Everything that you would expect of such a manor house is here: exposed timber beams, ancient stone fireplaces and an interior maze of drawing rooms and sitting rooms, each with comfy sofas and arm chairs and book lined walls, ideal for relaxing into with a drink in hand if the golf course seems just too energetic an option.
Individual bedrooms are similarly imbued with ancient character and original features though there's plenty of modern touches with flat screen TV's and wi-fi throughout the hotel, but most importantly for my stay, there's a restaurant, the Bybrook, which was recently awarded Wiltshire's Restaurant of the Year. In this regards, it's worth remembering that Wiltshire plays host to both Whatley Manor (2 star) and Lucknam Park (1 star) so this is a county more blessed than many shires with decorated eating destinations making it an award worth winning (and for them worth shouting about). The Bybrook also has a Michelin star of its own.
The restaurant itself sits in an extension to the old manor house but one that is seamlessly blended into the style of the old, even to the point of including a stained glass window that looks through to the lawns. However, what is good about having a newer dining room is that you are not constrained by five hundred year old architecture in how the guests must enjoy the experience, for in our travels, we have generally found that old parts of old manor houses are characterised by small rooms (which in a number of old manors results in as many as three separate dining rooms), usually dark wood panelling on the walls producing more often than not, something a little gloomy, sometimes even oppressively so. This however is a nice room with decent sized tables that are nicely spaced providing for a comfortable environment for diners.
The second dessert did that too, with a raspberry parfait, peanut ice cream and sweet and salty popcorn. My only issue here was how the raspberry combines with the other elements where I felt it sat uncomfortably. All components were excellent but I felt this could have been two desserts, a raspberry parfait, and then a deconstructed Snickers bar. It was this latter element, rather than the parfait that thrilled me the most and as much as I enjoyed this dessert, there's an even better one set to evolve from this plate surely.
If then I was looking for solid execution at the beginning of the meal, tick, they delivered. Most of the real modernity admittedly came in the final two desserts which I thoroughly enjoyed, and while I recognise that the restaurant has a specific clientèle, I wonder if they couldn't just add a little more jazz to earlier courses: the kitchen seems talented enough and I'm sure the diners, even if it is comprised of golf tourists would enjoy and accept it.
The Bybrook isn't however out to impress Giles Coren, or to surf the wave of the next big trend in food (whatever that is). It is though the shop window through which thousands of international tourists will experience and judge British food following their stay in this country. With that in mind, I must admit to feeling a pang of pride here, for the table next to me comprised a group of six Japanese tourists, and I finished my meal sure that they would return to Japan and tell their friends that Britain does do food, and does it in fact very well.
The Manor House Hotel is a truly first class hotel, celebrating the UK's heritage with the highest standards of service that the modern affluent traveller now expects. In such a setting, the Bybrook restaurant provides guests with the food and service to match.
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