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Cotswold House Hotel


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Cotswold House Hotel in Chipping Campden is home to chef Simon Hulstone ("ginger chef" as he is known on these boards). As you may know, Simon is this years Roux Scholar and is soon off to spend 3 months in the kitchens at 3 Michelin star Martin Berasategui in Spain. I took the opportunity whilst on business in the area to visit the hotel and try Simon's food before his trip.

The village of Chipping Campden is quite lovely, in a picture postcard, sandstone kind of way and very typical of the Cotswolds. The Hotel has a commanding position in the centre of the hight street and is set in beautiful gardens, which the main restaurant overlooks.

Rooms in the hotel have been refurbished to a very high standard in a contemporary style and provide a nice contrast to the Regency exterior. Beds are huge, the TVs have built in DVD players and you can make your own filter coffee with fresh milk. You can find more details here.

Most important for me however was how well the restaurant performed. The dining room is due to be refurbished in January of next year I believe in a manner more in keeping with the modern stylings of the rooms. At the moment it is comfortable with great views and terrible piped music. On my first visit I dined alone and was treated to a mini tour around the menu, with a number of extra dishes appearing to those that I ordered.

All diners are offered a shot glass canape of tomato jam, cauliflower pannacotta and aubergine cavair served with a parmesan straw, which is a very enjoyable way to kick things off with its nicely judged flavours. Hulstone employs produce from the garden in his cooking, and to no better effect than the demi tasse of scallop and lovage soup served cold with a ceviche of scallop. The celery like flavour of the lovage was a new and surprising one to me and worked well with the shellfish.

If one thing typifies the cooking at Cotswold House, it's the craftsman like precision with which the plates are put together. The Artichoke and Pear Salad surrounding the Ballotine of Foie Gras, Earl Grey Jelly appeared to have been built leaf by leaf, slice by slice. Similarly a tasting portion of Roast Scallops, Black Pudding, Cauliflower Purée and Smoked Bacon had the touch of the architect about it.

The boldness of the flavours and the ideas underpinning the dishes ensure the food doesn't become overstudied or precious. Take for instance Confit Fillet Of Salmon, Cod Brandade, Swiss Chard Warm Beetroot and Orange Vinaigrette. I was quite prepared to dislike what reads as a few too many ingredients forced to share crockery space. In reality however, the orange and beetroot did a great job of balancing out the intrinsic richness of the two fish preperations.

Veal Rib Eye with Meaux Mustard Cabbage, Fricassee of Summer Vegetables and Morel Cream was a satisfying plate of food, the pronounced flavour of mustard providing able support to the delicate meat without obliterating it.

Desserts may possibly need some tweaking with only the Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream which accompanied Mandarin Mousse on Pain d'épices and Chocolate Nougatine really hitting home.

A second visit saw a bad combination of starter and main slightly mar an otherwise excellent meal. A Warm Salad of Pigeon, Wild Mushroom and Shallot Dressing with Truffled Celeriac came topped with a slice of foie gras, as did a main of Roasted Fillet of Brill, Cabbage and Bacon, Salsify and Seared Foie Gras which also included mushrooms. The two treatments, whilst individualy successful, were too similar to be truely enjoyed one after the other.

Service was a great deal better than I have experienced at other similar establishments, but can get very stretched when things get busy in the Hotel's hicks Brasserie. The main restaurant was desserted for periods of time on my second visit which became frustrating especially as wine is hidden out of reach.

Dinner at £40.00 is not exactly cheap and the wine list is not the most forgiving, although does include a decent selection under £20.00. However, the hotel offers a good value dinner, bed and breakfast rate and corporate rates.

Although featured in the guides, my impression is that the restaurant is currently under valued by them. If standards are maintained whilst Simon is away, I would predict a hike in ratings when they are next published.

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Andy, had I known of the Chipping Camden location, my wife and I would have tried it out. Years ago, we spent some time in the Cotswolds (Hook Norton - Pear Tree Inn and Hook Norton Brewery), Warwick, etc., and loved it very much; hoping to come back.

Something must have been right. Our little boy was conceived there. Gives new meaning to Hook Norton's "Old Hooky!"

