Can’t cook, will eat

Bloody Hell. I think recently I’ve become a bit inured to good food and nice hotels because I really had the rug pulled from underneath me at Whatley Manor. Stayed there for one night on Saturday and *wow* it was impressive. It made Amberley Castle seem a bit ordinary! Met by the manager at the door, give them your car keys and they park your car and then give you a tour… the place is gorgeous. Now normally places are gorgeous but then let down by attention to detail (for example the most common is loose tiles in bathroom or dated spa facilities) but this place was pristine! Most impressive of all was the spa. WOW so many rooms to scamper around exploring! They had the biggest hydrotherapy pool I’ve seen, a wave dream sensory room, about 5 different types of steam rooms (with tropical rain showers in between), free salt scrub showers and huge heated stone loungers to flop into when the excitement got too much.

I was sure it couldn’t get any better, but it did – Ainsley Harriot (a famous chef) was one of the guests and I overheard him in the lounge asking about a panini. Now, he wanted to know what was in it etc.etc. and the waitress said “it’s like a sandwich put in a panini press and then cut in half”. Fantastic, hohoho, learn something new each day eh Ainsley!

So, just when it couldn’t get any better… dinner time arrived. We ate in the Dining Room, the Michelin starred restaurant. OK so the decor was a bit chintzy but the service was perfection and the food was even better.

After TWO pre dinner snackette things, one of which was a shot glass filled with a tomato consomme (which was perfectly clear and just tomato perfection) with a small piece of breaded goats cheese and olive tapenade (these little courses are called sommit French and I can never remember) I started with Scottish langoustines. Caramelized, dressed with parsnip puree and truffle essence. Then yet another course between courses before moving on to my main course which was Fillet of Dover sole. Steamed, resting on braised salsify and fennel and topped with truffle foam. MMmm was so nice, each course seemed to have tiny cubes of “gel” (jelly really) as well as having jus, they were so nice! Finally pudding time… except there was no finally, it seemed to go on forever! Firstly they brought out some weird little frothy milkshake thing mmm, then they brought out something else which I think was chocolately but I’ve forgotten, THEN I got my pudding… Caramel soufflé. Dressed with popcorn ice cream and mandarin smoothie. Wow, it wasn’t just popcorn ice cream, it had a little paper cone with popcorn in it! The soufflé itself was so gorgeous and perfectly formed. Mmmm.

So, finished now? Nope. Off to the lounge to have coffee and they bring over a MASSIVE plate of petit fours, seriously about 12 different tiny desserts and chocolates! Then the waiter said “oh, I’m going to get you something… else” and came back with a big wooden box stuffed full of home made chocolates and said Help Yourself!. There were mint and violet and banana and wowww, so many!

Best.Meal.Ever. Although I do wonder if Ainsley enjoyed it as much because they sat him near the door of the restaurant!?!?!? In fact, I feel partly to blame for that as we asked for a quiet table and they sat us in our own part of the restaurant and the Maitre de came over to say “we’ll keep this part of the restaurant quiet for you until it gets busier later, hope that’s OK”.