Wiltshire SN6 6HA
Jennie Clark enjoys precision dining with panoramic views over the Wiltshire countryside…
Cricklade Hotel is an inviting, stone country house set in miles and miles of green Wiltshire countryside. As we entered the bar we were greeted with magnificent panoramic views from the conservatory and terrace raised above the golf course – along with wine, canapés and big, squashy sofas that followed, there can be no better end to a working day.
The house is Victorian, and its original features are beautifully showcased – from antique bedroom furniture, to the traditional stonework inside the period- style conservatory. Every guest was given a friendly and personal welcome by the front-of-house staff, whose advice on the wine and food made for an even more relaxing experience.
The first (and finest) recommendation was to start with the homemade langoustine bisque with seafood and saffron ravioli (£5.10). A single, rustic ravioli was served, then the bisque poured ceremoniously from a caffetiere at the table. The firm pasta was a welcome addition for texture, even if the flavour of the filling was a bit lost. But the bisque was absolutely delicious – a slightly rough texture with powerful shellfish sweetness, completely moreish and something I would haveagain and again. My partner went for the house cured gravadlax with honey and mustard dressing and caper salad (£6.25), which was delightfully fresh, sweet and summery.
For mains, another recommendation, of new season sea trout with caramelised chicory, grain mustard puréed potato and saffron nage (£14.50). The colours on the plate were just stunning – pink trout and saffron yellow cream sauce. It was a really lovely summer dish – the mustard and saffron used sparingly enough to really appreciate the freshness of the South Coast fish.
With a menu including equally tempting pheasant with port-soaked prunes, guinea fowl with chestnut and braised ribs and cheek of local beef, my partner eventually chose the confit of Aylesbury duck, wrapped in Parma ham and baked with kumquat and walnuts (£18.10). The subtle little twists to classic combinations seem to be a trademark – the confit had a little orange zest running through it, perfectly lifting the otherwise rich plate. For dessert we were lucky to have tasters of several of Cricklade Hotel’s most popular dishes – lemon posset, poached pear, strawberries and cream millefeuille, and our favourite – a tiny dark chocolate mousse with little coffee crystals running through. And if this selection wasn’t enough of a finale, back in the conservatory our coffees came with a plate of homemade truffles.
The whole evening flowed seamlessly, with time to browse our menus and enjoy the beautiful view before being seated for dinner. Maitre d’ Klaus has been at Cricklade Hotel for twenty years (to be celebrated at the end of May with a German-themed food and drink evening) – The style of service was certainly traditional, but being well-looked after felt like a real treat.
There are scores of reasons to detour and take a visit to Cricklade Hotel – from the great views and warm welcome, to the golf course, spa, ballroom and of course, the food. Such attention to detail and expertise is always welcome, but here it’s guaranteed.