A Restaurant Worth Travelling To: Hampton Manor
A Restaurant Worth Travelling To: Hampton Manor

A Restaurant Worth Travelling To: Hampton Manor

In this series, we travel to some of the UK’s best restaurants. These establishments are destinations in their own right – and well worth a day trip or overnight stay. This month, SL’s managing lifestyle editor Heather Steele paid a visit to the West Midlands to see if one of the country’s newest Michelin-starred restaurants-with-rooms lived up to the hype…
By Heather Steele

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The Concept

Family run hotel Hampton Manor was made for foodies. In the village of Hampton in Arden, it’s a ten-minute drive from Birmingham International station yet it’s surrounded by 45 acres of woodland. It specialises in one or two-night stays where diners can enjoy the best of British cuisine. Once home to Michelin-starred Peel’s, its signature spot is now the multimillion-pound, purpose-built Grace & Savour, which gained its own star at this year’s awards.

The kitchen is led by head chef David Taylor – previously of three-Michelin-starred Maaemo in Oslo – and his wife Anette. Guests can enjoy fine dining in a relaxed setting surrounded by a walled garden, then stay overnight in one of the adjoining rooms. With an emphasis on zero-waste cooking, David finds inventive ways of using everything the land has to offer, including organic herbs and veg from the kitchen garden. Diners can watch their 15-course menu being created at the chef’s table, using ingredients they saw in the soil earlier that afternoon.

The Setting

On arrival, guests are given a small snack as their bags are dropped off in their room. For us, it was a refined soup, served in the restaurant’s relaxed lounge area, alongside a chilled vermouth and tonic. Eating this against such an attractive backdrop – picture terracotta walls and earthy wooden furniture – eased us into the experience, with the views into the already busy kitchen helping set the scene for later that night.

Hampton Manor’s staycation experiences are designed to show how everything at the property is linked. After the welcome dish, guests are offered a guided tour of the organic kitchen garden to see what’s fresh (for us that’s tomato, fennel and purple peppers), before there’s time to relax in the bedrooms or explore the estate. We loved that each bedroom comes with a map and area guide in a waterproof case, so those making the most of a two-night stay can walk off some of the feasting by roaming around the 45 acres of grounds (you can even borrow wellies). We stayed on a summer night that was truly British in the sense of there being multiple seasons in 24 hours. We can confirm the grounds are as special in the rain as they are in the sunshine when the flowers, corn and fruit are in full splendour.

The Food

Guests at Grace & Savour are taken through 15 ever-changing courses that highlight the best of what the garden has to offer. Guests can choose to dine up at the counter, as we did, or in the light-filled dining room which overlooks the rows of produce. This is an immersive dining experience where – even in the height of summer – the lights are turned down low to create a real atmosphere. Another nice touch is only presenting the menu at the end of the meal, which means every dish is a surprise, even when you’re seated up at the pass. This is only a good thing in my book, as dishes that might not have piqued your interest when written down often end up being the star of the show. Case in point: an early dish of kohlrabi served in a whey and elderflower sauce, which was so rich and creamy and powerfully flavoured, it pleased me like a huge slab of oozing cheese would have. Other intriguing flavour combinations included a crispy sourdough starter with wild garlic capers, served alongside Cornish crab on a fennel cracker with pickled sea buckthorn, star anise syrup and shoots from the garden. There were also scallops glazed with lacto-fermented honey, served in a broth of roasted mussel and scallop, followed by line-caught cod with mussel cream and vibrant dill oil.

All this was expertly paired with interesting wines, which gently challenged and complemented each dish in equal measure. The meal ended with a sequence of impressive desserts: more of that lovely whey, this time caramelised and turned into a ewe’s milk sorbet served with satisfyingly sour redcurrants; sheep’s yoghurt sorbet with raspberry syrup, rhubarb root oil and crispy meringue; and possibly our favourite dish – a rye tart case filled with egg custard and blackberries. Everything was rounded off with warm-from-the-oven brown butter madeleines, delivered with pots of crème diplomat and rum syrup for dipping. We’d watched these being whisked and baked while we ate our way through the menu, and it was lovely to end the evening with a dish we’d spied being created.

The Verdict

There’s a reason the two-night packages are so popular at Hampton Manor. As well as a memorable meal at Grace & Savour, we tried some fun natural wines during a tasting with owner James in the pretty tomato house and learnt how to make sourdough at the hotel’s bakery. Headed up by Korean baker Min Go, who trained at Noma-adjacent Meyers Bageri in Copenhagen, we got to grips with all things bread in our masterclass, tried her different varieties and – best of all – were given a small pot of ‘Frankie’, the name of her years-old ‘Frankenstein’s monster’ sourdough starter, to take home.

There was also just enough time for a whistlestop lunch at Smoke, found next to the estate’s tomato house and vinery. Headed up by MasterChef: The Professionals winner Stu Deeley, Smoke’s food celebrates seasonal produce cooked with simplicity and largely over fire. Highlights from Stu’s menu included a scallop swimming in a packs-a-punch Thai green curry sauce and a communal cast-iron pan of boulangère potatoes. If you consider yourself a food fan, we can’t think of a better place to spend two nights than Hampton Manor.

Where To Stay

There are 15 rooms inside the main house, plus another four in a cottage (which can be booked for groups), all of which have William Morris wallpaper, plush velvet furniture and beautiful period features like mullion windows and marble fireplaces. Opposite Grace & Savour, there are a further five suites, all with huge baths, neutral – almost spa-like – décor and separate living spaces that are flooded with light and have views over the gardens towards the restaurant. The retreat-style atmosphere continues in the cocoons of the bedrooms – by the bath, you’ll find salts and a scroll detailing a relaxing bedtime routine and, in the morning, you can follow the team’s go-to coffee ritual, grinding locally roasted beans into an earthenware mug. Every room also offers mounted bottles of locally made shampoo and conditioner alongside haircare for textured hair as standard, which we’ve not seen in a hotel before. A thoughtful touch.

Then there’s breakfast, which is an event in itself. In the dining room that once housed Peel’s, there’s a great selection of cooked breakfasts (don’t pass on the creamy scrambled eggs), granolas and – happily – plenty of Min’s sourdough and her signature cinnamon buns (truly the nicest we’ve tried) to round off the experience.

How To Get There

Trains from London Euston take just over two hours. From Hampton In Arden station, Hampton Manor is a five-minute walk. Travel by car takes around two hours and 20 minutes from the capital.

Hampton Manor, Hampton In Arden, West Midlands, B92 0EN

Visit HamptonManor.com

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