Friday, October 29, 2010
The village of Bibury, which lies 22 miles southwest of Cheltenham, is about as idyllic as English villages get. There's Arlington Row. A row of weavers cottages built from the local stone. The Bibury Trout Farm on the River Coln. And, nestled into the woods stands one of the prettiest hotels I've ever seen. The Bibury Court Hotel. This former monastery was built in the 16th century, but fell into disrepair before being bought for a family home in the 1920s and converted into a hotel in 1968.
Like most old English hotels it felt cold and aloof. However, the brasserie, a conservatory built in 1998 is another story. The all glass building is cozy and warm. With picturesque views of the garden. Two types of bread were presented to us, however only one of them stuck in my mind. The Guinness bread. It was tremendous. The roasted barley that came through on my palate was staggering. I felt like an Irish goat herder leaning into a hearty meal in my thatched roof cottage on the Dingle Peninsula.
And it only got better as the meal wore on. Our Salmon and Herb Fishcake with Pea Puree and a Poached Egg was an amorous starter. However, my main was something I still think about often. Bacon has become this thinly cut piece of fatty, sad meat. Not at the Bibury Court Hotel. My Pan Fried Calves Liver with Real Bacon, Mashed Potatoes and Caramelised Onion Sauce was the real deal. Monolithic in both size and taste. The Bacon must have been at least 18 inches long. It was a meal in itself. The entire dish was extremely well done. Caution, do not attempt to try this if you have high cholesterol, or heart trouble. If I had to guess I would say this was probably one of the most calorie laden meals I've ever had. But well worth it.
My wife, however, was not quite so daring to her waistline. Her Braised Shoulder of Lleyn Lamb, with Champ Potatoes, Green Beans, Glazed Carrots, Tomato and Rosemary was tasty, but I wouldn't go out of my way to have it again. It had the look of a shiny, posh school lunch meal, or a mid-week suburban family dinner. It gave me the creeps. Reruns of The Andy Griffith Show popped into my head and suddenly I was dining with Opie, Andy and Aunt Bea. Barnie was in the kitchen rustling up some more Guinness bread.
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