Our gastro-travels have taken us on a unforgettable circuit of the Cotswolds. We’ve met and talked to young and enthusiastic members of devoted culinary teams ever eager to improve standards in the Cotswold. In the best establishments, it’s rewarding and satisfying for everyone
This year we’re looking forward to revisiting many of our favourites to review what’s new and what is unchanged in ingredients, setting and style.
The subject of this review is Charingworth Manor, near Chipping Campden. Mentioned in the ‘Domesday’ Book, it’s a lovely house with a long history, all set in a maturing park near Chipping Campden. Charingworth Manor was established as an hotel in 1987 by the Gregory family, since when it has thrived, expanded and evolved since, always in a style sympathetic to the original house.
On a really foggy evening we had a warm welcome and were shown to a spacious, long room in the attic, none the worse for that.
Down to the jolly and well-stocked bar, Camparis for both, but then I spotted that really old fashioned favourite of our late Queen Mother, Dubonnet. I asked for a small glassful and loved it!
Roaring log fires in the lounges added cheer on a drear misty evening. The dining room which is in the original house, is a series of roomlets giving an intimate feel and a degree of privacy.
Charingworth’s menu is of the style for which country house hotels have long been famous. Two or three courses at a fixed price, from which we chose, for me, home smoked Gressingham duck salad, I love the flavour and silky texture of this delicacy. Sandie, my wife dithered, but fell for the charms of white crab meat with ripe avocado, this needed slightly more lemon and seasoning, but won out on beetroot and vodka cured salmon in a gravlax style, which looked interesting.
My guinea fowl was everything that I expected of this gamey little bird, black pudding stuffed leg and tender, moist breast, with herby gnocchi. Really my ‘cup of tea’, excellent!
Sandie again went fishy with pan-roasted loin of cod, perfectly ‘hung’, i.e rested for a few days, which much improves the texture and flavour, with artichokes, leek tortellini, but slightly too little of the delicious beurre blanc sauce. Strange food terminology. Sandie not keen on bok choi asked for ‘confit parsnips’ - where do the chefs get these names from?
A ‘rare vineyards’ Pinot Noir from the Languedoc Roussillon suited both dishes well. Unmemorable sparkling water.
A cheeseman through and through, as usual I chose this perfect ending to a good meal. Wookey Hole Cheddar was an exemplar of the cheese style - made in the proper place, then matured in the caves under the Mendips, memorable for its nutty and delightfully sharp complex flavours. This was a star. Good Ragstone and Somerset House unpasteurised brie made up the trio.
The Blandy family, famous for their connection with MadeIra (and also one time owners of Charingworth) had one of their well made Duke of Clarence Madeiras on the menu, a good foil for the cheese. The legend that the first Duke drowned in a butt of malmsey, the name in the 15th century for Madeira is just that (a legend). Mind you he was executed for treason but the method wasn’t described - it seems a waste of good wine if the legend is true. Both he and his wife are buried in Tewkesbury Abbey.
Sandie’s vanilla cream with fruits and tuille biscuits was truly perfect.
In all, aided by very attentive service , we had a good and happy evening and were glad ,given the fog, that all we had to do to get to bed was to climb the slightly steep stairs to ’Bedfordshire’.
Incidentally, our morning tour of the hotel showed that many other parts of the establishment are really wheelchair friendly.
Charingworth Manor Hotel
Charingworth near Chipping Campden,
Gloucestershire GL55 6NS
Email: [email protected]
Tel: 01386 593555