Regularly touted as one of Britain’s prettiest villages, Castle Combe is packed in summer. Its 14th century Manor House, however, now a hotel and golf resort, remains a serene escape from the hubbub. As summer gasps its last, afternoon tea (from £26pp) on its manicured lawns is, perhaps, the ultimate in indulgent me-time. Pastry chef Marc Collyer creates exquisite towers of pleasure that can be enjoyed with Nyetimber sparkling wine from Sussex, or teapots full of English-rose-infused G&T (the Manor has a staggering collection of 170 gins).
Meanwhile, in the Michelin-starred Bybrook restaurant, chef Richard Davies delivers impeccable contemporary dishes heavily influenced by the seasonal ingredients which are grown in kitchen plots within the Manor’s Italian gardens. His lunch menu is driven by what the head gardener, John Rowlands, sends up that day, but with such special ingredients at his disposal (the Manor also has its own orchard, poultry and Gloucester Old Spot pigs), Richard’s style of cooking on his showcase dinner menu has also evolved. ‘We’re still technical. We use modern techniques,’ he says of dishes such as his 57C sous-vide salmon with artichoke, apple and smoked oil, or 36-hour-cooked shoulder of mutton with garden greens and smoked celeriac purée. ‘But I tend to put fewer elements on the plate these days, maybe three flavours, because I like to let the produce we’re using shine through. It needs less messing around,’ he adds.
This is very much a fine dining experience in an imposing, historic space of leaded windows, heraldic symbols and exposed stone. But it’s brightened by colourful furnishings and the ‘relaxed approach’ to service. ‘People want great food,’ says Richard, ‘but also a personable relationship with the staff.’ Dinner from £66; manorhouse.co.uk
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