Charles Smith is the new kid on the block. He is the new Head Chef at Lords of the Manor Hotel, a particularly fine luxury hotel in the Cotswolds. If my visit yesterday is anything to go by, ensuring that the hotel restaurant retains it’s Michelin Star shouldn’t be a problem.
Lords of the Manor has achieved it’s Michelin Star status for over 8 consecutive years and is completely unique amongst the Michelin Star restaurants in The Cotswolds, I am certain that with Charles Smith at the helm the Star will continue to shine as bright.
Charles joined the celebrated Cotswold Hotel after gaining experience at Petrus by Marcus Wareing, Per Se (at the time rated the best restaurant in New York, rated 10th in the world), Kitchen Table, Fera at Claridges, and most recently the Michelin Starred Alyn Williams at The Westbury. His initial break came when, spotting Gordon Ramsay at a food festival, he asked him for a job.
Charles, a Lancastrian, says that he started to take cooking seriously at the age of 14 and confesses to an obsession with the sourcing of ingredients, something that may have been instilled from childhood market visits with his great grandfather to buy fresh black pudding, smoked herrings, beetroots and damsons. Charles relishes the opportunities that Lords of the Manor’s rural setting offers and says that he simply aims to follow the seasons and to stay in touch with what is happening outside the kitchen in terms of producers and suppliers
I had booked our table for two for Sunday lunch to celebrate my Mother’s birthday which was the day before. Somewhere elegant and fittingly special for her and of course in the Cotswolds was the order of the day.
It was a beautiful day to be out and about in ‘the Slaughters’, surely one of the most beautiful places in the world let alone the Cotswolds.
We arrived to the welcome of the attentive Mâitre D’ and shortly afterwards Canapés and Champagne were served in the elegant and homely drawing room. I chose the Tattinger and my Mother opted for the Nyetimber, one of our few UK produced ‘Champagnes’.
The Canapés are not done justice by these photographs but they were a clear signal that what was to follow would be worth it… a mix of foie gras and hazlenut, Arancini balls and cucumber bites were a melt in the mouth work of art.
We were seated in what I would call a rather more ‘old school’ dining room – think wall paper, carpet and white table cloths. The Sun poured through the conservatory sky light as our an amuse bouche of chilled Pea Soup with Cucumber juice, horse radish made with fresh peas and fresh almond was served along side home made breads with cheese. Daniel, our very polite and efficient Waiter (happily residing in the Cotswolds and originally from Cologne) looked after us impeccably as did all the staff at this renowned Luxury Cotswold Hotel.
The accompanying breads themselves were exquisite. Indeed, if I had had to eat just the bread and butters I would have been quite happy!
All baked by the hotel’s pastry chef, the white was a recipe based on traditional French baguette style bread and the Brown, a recipe using Cotswold Crunch Flour.
Add to this the choice of butter: Sea salt French butter and the other a hand crafted cultured butter using Jersey Cow’s Milk – well that was heaven on a plate right there!
My mistake was eating more than my fair share neglecting to leave adequate room for my actual meal!
Our starters arrived and I was already worried about how I would manage the ensuing dishes…I had chosen the Terrine of Confit Duck leg and Foie gras served with spiced orange and beetroot and pistachio. (RIGHT) and my Mother’s choice was the Wild Mushroom Risotto with 36 month aged parmesan. We were both very happy with our choice and despite not being a Risotto fan I enjoyed the morsel which my Mother relinquished for me to try!
Before our Main course and extra dish of Dimsum was served – Breast of Quail with Foie Gras in a Thyme and Cep consume…a welcome addition but by now I was feeling somewhat full so I opted to leave some of this dish however gorgeous it was I thought I must leave some space for the main and knowing I would certainly want a dessert!
Suppliers are the key to the success here at Lords of the Manor. Chef and his team have searched the local area and elsewhere around the country to find producers and farms that take pride in what they produce, from the everyday basics to the most exotic elements for their dishes. It is these strong relationships and attention to detail that make them one of the best Michelin star restaurants in the UK.
So..where was I……then followed for my Mother, the Salmon and for me the traditional Rump of Beef with perfectly cooked seasonal vegetables and the best Yorkshire pudding I have EVER eaten!
My Mother’s Pan roasted Loch Duart Salmon, vermouth cream, braised fennel and preserved lemon pureé did the trick. It seemed to melt onto the fork and into her mouth in a matter of seconds and the Salmon with cooked radish which was a perfect coral pink just looked the perfect picture on the well selected blue plate.
An then to my favourite part, the desserts…
My Mother (who’s birthday we were celebrating and who loved the special birthday touch from the kitchen) opted for Chocolate – a rectangle of bitter chocolate tart, lime curd ice cream and garden mint from the Lords of the Manor garden, of course.
My nemesis of Crème Brûleè – was served with strawberry ice cream, marinated strawberry and white strawberries, strawberry jelly and honeycomb & basil with small edible flowers and was an ABSOLUTE TRIUMPH, bravo Chef!
With all of that polished off and not any room to spare, we had time for a little stroll in the garden to loosen the waistbands before heading home. As we did so the sun just managed to reappear in time to take some pictures of the gardens and quite simply perfect Cotswold countryside.
I would recommend a visit to Lords of the Manor and to sample Charles Smith’s exquisite food. If you like elegant surroundings in unbeatable Cotswold Country side with more than a hint of luxury then I am sure you will enjoy it.
Do let me know how you get on ….