Barnsley House is a joy, a gem, so very Cotswolds.
Architecturally, it has gradually evolved from 1697 when built by the delightfully named Brereton Bourchier.
Brereton was a man who did very well in life and by marrying a daughter of the Lord Chandos (he of Handel’s Chandos anthems fame), was soon on the move upwards. Shortly after 1700 he commenced work on Barnsley Park, an altogether grander house, also in Barnsley village.
Barnsley House in later years was the home of the Vereys. David, an architectural historian, wrote two excellent volumes of ’The Buildings of England’ on Cotswold architecture. Rosemary, of gardening fame, was an advisor to Prince Charles at Highgrove. Her garden lives on, a perfectly English experience. There are wonderful views of the garden from the dining room, across to a romantic Tuscan-style Doric temple. The dining room is now known as ‘ Potager’, which you will know refers to a delightful and clever garden layout with a mixture of flowers, herbs, practical vegetables and fruit.
Enough ramblings, on with the food and wonderful hospitality.
Sunshine, a rare sight recently, greeted us in Barnsley. Inside the welcome was also very sunny, from a friendly staff with Sian in charge. We were led to our table and looked after delightfully for the next two hours plus. A simple but comprehensive menu was perfect for Sunday lunch particularly in the roast beef department, though there was a good showing of fish.
Sandie, my wife chose an Italian-inspired vincisgrassi. It’s an 18th century recipe involving micro thin pasta sheets filled with porcini, truffles and parmesan with a little cream – utterly memorable. My smoked trout was from nearby Bibury and was delicately mixed with sautéed leeks and cream, served with a perfect poached egg, good but the vincisgrassi....
My wife’s lemon sole on the bone (but offered off the bone as well) was a golden picture of perfectly fried fish with nut-brown butter. Meanwhile beef carved at the table was from a local herd of angus beef cattle and was just perfect for me; tender with real flavour, with wonderful vegetables from the ‘potager’ cooked a point.
As a special offer at lunch, two of the Chapoutier family’s wonderful Rhone wines were half price, the Crozes Hermitage, Petite Ruche 2011 was, as always, really well made, as was the Sauvignon Blanc, Lestrille Capmartin from Bordeaux. Whilst on the subject of wine, a Chateau Fayau from Cadillac (adjacent to Sauternes) had great balance served with the burnt cream with rhubarb and a stylish orange and almond pudding.
This lunch was as good as could be served anywhere, very, very highly recommended, a cheering meal to brighten up a February day. The dining room was full, a really telling confirmation of the quality of everything about Barnsley House and its charming and attentive team.
A restaurant is not just a room that serves food, it’s a haven or sometimes a heaven, full of expectations, assumptions and excitement, a place where the cares of the world are hopefully forgotten and the gustatory side of life engenders a happy few hours of pleasure...solo, with a dear friend or in company, ‘bread broken together’ is one of life’s greatest pleasures and so it was for us at Barnsley.
We highly recommend Barnsley House for its style with flair and friendliness, its inventiveness, precision in all it serves and its ability to balance style with substance, a magic trick rarely pulled off. Some hotels mute the personality of its chefs, but here their spirit and enthusiasm is on the plate. Well done to John Jewel, Graham Grafton and brigade.
BARNSLEY HOUSE AND SPA.
BARNSLEY, CIRENCESTER, GLOUCESTERSHIRE.
Tel: 01285 740000
E-mail: [email protected]