We hear all the time about refurbishments, refits and launches, but non go as far as the recently (part) re-opened Dormy House, located on the cusp of the Gloucestershire/Worcestershire borders.
Long Since established as a favourite for those in the know who wanted a country retreat with no fuss and a taste of good old fashioned hospitality. Then a little tired maybe, but the location was perfect for exploring the gem that is The Cotswolds, or even hiding from prying eyes as the team adopted complete discretion with their guests.
Fast forward to the Summer of 2013 when the Dormy House was reopened after 6 months of(brave)complete closure, under a typically understated fanfare, with the invitation sent out to key folk across the counties for an afternoon tea tour with the occasional glass of fizz. I was unable to make that occasion, but managed to grab a couple of nights away over the last Bank Holiday weekend of the year.
A somewhat dull Saturday afternoon, despite forecasts to the contrary, was contrasted by the bright welcome sight of not one, not two but three concierges greeting us in front of the classic Cotswold country property, Savoy style. Our bags hurried away, we were shown to our room – refurbished with an understated elegance – clean classic neutral colours from opulent furnishing to rustic painted beams, mixed with modern refinements to create a real homely feel. French style windows opened to the soon to be completed Italian courtyard. Our hand written note from GM David, and our complimentary bottle of Veuve Clicquot set the tone for the weekend. Friendly, welcoming and indulgent.
We were hard pressed to avoid one of their afternoon teas. It seemed ‘the thing to do’ as most corners and sofas were festooned with ladies marvelling over their stacks of cakes, breads and bakes, alongside (occasional) men enjoying a glass of fizz, and a flick through the papers and abundant magazines. We thought we would challenge Chef with a gluten free afternoon tea order – not a problem – they even had a menu for it. And it certainly delivered. Flavoursome Loch Duart smoked salmon sandwiches, also ham and a selection of scones, fresh cream, and chocolate fancies & chewy meringues complimented with loose leaf tea, and a glass of Prosecco or two.
To balance the occasion we thought a walk around the grounds would neutralise the damage we had just inflicted on our vital organs and arteries. A route was drawn up by one of the eager concierges. Off we went around the adjoining golf course perimeter and we soon discovered the incredible view of the Farncombe Estate where the Dormy House sits and The Vale of Evesham, and flatlands all the way to the Malvern Hills in the distance – the sun had honoured us and the results were truly stunning. A green and most pleasant land. Even taking a moment two enjoy blackberries and even bill berries from the hedgerows en route.
The main event was to be the evening meal. Chef Paul Napper has returned as head chef, (starting as kitchen porter nearly 30 years ago) and although the menus and the overall food development has been overseen by Michelin chef John Wood. From experience it doesn’t always mean the results are favourable. Drinks by the fire ( yes its lit EVERY day, and such a stoke of primal genius offering a focal point for all guests and seemingly bringing together the reclaimed wood tables, and rustic artifacts to create a genuinely warm setting, in both senses). The contrasting Garden Room Restaurant with its contemporary floor to ceiling windows, and fabric wallpaper means everyone has a view of the Chris Beardshaw created gardens.
A Jerusalem artichoke veloute livened my taste buds ready for the Cotswold chicken ballotine perfectly moist and seasoned. My partners vegan caramelised onion tart was an intriguing choice, managing to create light puff pastry without any animal derivatives and crisp onions atop was simple but innovative. Mains had to include game…a few weeks after the glorious twelfth and befitting to our surrounding – set in 400 acres of the private Farncombe Estate with game seemingly exercising their rights to consume the land, I thought it only fair to consume some of them. Perfectly cooked pink venison with chocolate and blackberry ravioli, sautéed cabbage and crisp bacon. And my guest’s risotto was well received “everyone does risotto for vegetarians and vegans but let’s see what what their slant is” we had to double check it was vegan it was so good. Crunchy cashew nuts were a welcomed addition.
By now we had tackled two carafes of wine – opting to choose differing selections we went for Terre de Lumiere Viogner and Pinot Grigio Rosato Montevento, at an agreeable £11.50 each and equally palatable. Desserts were well on their way. By now our fellow diners were buzzing with chat and laughter – always a good sign. We had both selected the sorbets. Including local blackberry sorbet, raspberry and coconut creations. Lifting the heaviest of palates these were simply and again innovatively presented on a slate ‘rack’ and ensured we could return to the fireplace perfectly satisfied and cleansed.
A good nights sleep can only be topped by a good mornings breakfast. My ’12 mile sausages’ (A-Hem!) tasted as relaxed as the piggy must have felt on his short final journey, (it’s what he would have wanted) and were once again walked off, but this time not around the estate but a guide by the affable GM David Field around the second phase of the hotel refurbishment. Seemingly there are still a few million pounds to spend – on the spa – and what a project. More ‘spa accommodation’ under completion, infinity pool, plunge pool, hot tubs, gym and treatment rooms bigger than any Travel Inn bedroom, will offer 24 hour a day fitness, personal trainers and indulgence to rival any health farm – and all sponsored by Veuve Cliquot, what more can anyone ask?
There is a real homely feel to the Dormy. Not a ‘faux’ shabby chique, or a ‘Renegade Rustic’ design, but more like the feel of someone who has perhaps downsized from a large country house, discarded their unwanted heirlooms and only kept their favourite pieces – maybe even taken a few house warming gifts from close friends – all resulting in making a perfect country house that anyone can mirror, aspire to or even create as their own. The team ooze passion – not something they have been taught in a head office, but genuinely share with their guests – pride and passion are sadly not two words that can be applied to many hospitality venues in this country but long committed GM David seems to have shared his own enthusiasm resulting in a retreat that we can all learn from, and those who already know it all, can relax in the knowledge that they won’t be disappointed.
Average meal costs for 3 courses plus ‘extras’ ie amuse bouche £40 per head Fixed.
Overnight from ‘Intimate’ rooms from £210 through ‘Top Notch’, suits and Cottages approx £300. We were guests of The Dormy House Hotel. More information www.dormyhouse.co.uk