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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Well, I am quite convinced we got it right with this lad - but given his name is Connor, maybe he's pulled the wool over our eyes and we will have to repeat our visit. :biggrin:

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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andy,

nice write up thankyou, i totally agree with the likeness of the brill and the pigeon but what can i say i like foie gras. on a serious note the waiters are trained to know the ingredients of each dish and if this happens they usually should mention to the diner and offer an alternative. we dont mention the word foie gras on the description of the pigeon so it is a bit of an extra we did at one point use the liver and leg meat in a samosa but pigeon liver didnt appeal to the customers and was normally pushed aside. if i do recall though your table pre ordered at one of your coffee breaks so i am gathering there was no waiter to go through the menu . but still no excuse. dessert side is a little suprising i feel all our desserts are quite accesible in a market where most people dont actually get that far and we tend to offer dishes that are recognisable and add a twist that is nt mentioned. they are safe is what i am trying to say. pastry chefs are a rare and expensive breed so most kitchens i know dont actually employ one and the main kitchen actually produce the desserts. the music has gone. we lost this the day after you came (thank goodness) it was like being trapped on hold for the rest of your life . is their any decent background music out there. the waiters do tend to disappear at times but we usually only have one on duty and if coffees or liquers are needed they have to go to the brasserie.

overall thankyou for the positive feed back it has been taken in but you did mention the large beds in the rooms what i can recall is you didnt actually sleep in yours or was that another conference i was thinking of.

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you did mention the large beds in the rooms what i can recall is you didnt actually sleep in yours or was that another conference i was thinking of.

I did sleep in it, it was just that I didn't get to it until 6.00am, and even then I had to climb through a window! Its a fairly long story and not even half as interesting as you might think it could be.

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dessert side is a little suprising i feel all our desserts are quite accesible in a market where most people dont actually get that far and we tend to offer dishes that are recognisable and add a twist that is not mentioned.

The two desserts I tried "Mandarin Mousse on Pain d'épices Chocolate Nougatine, Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream" and "Iced Strawberry Parfait with Hot Banana Spring Rolls and Fruit Paysanne" were good, and the chocolate fondant a collegue had was apparently very good. By tweaking I really meant that the mandarin flavour could have been more forceful in the mousse and possibly the ratio of banana to casing in the spring rolls could have been increased, but thats a personal thing possibly.

Overall, my experience was that the desserts, although good, enjoyable to eat and well presented were not as strong as the rest of the menu, which I thought was excellent. Having said that, the creme brulees served as part of the buffet lunch were great.

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Yeah right Andy. I believe you.

No wonder Mrs Lynes didn't allow you to attend the St John egullet meal. Are you on probabtion ?

She doesn't know the full Cotswold House story. I did tell her that I only got as far as the first services on the M40 before I had to stop and take a short nap before I felt safe to continue, due to my "tired and emotional" state.

I should also point out that our conference was for myself and immeadiate team members, all of whom are male.

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Hicks Brasserie Bar got a very nice write-up by one of the bods at Waitrose Food Illustrated (July issue), they don't seem to be online so I will paraphrase here:

"This delightfuly informal brasserie and bar is a great place for a casual supper in the pretty Cotswold town of Chipping Campden. it's part of the gorgeous Cotswold House Hotel, though with a separate street entrance and, in contrast to their more formal Garden Restaurant, offers simple fare with a Modern British accent. It is an especial favourite of restaurant editor Liz Marcy. "The star dish for me was an open lasagne of artichoke and mushrooms with a vivid green pea 'foam' ".

Ginger Chef, how would you like to share the recipe for this dish with us?? I am scared of cooking artichokes.

{NB I have never seen the word "especial" in print before, and have only ever heard it on "I Love Lucy" but my spellchecker doesn't seem alarmed so I'm willing to learn...}

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  • 7 months later...

My wife and I stopped off in Chipping Campden this week to say hi to Simon and for a very light lunch in Hicks' brasserie after a full on dinner the previous night at Le Champignon Sauvage. The truffled macaroni cheese with smoked haddock and spinach (sounds great doesn't it?) had unfortunately sold out, so I went for a salad of chorizo and Gill had a Ceaser's salad served with warm smoked salmon both served with a precisely cooked poached egg and both beautifully presented and equally delicious (we swapped plates half way through).

I regretted not having more of an appetite when I spotted the likes of a cassoulet of duck or an impressive looking burger being delivered to the next table, but we did find room for an apple and cinnamon clafoutis with vanilla ice cream, albeit only to share.

Simon gave us a whistle stop tour of the hotel, including the very impressive new Grammer School suite, which is across the road and down a bit from the main hotel. The Hotel have also just purchased the property next door which will house 10 bedrooms plus an extention to the brasserie and possibly a function room if planning can be obtained. There are also plans to convert the old coach house ( currently home to owners Christa and Ian Taylor) into a spa.

The restaurant will be refurbished late March/early April in purple and mahogany with the intention of bringing a bit of London swank to the Cotswolds. Simon's a la carte will be extended to 9 choices at each stage from the current 5/5/6 formation and individualy proced rather than the current set price of £40.00 for 3 courses.

Reading the current menu, highlights appear to include a dish of squab with butterbeans and squid shavings (which begs the question how do you shave a squid), inspired by Simon's recent Spanish stage; foie gras with sauternes poached pear and liquorice cream and whiltshire pork loin marinated in spices and tea leaves with butternut puree and braised pork belly faggot.

