Driving across country towards Bibury, past inviting pubs and over the bubbling River Coln, Polly March felt like she was entering the very heart of England and into ‘the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds’.
As our we swept round into the stunning grounds of Bibury Court, I had an odd sense of homecoming, because, although the Jacobean mansion is breathtakingly grand and imposing, every leaded window seems to twinkle as if in welcome.
Bibury offers 18 rooms of varying luxury and standard. We were in Barebone’s, a wonderfully large ‘grand’ room overlooking the vast front lawn with a bed large enough for a family of four and a huge bathtub one could happily get lost in for several hours. Before dinner we enjoyed some drinks in the panelled drawing room, which again, managed to feel homely, despite its magnificence. The bar offers an extensive wine list, and a fantastic array of cocktails and shorts.
We chose to sample the hotel’s fine dining menu in The Oak Room, an intimate venue which has been recently revamped. Bibury recently appointed a new head chef, Nigel Godwin, who has been instrumental in changing the dining offer, so that guests can now choose from the adventurous menu of the Oak Room, or the more classic menu of The Brasserie. Either way, you are spoiled for choice, as every dish has such a mouthwatering description on the menu.
After much deliberation, I went for the slow cooked Bibury duck egg, chicken oysters, foie gras, celeriac and parsley (£8.95). The egg was huge and exploded a wonderfully thick yolk all over the plate which I greedily mopped up with the delightful home-baked rolls. (The hotel is soon to open its own bakery, and these were a great advert for things to come.) The chicken oysters were breaded, juicy little nuggets, plucked from between the chicken thighs and the rib cage. The whole dish came served on some creamy celeriac which had the optimum balancing effect on the varying textures. My husband plumped for the Loch Duart salmon ‘mi cuit’, avocado, foie gras, walnut soil and apple (£11.95). The avocado was added to the salmon by hand via a whipped cream canister, which gave it a lovely consistency. And although one wouldn’t often think of salmon and apple in the same dish, there was a curious genius to the blend.
For the main course I went for the Adlestrop partridge with quinoa, butternut squash and cocoa (£25.95). The partridge was divinely cooked and perfectly complemented firstly by the crunchy and beautifully cooked quinoa grain and then by the wine we were recommended by our knowledgable French waiter – a Château Haut-Bages Averous Pauillac 2001 (£12 per glass), with a lovely full-bodied blackcurranty flavour.
My husband once more opted for fish, choosing the John Dory and scallops, on a ‘bolognese of squid’, with local chorizo (£24.95). It was beautifully presented and the scallops were perfectly done with the chunks of soft, moist fish and the delicate flavours wonderfully lifted by the richness of the bolognese.
I have to say the desserts were out of this world and there is such an exciting range to choose from, so be prepared to change your mind several times. I was intrigued by the sound of a Snickers brûlée with peanut butter parfait and a cherry jam sandwich (£10.95). And I was not to be disappointed. What arrived was a beautifully presented dish with a perfect little brûlée with nutty chunks that outdid any shop-bought Snickers I’ve ever eaten. The peanut butter parfait was rich yet smooth with a dollop of raspberry sorbet on top. And the cherry jam sandwich was in fact a layered, homemade sort of Snickers bar, with chocolate, chewy and nutty layers, the jam signified with luscious blobs dotted around the plate.
My husband went for the coffee crème, chocolate, granola and mascarpone sorbet (£8.95), with a delectable glass of dessert wine to counteract any bitterness from the coffee. The dessert was an utter triumph, with the added delight of hidden popping candy in the sorbet as well as a beautifully textured coffee crème. We finished off this gastronomic excess with homemade lemon macaroons and coffee (£4.95), back in the drawing room and then it was to bed across the gleaming flagstones and along the winding corridors.
Driving away the next day, I felt a huge sense of regret at rejoining the real world, proof if any more was needed, of a wonderful evening spent, where Bibury Court’s initial sense of welcome was echoed in the quiet, non-invasive hospitality of the staff throughout our stay.