In a nutshell
Once a 17th-century Cotswold farmhouse, Dormy (a term meaning an unbeatable round of golf, thanks to the Broadway Golf Club next door, who once owned the place) is home to The Garden Room: a classy, modern dining space.
Ryan Swift took over from Jon Ingram as head chef last June (Jon’s now executive chef of Farncombe Estate, overseeing the kitchens at Dormy House and its sister hotels, Foxhill Manor and the Fish). Ryan had some sizeable boots to fill, but – casually, cleverly – he’s done it. Laidback, humble and charming, Ryan is also crazy talented. He’s worked at Lords of the Manor and Hambleton Hall among others, and over the past year has developed his own style at The Garden Room.
Ryan has taken the menu down from seven options per course to five, and has introduced canapés and a tasting menu. He’s also keen to reflect the team’s personalities in the dishes. He’s excited to tell us that, because a number of his team are from Birmingham, he’s brought a touch of curry to the Cotswolds in his menu: you’ll spot accents of cumin in unexpected places (we found it working well with scallops, alongside white chocolate and caviar), plus we enjoyed mini onion bhajis as part of our canapés.
Local sourcing is the name of the game here; not just British produce, but vegetables from the garden or the surrounding Vale of Evesham. Meat is brought in from nearby fields not in neat portions but as the whole animal, and butchered on site.
For Ryan, it’s all about respecting the ingredients and getting things into the kitchen in the rawest state possible. The menu evolves with the seasons, too, to keep the flavours bold.
What’s the room like?
There could be no other name for The Garden Room. A vast glass wall lines one side of the restaurant, opening up the space onto a long, striped lawn, featuring a patio and a pretty, modern pagoda. The restaurant is clad in light, leaf-green wallpaper in a foliage print. Mirrored pillars, wooden screens and artfully placed houseplants lend a subtle hint of oriental inspiration to the place. Pull up a retro ’50s chair to a sturdy wooden table indoors, or, with a bit of luck, take to the patio furniture.
Instrumental jazz brings a soothing mood to the indoor space and, as the evening darkens, The Garden Room moves from mood lighting to candlelight. Though impressively affordable considering the quality (£65 per person, plus £38 for wine flights), The Garden Room is perfect as a treat with close friends or for an extra-special date night (we bet proposals happen in here all the time).
Menu must-orders and misfires
We went all in on the tasting menu and every plate we sampled was a star. A delicate starter of asparagus velouté in a delicate bulb-like glass, topped off with velvety buttermilk and crushed pecans, felt summery, cool and creamy, with the nuts adding an unexpected, earthy bite.
The Tamworth Pig terrine, cheekily served with a glass of Cotswolds cider, is expertly plated, creative piece of fine dining at its best. Delicate daubs of apple purée, Granny Smith cubes, a quenelle of sage ice cream, and dainty pinks and creams of rich, fatty Tamworth pork. We’re told that it’s a dish designed around Ryan’s childhood, where he chowed down on sage and onion sausage rolls and cheered on Tamworth at his local football ground with his grandad.
Farncombe lamb – an all-singing, all-dancing chorus of flavours we know and love – was made new and intriguing by Ryan and his team. The dish struck a flavourful balance between the tang of girolle mushrooms, the mellow, succulent lamb, crisp asparagus and wilted wild garlic. Each component was swept up into a dish that was greater than the sum of its parts by the light meaty gravy, poured at the table, that seemed impossibly dense with meaty flavour. Five wines in, we were emotional.
The sommelier was enthused and informative, guiding us through the tasting menu flights, glass by glass. A rich Marlborough dessert wine was paired with our lemon dessert, ‘Sticky Mickey’, offered a golden, honeyed accompaniment to the tartness of the pud.
What else did we like?
Throughout our stay, the service was impeccable. Our suite for the night was bang on-brand for Dormy, too: considered but informal decor, tablets and swanky coffee makers in the living area, a sink-into-me rolltop bath, vast bed with mounds of snowy bedding and Temple Spa toiletries that were so lovely to use, we’re tempted to track them down online to stock up.
These guys have laidback luxury down to a tee. Everything here is delivered with a friendly finesse. We’re just a little in love with the way Ryan, and the Dormy staff, generally, deliver a showstopping experience with modesty and easy charm. These guys wear their many talents lightly, and that’s what sets it apart.
Words by Rosie Sharratt
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