Fine Dining in Fine Style at Ellenborough Park:
I love historic houses. Those, like Ellenborough Park Hotel, transformed from their previous lives into luxury hotels offer a unique experience. Originally the Baronial Hall Southam House, it is now a stunningly refurbished and comfortable country house hotel, near Cheltenham Spa in Gloucestershire. More of that later, I was fortunate enough to enjoy a short stay there recently as a guest of the hotel. I had no great expectations, although I’d been told the fine dining restaurant had three AA rosettes, I wasn’t sure whether I’d be invited to eat there or in the informal brasserie. And, in any case even if you place store by Michelin stars or AA rosettes, the proof of any pudding always is in the eating…
Dinner started with some little canapes filled with hummus, sun blush tomatoes and pine nuts and with a creamy apple sage and parma ham mixture. Oh, and some very unusual delicious spiced pistachio and raisin bread that was almost cake like in texture.
Then on to a a cream of cauliflower soup topped with a truffled crisp. Lovely, perhaps a little light on truffle but perhaps a better amuse bouche for that.
Throughout the meal my wines were matched for me so perfectly that by the next morning I made a point of asking the name of the sommelier who I’d chatted to a little throughout the evening. Clio Giudici joined Ellenborough Park from Gidleigh Park in Devon and Lower Slaughter Manor in Gloucestershire. I particularly loved her obvious enthusiasm. The first wine was a Verdicchio 2012 from Colle Stefano, from the Marche region of Italy. A minerally, citrussy white wine that worked really well with my starter of warm artichoke mousse, with truffled mushroom fritter, artichoke puree and wild mushroom dressing. The tiny crisps were morsels of delicate artichoke. The whole mixture beautifully presented and a wonderful light dish to begin the meal in ernest.
I probably shouldn’t have picked the roast Hereford cross beef fillet as my main course, another dish with a truffle sauce, but I am glad that I did. In fact the focus was firmly on the beef, succulent, tender and perfectly cooked to order (rare). For me the potato and parsnip puree was the weakest element and just a little dry but nicely tangy with horse radish . I loved the creamy watercress puree that accompanied the meat. Wine was a 2011 Clau de Nell cabernet franc biodynamic DOC Anjou wine, with subtle earthy undertones. I was suprised to be offered a biodynamic wine and talked a little more to Clio who is clearly a passionate champion.
There are three dessert options on the menu and I could easily have chosen any of them. I bravely selected what sounded like the least sinful, the carpaccio of pineapple with sesame seed brittle and salted caramel and cashew nut ice cream. But I was easily persuaded into accepting a small taster of the pink grapefruit baked alaska with dark chocolate and Mandarine Napoleon brandy sauce.
The carpaccio was lovely, elegant and delicate with fine slices of dehydrated pineapple like a lace collar topping the pretty presentation.
And, the ‘small taster’ turned out to be a full sized baked alaska which I failed dismally to finish despite all my best efforts to indulge myself (I think I might just have managed all the chocolate sauce!)
All perfectly accompanied with a small glass of dessert wine, I really enjoyed the meinklang pinot blanc 2008 eiswein from Burgenland Austria.
An excellent experience with immaculate service complementing the beautifully presented and well balanced food. All of course, in the perfect setting of the grand dining rooms at Ellenborough Park with original fireplaces, wood panelled walls and painted ceilings adding to the sense of place.
Dinner in the Beaufort is £45 for two courses or £55 for three.