Whatley Manor

Whatley Manor, Easton Grey, England, SN16 0PH, United Kingdom

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Chef interview

Martin Burge is head chef of Whatley Manor, which in 2009 received its second Michelin star.

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Whatley Manor is a very pretty, restored manor house in extensive grounds and gardens. Serious money would appear to have been lavished on the place, which features several attractive lounges as well as a generously spaced and smart dining room, whose walls and tablecloths are cream in colour; the only odd note for me was the muzak: folk music, here? The menu has classical roots, as befits a chef who trained with John Burton-Race, Raymond Blanc and Richard Neat, but who seems comfortable to make controlled ventures into modernity in his cooking. The a la carte menu was £68.50 for three courses (with assorted extras) or a tasting menu was £85. The dining room has a low ceiling and is quite long and narrow in shape.

The 31 page wine list had plenty of choice from France, and a smattering from elsewhere. Rolly Gassmann Pinot Blanc 2004 was £45 for a wine you can buy for around £12 in the shops, The lovely Antinori Tignanello 2006 was £92 compared to a shop price of about £51, while Louis Jadot Corton 2005 was £190 for a wine that will set you back around £56 to buy.

We had two meals here on successive evenings. I was impressed that the kitchen managed to bring us almost entirely different nibbles and extras on the second night, which was a nice touch. Bread is made from scratch and was a choice of spelt, white or brown rolls, or onion bread slices (the latter was the best of the bread) – around 17/20 overall (the onion bread a little higher).

On the first night I was offered nibbles of Jerusalem artichoke and celeriac with truffle, a quail egg that was poached and served with leek and a pumpkin puree, and a foie gras mousse with teriyaki jelly and sesame toast. I particularly liked the smooth foie gras mousse with its hint of Asian flavour to balance (between 17/20 and 18/20 overall). A further nibble was a glass of deeply flavoured mushroom foam with truffle essence, alongside a delicate ball of deep-fried Parmesan (18/20).

Pan fried langoustine tails were served with cauliflower purée and topped with Thai foam. This dish worked really well, the langoustines of high quality and perfectly cooked, the cauliflower puree having good texture and the gentle hint of Thai spices complementing the delicate flavour of the langoustine (18/20). Also excellent were plump, sweet hand-dived scallops that were roasted and topped with diced apple, leek and toasted almonds, served with truffle essence (18/20).

For my main course, beef fillet was pan-fried, served with braised oxtail, caramelised veal kidney and bacon, topped with red wine sauce infused with cumin. The beef was served quite rare but was of good quality, while the assorted garnishes made sense together (17/20). Morel and Pedro Ximines cassonade was served with iced mushroom cream, deep fried quail eggs and excellent English asparagus (17/20).

A refreshing pre dessert was vanilla panna cotta with sherry jelly, coconut granita and tropical fruit sorbet, the respective textures excellent, the flavours coming through well and working harmoniously (18/20). This was preceded by a rhubarb with ginger foam that worked less well; I like both rhubarb and ginger, but here the ginger taste was overwhelming, so that the rhubarb (hardly a retiring taste) barely came through (14/20).

For dessert, chicory mousse was prettily presented, layered with bitter coffee and marscapone cream. The flavours were distinct and textures good, though the chicory flavour was a little subdued (17/20). Carpaccio of poached apple was served with a light maple syrup cheesecake. The apples used were Granny Smiths and had quite good flavour, while the cheesecake was fine (17/20). To finish, petit fours consisted of: strawberry and lime marshmallow, Brazil nut toffee, a cannoli and a raspberry jelly, as well as a selection of chocolates served from an elegant wooden box (18/20). Coffee had good, strong flavour (18/20).

On the second evening of our stay the nibbles varied, with the quail egg this time having an interesting eel and kipper foam, Jerusalem artichoke mousse with a goat cheese panna cotta and Madeira jelly, and soy-glazed tiger prawn (just about 18/20 on average). The soup in a glass tonight was celeriac foam with excellent, intense flavour, again with the lovely deep fried Parmesan (18/20).

A pretty salad was dressed with radish and walnut flavour and had smoked eel, warm duck and cured foie gras. This was a very successful combination; for me there could have been a little more eel in relation to the duck and foie gras, but a nice touch was an unannounced orange sorbet giving some welcome acidity (18/20).

Further reviews: 18th Sep 2020 | 21st Sep 2015

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    This is one of my favourite hotels and restaurants in the entire country. The spa, restaurant, service and staff are just perfect