Saturday, September 25, 2010
My wife recently had a milestone birthday and to celebrate I whisked her off to the Cotswolds for a seductive mini-break. I'd never been before. Oh, I heard stories and read articles about all the famous supermodels and actors who kept homes there, but it always seemed so far away. The Cotswolds to me had always been this fairytale land filled with postcard picturesque beauty and untouchably attractive people. And I was right. Driving along those ultra compact back roads, I felt like I was in the Beverly Hills of England. I imagined that at any moment Kate Moss would step out into the road, cigarette in one hand, bottle of Champagne in the other, rolled up £100 note and compact mirror in the other. Ok, bad joke. But I think you get the point. Beauty is everywhere here and in all forms.
Our dinner reservations were for 7pm and I couldn't wait to eat. All that country air had done wonders for my appetite. We headed straight for the dining room and before we could enter we were apprehended by a rather curt Englishwomen named Rachel. She asked if we had a reservation and I told her yes. She then told us to follow her into the bar and have a drink before dinner. I told her in no uncompromising terms, "NO thanks," and began to push my way past her into the dining room, but Rachel was too quick for me. She stepped in front of me with lightning speed and said, "right this way, sir." I gave in and followed her, but not before taking a few vociferous breaths in her direction. Just to make my point.
Almost as soon as we sat down we were handed the menus. We ordered quickly and within minutes of doing so our waitress brought us a handsome looking, although tiny Fish and Chips plate. All Fish and Chips should come in this size. Imagine a world where all the blokes ate Fish and Chips out of newspaper with their pinkies. That's a world I'd like to belong to. It would cure obesity in a week. It was a clever, tasty beginning to our meal. Once we'd finished our minuscule ration of Fish and Chips we were finally let into the dining room.
Because we had ordered in the bar our appetizers took no time at all to reach us. My Roasted Quail Breast with Scottish Girolles, Caramelized Onions, Pan Fried Foie Gras, Pink Grapefruit and Sauternes Jus was delicate, but with a nice richness. It wasn't over the top like I'd imagined it to be when I read it on the menu. All the flavors were distinguished from one another wonderfully. My wife had the Caramelized Diver Caught Scottish Scallops with Crayfish Tails, Chicory, Orange, Artichoke and Vanilla. Again, all the flavors were nicely paired and the chef managed to extract all the flavor he could from these often insipid Mollusks.
When our appetizers were licked clean, we took a moment to sip the startlingly good 2006 Les Tourelles de Longueville. The second wine of Pichon Lalande. I'm a fan of Lamb. I love it. I order it whenever I see it on a menu. Except of course when I see something outrageous, or out of the ordinary like Horse Burger, or Tripe Tacos. However, the Lords of the Manor wasn't serving Tripe Tacos on this particular occasion, so instead I had the Lighthorne Farm Lamb Loin with Braised Shoulder Boulangere Potatoes, Crushed Peas, Marjoram, Wild Mushrooms, Artichokes and Lamb Jus. Again, the flavors were fully extracted from each item and they all worked together harmoniously.
About six inches from me there was an odd looking dish, which I still can't quite understand. My wife's Rabbit Poached in it's own Consomme with Lettuce Ravioli, Peas, Hand Rolled Macaroni, Cep and Tarragon was in my opinion, something the chef came up with one sleepless night when he was thinking about zany food amalgamations. The Macaroni had no business associating with the Rabbit and the result was a disaster. The beautifully put together, dainty pasta was completely overshadowed by the wild, delectable flavors of the Rabbit. The combination of textures and flavors confused my palate and I've not been forgiven since.
For dessert I chose my usual, a wonderful array of British cheeses with Grape Chutney and Homemade Biscuits. My wife, on top form, had Raspberry Souffle with Lords' Eton Mess, and Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream. Both desserts were dismantled with ease and adoration.
The Lords of the Manor Hotel restaurant is a fine example of a One Star Michelin restaurant. It wasn't mind-blowing, but it held its own. However, it was hot, priggish and Rachel still has a lot to learn about hospitality and customer service. Would I go back? No. Once was enough for me. But I did thoroughly enjoy my food. Once again, it was the employees who let the restaurant down, not the food.
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