adventure. Kingham is a picturesque Cotswold village, which unlike some of the more well known villages in the neighbouring area is not as touristy so retains its original charm. The Wild Rabbit has a lovely, welcoming dining room with an open kitchen, we were made to feel very much at home by its friendly and professional staff, the service was extremely good and most importantly the food was first class and well presented. Unfortunately, on the day that we lunched, we had had a huge breakfast at Foxhill Manor(!), so we didn’t order starters but looking around the dining room I noticed that they all looked delicious. We did however enjoy the complimentary house crudité and bread; I was particularly impressed that they had a homemade gluten free option for me, these days it is still unusual for even the top restaurants to serve quality, homemade gluten free bread – something I find frustrating and disappointing seeing as it is not difficult to produce. For our main courses we ordered venison wellington and turbot with braised lettuce & peas, both were absolutely delicious – five star! We shared a dessert, a  poached white peach with raspberries & vanilla cream, fresh and fragrant – a real joy.

I would without doubt recommend The Wild Rabbit. We have since discovered that the village of Kingham has a station which has direct links to London Paddington, so in fact it is quite possible to take a day trip to Kingham, have a country walk and finish off with a late lunch at the Wild Rabbit before returning home on the train – we will be browsing the train timetables soon!…