by Dan Izzard
19 January 2018
Just on the edge of Bath, this manor house aims to give a real out-of-town experience...
I like to think of a menu as a tasty short story. Jerusalem artichoke five ways? Yes, I’ll be able to get my teeth right into that chapter. But we all know that every good story needs to start by setting the right scene...
Homewood Park is one such scene. Just six miles out of Bath, this 13th-century manor house makes you feel like you’re travelling to another century rather than another postcode. It’s Scott Galloway who has the duty, as head chef, of creating dishes that do the beautiful surroundings justice.
On arrival, we got ourselves comfortable in the Taittinger Champagne lounge (as one does), and sat listening to the crackle of the fireplace until we got talking to the food and beverage manager, Stefanel Vieru, about the beautiful bar and impressive array of spirits.
My partner in crime and the night’s designated driver (thanks #DryJanuary) supped an elaborate virgin French Martini with pineapple press and fresh raspberries. Its thick smoothie-like base and shot of sweetness made it a drink to savour and ensured it lasted just as long as my not-so-virgin cranberry Mojito.
When it comes to the food, Scott brings experience from Michael Caines’ ABode, The Royal Crescent Hotel and Lower Slaughter Manor. Add a smattering of gastropubs to the CV and you’re left with someone who can twist traditional dishes into something pretty unusual. He works with Homewood’s head of maintenance to bring in herbs and other foraged ingredients, giving things a sense of inventiveness that’s most appreciated while in the dark depths of January, bringing colour and excitement to the winter harvest.
Soon enough, we were seated in the high-ceilinged dining room. The sculpted, crushed velvet chairs were almost wingback in style, and so comfy that it was clear they’re designed for leisurely dining. Good stuff: we were in no hurry, and there was a lengthy conversation on the romantic subject of damp-proofing to be had.
An almond scone with smoked salmon and cream cheese amuse-bouche soon appeared. The scones had eagerly risen to outgrow the usual mouthful, and took more than a few bites to see away.
After the sweetness of our cocktails, the house Merlot hit me in the chops with its dry, earthy character. It turned out to be a fine buddy for my starter of pigeon leg and breast, too (£8.50). The breast, which was moist for the most part, had been cooked skin side down for edges that curled skyward. The accompanying leg, shredded and deep-fried, was fatty and moreish on the inside, crisp on the outside. It all sat on a vibrant pink mix of barley and beetroot, a pleasant texture, if outgunned by the flavour of the meat.
I checked tasting notes with my teetotal companion. Her scallops (£12.50) were served with artichoke and lardo, and retained their delicate sweet taste and translucence. I wanted to swap plates but I’d already finished off my pigeon; I don’t think I’d have got a lift home if I’d insisted.
The rack of lamb (£26.50) was accompanied by burnt roscoff onions, satsuma, pecan nuts and red wine, as well as a rectangle of rich and cheesy potato dauphinoise. The lamb was tender and moist, with the very edges of the fat rendered crisp. This was an occasion to assemble that perfect mouthful; I speared the most tender piece of lamb I could find onto my fork with a hunk of potato, balancing a pine nut atop the whole thing, and repeated the ritual until the entire lot was gone.
Seizing the opportunity for a #FoodPorn moment, I wielded my phone ready to capture the crack of the rum and raisin crème brûlée (£8.50). The top, though, was either thinner than expected, or I don’t know my own strength, as the spoon sailed straight through the caramel lid and made a deep divot, uncovering some hidden raisins in its depths. The loosely set custard was light and velvety, full of vanilla and creaminess. The chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream (£8.50) fared better though, the choc bursting from the sides.
Homewood is about the whole experience: the history, the grounds, the spa and, of course, the restaurant. It’s somewhere to forget about your bulging email inbox (and post-Christmas waistline) and treat yourself to some classic British fine dining.
Homewood Park, Abbey Lane, Freshford, Bath BA2 7TB