A few weeks ago I reached that most auspicious of birthdays! The half century! To be honest its been a great excuse for a little more of the things that a like to do best; drinking fine wine, eating amazing food and catching up with friends!
On the day itself Gillian had planned an overnight stay at the legendary Lords of The Manor hotel in Upper Slaughter. Still recovering from the previous week in which I had managed to get in a vintage tasting at Furleigh Estate in Dorset combined with an overnight stay at the incomporable Summer Lodge Hotel in Evershot, dinner at The Quality Chop House in Farringdon with friends and a magnum of the iconic Domaine de Trévallon 2001!
Determined to make the most of the forecasted flaming June weather we made an early start arriving in the sleepy Cotswold village of Upper Slaughter shortly before 1pm.
Quickly checking into our room, we changed into our walking gear and set off on an appetite building 15 mile circular walk of the local villages.
Our first stop was the neighbouring village of Lower Slaughter. The contrast could not be greater between these two Cotswold jewels. Lower with its bustling hoards of visitors, picturesque stream and Mill juxtaposed with the tranquility and calm of Upper Slaughter and without a single coach party in sight!
By contrast Lower Slaughter is a world away from the heaving hordes of visitors that flock to Bourton-on -the-Water, our next stop on our walk. I don’t know why towns feel it’s really necessary to tap into some sort of Romantic association with things Venetian, but I do feel that just because there’s a few little streams running through the town that calling it “the Venice of the Cotswolds” is really poetic licence gone too far!
We picked up a delicious picnic at one of the really outstanding gems in the village, Bakery on The Water. Quiche Lorraine’s with melt in the mouth pastry, delicious spiced pork sausage rolls and a tempting selection of tarts and cakes!
We made our escape from the maddening crowds and found peace and tranquility adjacent to the River Windrush.
We picked up the pace fortified by our picnic and followed the waymarked trail across woods and valleys of buttercup clad pastures and sun kissed meadows.
After several hours we arrived in the tiny village of Naunton and headed to the village pub for some refreshments before completing the last few miles back to Upper Slaughter.
On arrival back at the hotel we were greeted by Michael Obray, the General Manager who informed us that we were being upgraded to the full tasting menu which was a really lovely surprise!
We thought that we’d start as we meant to go on and ordered cocktails to sup whilst getting ready for dinner! The long walk had given me a thirst and so this Negroni went down a treat!
Included in our Secret Escapes package was a complimentary glass of NV. Tattinger, currently one of my favourite champagnes.
We decided to take this with our canapé al fresco in our attempt to squeeze every last drop of warm sunshine out of the day.
These were all outstanding and really set the tone for the whole meal. I loved the delicate balance of the food pairings here e.g. the saltiness of the goats cheese with the sweetness of the grape and caper jelly.
As the sun started to go down we were called through for dinner and the anticipation of what would follow was almost too much!
The appetiser arrived with a flourish! Like an exquisitely composed still life the complimentary colours of the tomato and chervil enhancing each others colour whilst the natural colour of the viola shone on the consommé canvas. Flavours and textures balanced perfectly with added creaminess from the ricotta and crunch from the pine nuts! A real triumph! Meanwhile the Rousette grape delivered a steely clean and fresh taste with an apple like acidity that partnered the consommé jelly to a tee.
The next course arrived with another sublime pairing suggested by our sommelier Michael Bray. The richness of the Petit Manseng grape yielding notes of thick unctuous honey and sweet orange marmalade. By contrast the duck liver’s richness enhanced by rolling in port contrasted with the texture and acidity of the apple jelly, pickled rhubarb and hazelnuts.
Course number four arrived and we were already feeling the wow factor! It was really no surprise to learn of the restaurants well deserved one Michelin star status. This course balanced oriental spiciness with stabilising flavours of oriental mushrooms and tomato. The exotic notes of papaya combined with hints of apple and honeysuckle in the superb 2014 Mangan Vineyard Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc with a little vanilla spice from light oaking and good natural acidity.
My favourite red meat is always going to be new season English lamb. Here served three ways with spectacular presentation and garnished with olive tapenade, tomato confit, minted broad beans and lamb jus, it was just heaven! What made it even more special was the pairing with a stellar 2009 La Rioja Alta, Reserva! Just 2 months earlier I had sat in their tasting room in Haro, with Ainhoa Elosegui, their PR manager learning more about this iconic estate! Here the wine combines notes of violets, and damsons with a little pepper. So good it’s one I’ll be seeking out again!
A palette cleansing Mango and Kalamansi foam shot prepared our tastebuds for the finale…
Before the soufflé finalé they bought me a lovely decorated plate with a single macaroon and a candle with a chorus of happy birthday!
The raspberry soufflé followed…..which was incredible, light and with a zing of raspberry sharpness contrasting with the light creaminess of the tonka bean ice cream. The finale eclectic pairing was a rare Franz Haaz Moscato Rosa from Friuli. Its rarity and low production are due to the low yield. It is not a late harvested grape, nor it is a passito, naturally it has a high content of sugar and is harvested when ripened well.
Before heading into the lounge to take coffee we had our final surprise of the evening and something that speaks volumes for the brigade working the kitchen at Lords of the Manor, the entire service that evening had been executed under the supervision of Senior Sous Chef, Paul Evans, who came out to meet us in person.
It’s always really great to get the opportunity to speak to the chef in person especially when they’ve delivered such a memorable tasting menu!
We settled down with a little espresso and these delightful petit fours before rolling into our comfy beds for a wonderfully long lie in!
It’s always hard thinking about breakfast after such an amazing dinner the night before but Senior Sous Chef Paul, had already piqued my interest! The full English was so worth it!
Beautiful presentation and the really neat thing was that it was a manageable size portion that left you satisfied without disappointing! Perfectly poached eggs and the crispiest of bacon excited my taste buds all over again.
After breakfast we decided to walk around the ten plus acres of grounds and gardens. Truly stunning as this little montage shows
Before heading off Michael Bray the sommelier had one more trick up his sleeve and offered to show me round his extensive cellar under the dinning room! Above ground they’ve also converted one of the old fire places to house some of the more popular wines in a more ambient cool temperature.
Overall a stunning way to spend my 50th birthday and a brilliant introduction to this jewel in the Cotswold crown!