A Cotswold Weekend

Saturday, September 26th , 2015

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Whatley Manor is a delightful place for a weekend break in the countryside. It is in the Cotswolds, perhaps a couple of hours drive from London. The building is very attractive (pictured) and has extensive gardens and grounds, so if you are lucky with the weather then it is a gorgeous spot.  For me it is one of the best of the 2 star restaurants in the UK, its meticulous chef Martin Burge obsessed with precision and quality. It has recently switched to a tasting menu only format, but since there are three different menus available and you can mix and match, this is not much of a restriction. A dish of native lobster in a couple of forms showed plenty of technical skill in the accurate cooking of the shellfish, paired with a silky lobster mousse. Squab pigeon with foie gras, soufflé potato and watercress was another most enjoyable dish, making the best of the high quality ingredients. 

The Dysart in Petersham is an old favourite with its talented young chef. The best dishes here are genuinely classy e.g. sea bass with lemon celeriac, spiced kaffir lime and green chilli used excellent wild bass and the sauce had a lively spicy kick. Bread is made from scratch and many vegetables used come from the garden at the back. If the kitchen could improve consistency across all its dishes then I could easily see it gaining a Michelin star in due course. As a bonus the wine list is interesting and kindly priced compared to central London, and the room is spacious.

I had a brief lunch at Amorosa, which gained a well-deserved bib gourmand in the 2016 Michelin Guide the day before my visit. Ex Zafferano chef Andy Needham seems very relaxed in this more casual setting, and as ever his pasta dishes are a particular strength. My freshly made pasta with borlotti beans and pancetta was very good, and my experienced dining companion was very happy with his osso bucco. Prices are very modest and the staff are always friendly in this charming neighbourhood restaurant. 

Hakkasan Mayfair is wildly successful, serving over 500 diners on the midweek evening that we visited, yet despite this huge scale the food is remarkably consistent. Langoustines wrapped in glass noodles with chill and garlic sauce were terrific, and the Singapore noodles here are far superior to the versions that are produced in Chinatown. I am particularly intrigued as to how the service here manages to be so flawless given the size of the place: every little detail is attended to and you are made to feel as if you are the only diners, quite an achievement in such a vast and bustling restaurant.