The Full Glass Bar and Wine List
We started our evening in the hotel bar to peruse the menu and enjoy the complimentary canapes. The bar serves light meals as well as a full range of cocktails. The highlight of the bar is undoubtedly the 160 different gins they stock, including 2 of my personal favourites – Fifty Pounds and Warner Edwards. They also stock a local Cotswold Gin.
We decided to stick with wine and enjoyed looking through the extensive wine list. It had some inspired New World choices such as both an Albarino and a Gruner Veltliner from New Zealand which you do not see very often. As they had an excellent choice of wines by the glass, we decided to stick with those. Although tempted by the Nyetimber sparkling wine, I went for the Chardonnay from Monterey California and my friend went for the Vavasour Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough. Both wines were good quality and enjoyable as well as reasonably priced. The restaurant has a sommelier on hand if you have trouble choosing from the wine list.
The restaurant takes its name from the river that runs through the hotel grounds and has maintained its Michelin star after the arrival of a new chef, Rob Potter in February 2016. Vegetables, fruits, and herbs are all grown for the restaurant in the hotel’s kitchen garden. There are definitely not many food miles here!
Rob Potter was formerly at Lucknam Park under Executive Chef Hywel Jones, which also has a Michelin star. Rob started out as Commis Chef at The Bay Tree in Birmingham, under Michelin starred Head Chef Andy Waters, one of Rob’s most influential peers. Potter says he has “a dedicated focus to serving seasonal and classical food combinations” and his aim “is to create a relaxed fine-dining menu influenced by the seasons as well as being dictated by the beautiful British produce harvested from within the grounds of The Manor House.’’
The Manor House has been following the recent trend of trying to create a less formal, more relaxed atmosphere in the hotel and restaurant. They have added new chairs in the signature purple and grey colour scheme. The tablecloths have also been removed which I actually think is a shame. I think you can create a relaxed ambiance but still have a sense of occasion by having a fine dining setting.
Overall the dining room itself was the one area I felt could be improved in comparison to other Michelin starred restaurants I have visited. The room was quite large and lacked any sense of intimacy. Chandeliers were overly bright and not in keeping with the modern but classic decor. The final problem for me was the very busy wallpaper which looked out of place as a feature wall.
However, I am pleased to report that the food was uniformly excellent and well worth visiting the hotel for. Innovative as well as tried and trusted food combinations were all delicious.
Before our starter arrived we were given an amuse bouche which consisted of a mushroom espuma with sherry vinegar, crouton, and truffle oil. Usually, I am not a fan of truffle oil but this was a high-quality oil used in the right proportion to add earthiness to the mushrooms. The sherry vinegar was a stroke of genius and really lifted the dish, balancing out the creaminess of the foam. I may have to try that next time I have mushroom soup at home!
I must also mention the service which was very much in keeping with Michelin standards but made extra special by the Head Waiter, David. His professional yet charming style which stayed just the right side of cheekiness, helped create a relaxed but memorable atmosphere for the meal.
To start I had Orkney hand-dived scallops, celeriac puree, salsify, hazelnut vinaigrette with chicken jus. This was absolutely delicious with enormous scallops which were perfectly caramelised. I was initially unsure about the addition of the hazelnuts, but they added texture to the dish without overpowering the delicate scallops. My dining companion had the confit of citrus cured Loch Duart salmon, Cornish Crab mango, black radish, and coriander. The salmon had a meltingly soft texture which needed the crunch and pepperiness of the radish to counteract the richness. The crab and mango also added a freshness to the dish.
To follow I had partridge with blackberries and mushrooms which was again beautifully balanced in flavour although one of the pieces of partridge was slightly overdone. The other piece had the perfect amount of pinkness and was tender and moist. My friend had the venison with salsify and venison faggots which was perfectly cooked and full flavoured.
Prior to pudding, we were served a pre-dessert. This consisted of yoghurt espuma with plums which was wonderfully tart and refreshing.
For dessert, I had the figs with ginger cake which was enjoyable but when I tasted my friend’s dessert I wished I had gone for that instead. He had the baked mango soufflé, coconut sorbet with confit lime. This was definitely the highlight of the dinner. The souffle was incredibly light yet bursting with mango flavour. It was a lovely light way to finish a meal.
Our menu was included in our room rate. A 7-course tasting menu is also available for £95 with optional matching wines. A 3-course meal costs £75pp.
The restaurant is normally open for dinner 7 days a week and for lunch on Sundays.