Cotswolds review: Thyme

There’s a lovely mix of formal and informal at Thyme – sparkling crystal and crisp linens, but a convivial and cosy atmosphere that make it a casual, social experience too.

Fancy the supper club experience on a whole new luxe level? Hannah Bellis discovers the seasonal feasts at Thyme on Southrop Manor Estate

I’m a great believer in setting the scene for a meal. If I’m hosting dinner I’ll always sacrifice precious cooking time to set the table meticulously, choosing tunes and creating ambience – I swear it makes the food taste better! Could this be one of the reasons dinner at the recent Thyme’s Table event, held in the gorgeously renovated Tithe Barn, tasted so good? It takes incredible designer skill to make a new venue feel so established.

Thyme Cookery School has operated on Southrop Manor estate since 2009, but last year the offering expanded to include Thyme’s Table dinners. Doors on these regular pop-ups may only have been open for 12 months, but the gorgeous interlocking beams over the cathedral-height dining area have clearly been here a whole lot longer. The cathedral comparison holds true for the food, too. Thyme has been awarded three stars from the Sustainable Restaurant Association, making it a kind of mecca for me.

The 150 acres of Southrop Manor has its own kitchen garden that goes beyond your usual veg patch – they have sheep, pigs, poultry and bees with a menu and ethos that revolves around eating seasonal produce grown on the estate and surrounding areas, where possible. I was attending the ‘For the Love of the Land’ dinner celebrating autumn’s produce, cooked by Matt Wardman, head chef at The Swan gastropub on the estate. I felt sorry for diners down the road at The Swan that night, as he was busy cooking up a storm for us at Thyme’s Table!

Matt’s menu was four courses with canapés and a cleansing bramble ice between starter and main for £75 a head, plus £50 for the accompanying wine flight. It delivered some exceptional surprises, including Aztec broccoli (which I’d never heard of before), served as tempura canapés with dashi vinegar. Another treat was the starter of smoked partridge with purslane and autumn grapes. Smoke and game in the bird sat well with the beautiful bitter leaves, but it was the aromatic hit of green cardamom that really set this dish alight, especially combined with the tiniest but most wonderfully tasting grapes I have ever had – autumn at its best!

There’s a lovely mix of formal and informal at Thyme – sparkling crystal and crisp linens, but a convivial and cosy atmosphere that make it a casual, social experience too. I felt this most while mingling with other guests sipping cocktails at the start, but also when the main course of steaming mutton pithivier pies with red kale were cut at the table, and guests served each other from the communal platters with gasps of anticipation as the juices bubbled through the pastry.

Dessert was a vanilla semifreddo made with pear Eau de Vie from Capreolus Distillery in Cirencester. The dessert was served with poached pear and a light chocolate sauce topped with a crunchy shard of hazelnut praline. The feast was finished with one of my very favourite cheeses – a Vacherin Mont d’Or served baked and oozing with an exquisite sourdough plus rosehip and medlar jelly.

There are plenty more chances to sample Thyme’s Table both this year and next, including at an Italian Christmas feast with guest chef Eleonora Galasso on 10 December. Just image the gorgeous Tithe Barn decked out in Christmas finery – now that has got to make some special food taste amazingly good.

✱ THYME, Southrop Manor Estate, Lechlade, Gloucestershire GL7 3NX; 01367 850174;