Review: Wivenhoe House Hotel
Charlotte Smith-Jarvis nips just over the border to Wivenhoe House Hotel
Minutes by car from Colchester, Wivenhoe is pleasant village and home to the University of Essex. Situated by the campus, Wivenhoe House Hotel is a grand manor house that underwent a multi-million pound investment in 2012, with the creation of brand new rooms and a new restaurant, The Brasserie.
From the entrance and lounge areas of the hotel, which are grand and stately but with hints of modernity, a bright link building leads to The Brasserie.
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The restaurant is spacious and uncluttered, with dark wood furniture, neutral upholstering and its own terrace.
To one side is the bar, while the other houses the open kitchen which brings instant theatre and vibrancy to the room.
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Head chef Paul Boorman has been very creative in his choice of dishes for The Brasserie menu. Taking cues from his fine dining menu at Signatures in the main house, the menu in The Brasserie makes use of modern techniques to produce gels, jellies and compressions while focusing on homely, traditional dishes.
The a la carte menu includes plates such as ham hock terrine with quail’s egg and spiced pineapple chutney (£6), beer battered haddock with Maldon salt chips, pease pudding, pickled quail’s egg and chunky tartare sauce (£12) and roasted figs with port jelly, raspberry compote and elderflower sorbet (£5.50).
We dined from the Best of British set menu, priced at just £10 for two courses or £15 for three.
To start there was a platter of Dingley Dell pork rillettes with toasts and pickles, and an Oxford Blue Welsh rarebit with pickled onion salad, both of which were very well proportioned.
The rillettes were meaty and soft, with the slight acidity from the pickles and the crunch of the toasts bringing the dish together to really please the palette.
Piled impossibly high on thick toasted bread, the rarebit was incredibly rich and had a wonderful depth of flavour from the blue cheese, which was offset by the tiny pickled onions and a delightful little salad of baby leaves, frisee, capers and sunblush tomatoes – perfectly balanced.
Moving on, and the main course of plaice with leeks, cockles and potatoes with Aspalls beurre blanc, was once again well judged.
The fish was flaky and buttery soft, falling off the bone into the slightly acidic, creamy sauce.
My Dedham Vale mutton shepherd’s pie was presented on a wooden platter in a cast iron dish with a tiny saucepan of sweet little chanteray carrots.
I have to say my compliments went back to the kitchen with this dish was perhaps one of the best shepherd’s pies we’ve ever tasted. Beneath a blanket of fluffy mash lay pieces of mutton and vegetables in a gravy rich with flavours of herbs and red wine. The mutton, which can be overpowering, was tender and delicate and mingled with the other flavours in perfect harmony.
To finish the sherry trifle with vanilla jelly and crystallised nibs combined sponge, a lightly perfumed jelly, fruit, cream and crunchy pieces to make moreish mouthfuls – the portion was huge too.
And the treacle tart with evaporated milk ice cream was divine. Inside a very accomplished and extraordinarily thin pastry crust, was a sweet, lemony, sticky filling that actually wasn’t overly heavy. The sweet, snow-white ice cream accented the flavour of the tart perfectly and the addition of dots of a citrus gel across the plate sliced through the sweetness to round it off.
Wines on the very extensive list have been chosen by hotel manager Stephen Mannock and food and beverage manager Francois Pietieres alongside the hotel’s sommelier Lionel Lassinge, who joined Wivenhoe House from The Savoy.
We tried the house wine Finca Valero Temperanillo Grenache – a spicy, perfumed red with subtle hints of fruit.
There are many fine wines available and the hotel also has a sommelier table in the basement.
We actually couldn’t believe the value of the food at Wivenhoe House. The restaurant is warm and inviting, the staff could do no wrong, being courteous, friendly and not overbearing, and the food was superb. Neither of us could fault any part of our visit and we’re already planning our return.
Best of British menu £10 for two courses and £15 for three.
A la carte average price £22.50 for three courses without wine.
Wivenhoe House Hotel, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ. Call 01206 863666. www.wivenhoehouse.co.uk
Tiffin’s Tea Emporium, Long Melford
Suitable for ladies who lunch, dogwalkers (they are dog friendly), families- well, anyone really, Tiffin’s is a traditional tearoom that offers something a little bit special when it comes to the food offering. Chef Sarah, who runs the tearoom with Kirsty Holmes, insists that everything is homemade and as local as possible.
This ethos has resulted in the recent addition of homemade bread to the menu, so the sausage sandwiches come on homemade onion bread and homemade sultana and walnut bread is topped with melted cheese and sautéed leeks.
Treatwise there is tiffin, obviously, and an ever-changing range of cakes and slices, from a traditional Victoria sponge to Earl Grey tea cake.
The tearoom is open from 10am to 4.30pm Tuesday to Saturday and from 11am on Sundays.