I'm hoping to get back in the summer, but in the meantime I believe we may get a report soon from a UK forum regular.

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The truffled macaroni cheese with smoked haddock and spinach (sounds great doesn't it?) had unfortunately sold out...

{..}

and Gill had a Ceaser's salad...

Oh, my - that has my four of my favourite words in the English language - "macaroni cheese smoked haddock" never mind truffle. I would never have thought of putting them together...and am not a fan of cheese & fish together but this sounds too good to resist. Even at 9h45 in the morning.

By the way, Andy, I didn't know you were married to AA Gill. That explains a lot...

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but in the meantime I believe we may get a report soon from a UK forum regular.

To whom do you refer ?:wink::wink:

Yes Rosie and I are stopping off for Lunch en-route to a cottage in Ludlow next Monday. Very much looking forward to meeting Simon and trying his food. The dishes you mentioned sound excellent and the Hotel looks great so may well ask to have a quick look in one of the rooms too. :biggrin:

We are away for week, so it may be a while before I post about Cotswold House and Ludlow, but I certainly will when I get back....unless I have exploded through over indulgence. :smile:

Cheers

Bapi

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  • 3 weeks later...

Bright woman - my wife, she had it written it to our pre-nuptial, that I am hence forth obligated to take her away each year for our anniversary. As Ludlow was the choice of destination for a week and as we were en-route from London, we decided to split the journey and incorporate a swift lunch at the Cotswold House. Chipping Campden is a beautiful little town, where the majority of the buildings are a deep gold coloured stone found throughout the Cotswold region. The Hotel stands just off the small main square, in the centre of the main street, but a word of warning for you, parking is a bit of a nightmare and we were there on a Monday lunchtime in March! Heaven only knows what the town is like on a busy summer weekend.

I had contacted Simon Hulstone to let him know we were coming. He indicated that although he wouldn't be there himself, he kindly arranged for his Sous Chef- David to come and have a quick chat and offer to show us around the Hotel. The main restaurant was closed, so we lunched in Hick's Brasserie. A pleasant, bright busy room, which is more contemporary than the traditional main restaurant. It was surprisingly busy as they serve food till 2.30pm, which I presume accounted for the late influx of people after 2pm and the 48 covers, one waiter, proudly said they had got through. Not bad for a March Monday afternoon.

The pleasant staff provided us with bread and an aperitif, whilst we perused the large A3 sized menu. Both of us thought that the menu was very impressive, with a choice of fourteen starters -five of which are vegetarian. Amongst the dishes we considered were- Cream of chestnut soup, with Roasted duck foie gras and chanterelles, or Serrano Ham, poached egg flavoured with cepe oil and foamed cepe cream. However, we both decided upon vanilla seasoned Scottish west coast scallops with bacon and a Jerusalem artichoke puree. Three accurately cooked scallops with a very crisp piece of bacon, nicely presented with a swirl of the puree and a little pile of roquet salad. The scallops had been caramelised well on top and the vanilla gave the scallops a nice sweetness, perfect with artichoke puree.

For main courses Rosie had the Truffled macaroni cheese with poached haddock and baby spinach, delivered in a quirky, angled bowl. Well cooked fish resting on top of the silky macaroni flecked with truffle and mingled with the spinach. A very good dish and perfect comfort food for her. I opted for Oxtail and Pork belly faggots served on a small pile of mashed potato with shards of glazed parsnips and carrots. I was given, three well sized faggots, containing generous amounts of pork belly an oxtail, wrapped in what I presume in caul fat, and served with a fantastic, rich, gravy. A very enjoyable dish. In addition, we could have opted for a Cassoulet of Barbary duck, with pancetta and cured sausage, or perhaps a Loin of venison, sweet potato mash, Savoy cabbage and juniper jus- from what is a varied selection of well thought out and very reasonably priced dishes. Most starters are less than £6 and no main course is above £15.On reflection, we thought the choice of dishes was actually slightly better than at the Riverside Brasserie in Bray marina last December. To finish, we shared a sticky toffee pudding with a vanilla ice cream after that and then couple of teas to complete lunch. With one glass of wine and bottled water, the bill came to an incredibly reasonable £56.

We then had a look around the Hotel and were shown a couple of the rooms. Our favourite was called Hidcote Cottage , which is one of the garden rooms. Nicely appointed, with a small private garden with its own hot tub. Rather expensive though, but ideal for a treat. Another nice little touch, is that they allow you to choose your own bedding and pillows from the large selection available and they will stock your mini-bar with your favourite tipple as well.

Overall Hick's is excellent place to stop for lunch, and the sort of place you really wished you lived near to for a reasonable meal. The Hotel itself is definitely a place we would like to go back to, but next time, we will definitely be opting for dinner to try the full range of what Simon conjures up in the main restaurant.

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