Nestled in 11 acres of Warwickshire countryside just three miles outside Stratford-upon-Avon, Billesley Manor Hotel & Spa houses some hidden gems.
Part of The Bespoke Hotels Group, the restored 125-year-old house is popular for its beautiful grounds, sumptuous accommodation and world class health club and spa. And locals will be familiar with its Shakespearean connections – the Bard himself is said to have penned his comedy As You Like It in the hotel’s library.
But our recent visit was about putting Billesley’s modern-day culinary credentials to the test in the form of its popular fine dining Stuart Restaurant.
Here guests can indulge in everything from all manner of gastronomic delights using locally sourced – and where possible sustainable - produce, from a la carte dining to Sunday lunch and even themed afternoon teas.
Taking our seats for dinner we were immediately struck by the grandeur of this splendid oak-panelled room, the Elizabethan charm setting the scene – and high expectations – for what’s to come.
We were lucky enough to go early evening while still light outside and so were afforded the stunning views through the restaurant windows. But if you have time, do take a turn around the grounds, which include an exquisite ornate Victorian-era topiary garden inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
In a fun nod to Warwickshire’s famous playwright, the menu is presented as Opening Acts, Main Event, Stand Ins and Curtain Call. Our Openers were Crispy Pig’s Head with Poached Pear, Roasted Pear Puree and Walnut Emulsion and Soup of the Day (roasted tomato). The former took us by surprise when it arrived resembling more a sausage than a pig’s head but we agreed this was probably just as well!
For the Main Event we enjoyed Duck Breast with Celeriac Fondant, Burnt Celeriac Puree, Blackberries and Jus and Pork Belly, served with Carrot Puree, Honied Carrot, Cider Braised Baby Turnip and Black Pudding Gel. Both very tasty plates of food but, after starving ourselves in anticipation, we were glad we’d also plumbed for sides (Stand Ins) of Garlic & Rosemary Seasoned Chips and Parmesan Potatoes.
Now came what was for me, the real Main Event in the form of dessert (or Curtain Call), courtesy of the chef’s Duck Egg Tart, with Poached Pear and Vanilla Ice Cream. From memory, simply the most exquisite pastry dish that’s crossed my lips – and there have been a few! Delicious and delicate complementary flavours that definitely prompted calls of ‘Encore’ from me. I’d have taken home a pack of four had there been a deli counter option on the way out!
Hubby’s Dark Chocolate Delice, served with Pistachio Gel, Pistachio Crumb and Tonka Bean, was polished off in no time. He was content with the modest sized serving as it was rich in taste – and a fitting final act to proceedings.
Those with less of a sweet tooth can enjoy an impressive selection of cheeses and there is an extensive wine menu with a deliberate focus on small production sustainable vineyards.
The sophisticated and friendly ambience combined with attentive service and flavour-packed dishes will ensure a foodie experience you’ll want to repeat.
“If music be the food of love, play on.”
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Amanda Chalmers is a journalist of three decades, now running an award-winning Chalmers News PR agency in Warwick and loves discovering and showcasing the diverse and burgeoning food and drink scene in Warwickshire and beyond.