Whatley Manor is a manor house hotel and spa based in the Cotswolds and it’s home to The Dining Room, which has held two Michelin stars since 2009. The restaurant is only open for dinner from Wednesday – Sunday and never for lunch which seemed such a shame as we couldn’t take in the full beauty of the surroundings as we arrived in darkness.
We were first taken to the lounge area for drinks and canapés, which was all very pleasant. There was a roaring fire, comfortable armchairs and free wifi – hoorah! We were then taken through to the dining room, which wasn’t the most modern of spaces; the colour scheme was a bit…beige. As we were only the second table of diners to arrive the atmosphere was slightly awkward and deathly quiet, however it soon livened up as the dining room filled up and there was much more of a buzz.
Two menus were available; either the seven course tasting menu priced at £110 or the slightly more modest three course a la carte menu at £85. We opted for the latter.
A solid selection of bread with a choice of salted and unsalted butter got things off to a lovely start. The warm mini brown rolls were a particular highlight.
An amuse bouche of mackerel tartare with wasabi ice cream, which was served on the largest plate I’ve ever seen, was our first dish. It was a lovely, delicate blend of flavours, with the heat from the wasabi not overpowering the fish in the slightest.
To start, I went for the roasted loin of local hare dressed with smoked shallot purée, lightly confit red cabbage and poached raisins. I first had hare at Hedone in Chiswick and fell in love with its strong, gamey flavour; here it didn’t disappoint either. The flavour combinations were spot on. The little gamey sausage was a tad too….bouncy for me though.
My gentleman companion opted for the pig’s cheek braised in Thai spices, served with caramelised Obsiblue prawn tails and shellfish purée. The pig cheek, covered in sesame seeds, was a big ol’ chunk of meat which had been cooked to perfection. The shellfish sauce was seriously strong and although fish and pig isn’t a combination I’m familiar with, it worked surprisingly well.
For main, my roasted loin of venison dressed with game sausage (which again was rather bouncy), confit chestnuts and a peppered brandy sauce was delicious. The venison was quite simply sublime; a shade of luscious pink and seriously tender. Chestnuts in a savoury dish just aren’t my cup of tea; it’s something about their texture that I find a bit weird. Providing texture elsewhere however, were some strips of potato that had been made into spheres, which gave the dish a nice presentation.
My gentleman companion enjoyed his poached and roasted squab pigeon dressed with foie gras cassonade, pomme soufflé and Pedro Ximenez sauce. The cassonade was like a rich and meaty créme caramel, which was a great companion for the gamey pigeon.
Desserts were triumphant and beautifully presented. The apple and maple syrup cheesecake was so light it could have floated up from the plate and out the door. That was good, but the black truffle ice cream, dressed with Roquefort and deep fried Crotin, was even better. It was the oddest dessert I’ve ever tasted – it was a cheeseboard in a pudding. The truffle ice cream was pungently heavenly and perfectly balanced between sweet and savoury.
We were kindly treated to the warm chocolate fondant, which was seriously rich and indulgent – right up my street then. It was served alongside some banana ice cream and caramelised banana, which added to the sweetness – lush!
We finished with coffee and some homemade chocolates back in the lounge area. We were presented with a box filled with a generous selection and told to pick two – I could have eaten every single one however as they were so bloomin’ lovely. We were even given some in a little box to take home, which was a nice touch.
We had a really enjoyable time at Whatley Manor – it was a really lavish experience. To gain the full benefit of the surroundings and facilities however, I think you’d need to stay the night (which ain’t cheap let me tell you!) and see the place in daylight. Either way, I’m thoroughly glad we made the journey.