Lords of the Manor, Upper Slaughter
Our Autumn food foray took us last evening to Upper Slaughter. Nothing sinister about this place name but simply a corruption of ‘slough’, the Old English word for a moist and boggy place.
Happily, Lords of the Manor Hotel is far from boggy... a warm haven of civilisation and a place that has achieved and held the highest standards of hospitality for over 25 years.
An austere motto, presumably of the Witts family ‘aute obitum nemo felix’
(before death no one is happy) is incised above the porch. We were about to prove this to be pessimistic.
The honeyed stone facade is so reassuring, so Cotswolds and so beautiful, the family home of the Witts, who still own land in the area, but the house
outgrew them, one expects a real treat inside and no one could be disappointed. Think quiet, unobtrusive English country house decor with good fires, flowers and flair, including the delightful bedrooms.
The calm extends to the dining room, with plenty of space between tables, comfortable chairs and elegant napery. Again flowers (chincherias), sparkling glassware and cutlery.
We started with our customary campari and took a careful look at the short succinct menu, not wishing to miss a culinary treat, choosing a balanced meal.
The menu is a sensible 6 starter, 6,main and 6 courses, which always suggests to us that the kitchen can really concentrate on getting everything perfect.
Wine. A name on the nearly 700 bin list caught my eye, a merlot cabernet 2007 from Slovenia named Quercus (it means ‘Oak’). It improved greatly a few minutes after being opened and was a good foil to the food.
After some delicious canapés and ‘amuse bouche’ on to the main event. My wife, Sandie had chosen citrus cured salmon with beetroot and horseradish and real Osetra caviar. This was an elegant and clever dish, tasting of good lemony salmon but not allowing the acid of the lemon to ‘cook’ the fish. My choice was quail poached and roast. Again, good looking, moist (as in slough?) with delicious harmonious flavours.
Main courses, beef fillet cooked medium rare and beef cheek richly braised for me, and grouse for sandie. The grouse was a little under done for my wife so having had a bird as a first course now I had a second - these heather-loving loving birds feature on my all time favourite food treats... who was I to complain? Again a triumph....
Next, a blackberry soufflé, risen half as high again as the dish in which it was cooked with a sorbet and hot vanillery crème anglais. Stunning, said my wife, she had a glass of dessert Valpolicella, redly sweet and good...
The Lords has an exemplary and beautifully kept cheese board. With joys such as Wigmore, Stinking Bishop, May Hill Green, Cote Hill Blue (and 15 more), it was so well described and kept with enthusiasm and knowledge.
Frances General de Gaulle once asked how it was possible to govern a country with 246 cheeses. Britain now has over 700 - could this be a sign of Britain’s problems? Well no, I don’t think so, rather the opposite - we as a nation just love cheese and our excellent cheese makers have successfully consigned the boring ‘4 hard cheeses and Stilton via Lymeswold’ era to history.
We were so pleased to go to Upper Slaughter, the village has such fond memories for me. I caught my first trout in the Eye brook which runs through the village - look for the picturesque ford and stone bridge. This early experience bred in me a hobby which I still love. The Eye brook, incidentally, is a distant tributary of the Thames.
Last of all a word of thanks to the admirable team that from the moment of arrival made our meal and stay most memorable. There was friendliness without familiarity, care and attention to detail without fuss and all going about their honourable skills with enthusiasm. And of course oodles of smiles.
‘Lords’ is quite expensive but presents for very special occasions, very, very special food and we loved it.
by Somerset Moore