A good Thyme had by all...
This month's review is of a wonderful and superbly executed project on the Southrop Manor Estate, in the Lechlade, Fairford, Burford triangle in east Gloucestershire.
A complex of former barns, cottages, pub (The Swan) and a large house, all in the most exquisite taste - inside and out, these cluster together in a sympathetic huddle of Cotswold stone. Even St. Peter's church, much of which is Norman, fits into this idyllic jigsaw.
Thyme's accommodation is designed as self-contained houses, cottage suites and hotel style rooms (style with a big 'S' here) amongst notable exquisitely manicured gardens. There are plans passed recently to provide 10 more bedrooms and spa facilities, sometime in the future a restaurant serving the whole complex is planned, all added to the existing cookery school, what a wonderful combination.
Our stay was perfect. A quiet room in a peaceful village; super deluxe mattresses and bed-linen. We slept like the proverbial logs and awoke to a most unusual breakfast of well thought out ingredients; fruits, eggs and other products from the gardens, really refreshingly different and all served very graciously by Neil and Eloise.
The Estate has several acres of riverside kitchen gardens. Bees, sheep, hens and polytunnel crops each supply Thyme and The Swan Inn. This is an essential part of this magic property and an admirable project. Whilst one can't grow every potato used in a restaurant, the sense of truly 'local' food tied to the celebration of the seasons is mentally therapeutic.
Let the good Thymes roll... Dinner at the Swan Inn, Southrop.
A 90 yard walk took us to The Swan, it's pub name one of the most common in Britain, perhaps second to the Red Lion - these signs were made compulsory in by act of Parliament in 1430, during the reign of Henry VI, to indicate that in the shadow of the inn sign were premises whose business was brewing and selling ale and beer. This particular Swan has been a beacon of good food for many years, owned by the Hibbert family who have masterminded 'Thyme'. Dominic Abbott is General Manager of the Estate and ensures that the same high standards and attention to detail are found here, in this picture of a perfect village inn.
Deliberately mismatched furniture and good pictures, a roaring fire in winter, one could be happy here, Many people think that restaurants are solely about food, but excellent service and ambiance can sometimes rescue a meal where the food slightly fails. Perfectly run establishments are about interaction between people and the way you feel about yourself and the world, having dined well and happily!
Our meal started with our signature Camparis, cold and not too diluted with soda. Hildon water (not one of my favourites as it contains too few bubbles and so does nothing to cleanse the anticipating palate) was served cold.
We chose from a shortish menu (not a criticism) an in-season Evesham asparagus and watercress risotto and for Sandie; homemade tagliatelle with Salcombe crab and spinach. It was perhaps slightly heavy handed on the chilli, but one man's meat....... I loved my ricey, cheesy Italian dish.
Next I craved some hearty meat and opted for the spring lamb - rareish with heritage carrots and lentils in tahini, exactly my sort of food. Sandie's halibut fillet was a good size for a very expensive fish with cauliflower puree and spinach. we both forwent the side dishes to leave spare capacity for 'puds'.
Wine chosen as usual, a Pinot Noir, this time from the Pays d'Oc, Domaine La Croic Gratiot 'Les Zazous', 2013. well balanced and beautifully made - roses and violets in the glass, goes well with most food.
Sandie's rhubarb and almond puff pastry tart was light as a feather, but perhaps a little more rhubarb would have led to better balance of fruit to pastry, the clotted cream however, was an indulgence much enjoyed.
My English cheeses (Bosworth Ash, Alchester Sloe and Barkham Blue), served with tantalisingly crisp biscuits with poppy seeds and some of the estate honey, were as they should be, because of their perfect temperature. Now a real treat, a generous glass of Chateau Laville Sauternes 2011, a real pleasurable joy. Sauternes is so special!
Briony and her colleagues looked after us in caring, friendly and happy manner for which we thank them.
Thyme to go, we had a devil of a good thyme. Do go to Southrop, thyme is, after all, of the essence and have one too.
Southrop Manor Estate,
E-mail: [email protected]
The Swan Inn,
E-mail: [email protected]