Westonbirt is a perfect example of one of those tiny Cotswold places that you might drive through in a blink, but is full of history and stories. Westonbirt House was one of the most expensive of its time - built by the Holford family, whose family fortune came from the New River Company - which brought fresh water into London.
Back in the 19th century Robert Holford also sponsoring seed collecting expeditions around the world to indulge his passion for trees, plantings which now form the basis of Westonbirt Arboretum, now managed by the Forestry Commission as a hugely successful visitor attraction.
The nearby Hare and Hounds, subject of this review, was originally built to accommodate polo players attending matches. It became rather a tired hostelry until it was bought and rescued by (another ‘H’) Michael Horton. Pamela Horton’s has an unerring eye for colour, detail and style, the team at the hotel keep the highest of standards. Upon walking in, there’s that feeling that everything is ‘right’ - for example the beautiful flowers in the public rooms, cleverly and artistically arranged. Were they not there, probably one wouldn’t notice, but their presence enhances life and shouts quality.
To the bar where we had the usual Camparis and some good canapés. We were given a choice of 2 menus - a tasting menu and an interesting fixed price menu. We chose the latter. On to the enormous dining room with well spaced tables. It’s comfortably lit, warm, quietly opulent and imbued with a sense of quiet opulence and wellbeing, smugly looking out on to (well lit) gardens.First, a white onion velouté with a tortellini. Fillet steak tartare, raw minced seasoned steak, very French (supplement £3!) was rather on the small side, with little taste of the truffle. Slightly (but only slightly) disappointing for what is, after all, one of the great dishes of the world.
Our main courses were superb.
Sandie’s generous and delicious turbot was enhanced with the brilliant greens of sea lettuce. A sauce beurre blanc coated the perfect fish and it really was first class. A request for more cavolo nero was instantly dealt with - Sandie loves her ‘greens’.
My venison was in the same league. Two large venison cutlets were perfectly pink and served with pomegranate and thinly sliced cavolo nero, sauteed.
From a newly transformed kitchen, the apple crumble soufflé took but minutes, well risen, yummy. The cheeses were good: Tornegus from Kent is a delicious oddity - Caerphilly washed in wine and marinated in mint and verbena until it turns creamy. Dorstone Ash, Hereford, Cornish Kern and Wookey Hole matured cheddar, were all in perfect condition and I loved the fig chutney.
Our wine, as usual was a Pinot Noir - Dashwood from Marlborough in New Zealand 2015. Well balanced, this, with tones of winter spices, plums and vanilla. We both believe Pinot Noir is a wine for any company... or food.
The team that looked after us, Camile and Roxanna were charming and knowledgeable, with a ‘nothing too much trouble’ attitude, they made our evening special. What fun and happiness there is to be had in good places like the Hare and Hounds, a really well done hotel and one the ‘royal’ Cotswolds (HRH Prince Charles lives nearly next door) should be proud of.
Excellent breakfast, in the sun, supervised by long serving, smiling Judy, followed by a walk in Westonbirt House gardens. A good way to start a day…
The Hare and Hounds Hotel
Gloucestershire GL8 8QL
Email: [email protected]
For other dining reviews, please visit http://www.cotswoldsfinesthotels.com/Restaurants-and-Dining