It’s had a £10m refurb, got a Michelin-starred executive chef at the helm and is blessed with one of the most stunning locations in the Cotswolds: Dormy House was always going to be good, says LAURA ROWE
I quite often play the lottery game, where you mentally spend your winnings. I’d do all the obvious boring bits, like pay off mortgages and repay debts. I’d go on an extended holiday – Italy or Iceland (depending on the time of year) – and give a sprinkling to various charities. And then I would be sensible and set up a business, one to keep me occupied when not lounging around, bathing in my millions.
But what if you actually had £10 million to spend? It’s rather incredible what it can buy you, if Dormy House is anything to go by. This north Cotswolds hotel has just had that rather large amount invested in it, giving the17th-century farmhouse a complete transformation with a chic new interior by Chelsea designers Todhunter Earle – think plush, tactile fabrics, striking light fittings and seasonal flowers – and landscaped gardens by the renowned Chris Beardshaw.
Forty bedrooms have been revamped; a luxury and exclusive spa is due to open in January (taking the place of function rooms – who needs meetings when massages are much more fun?); and the hotel now has two clearly defined dining options.
The Garden Room overlooks Beardshaw’s handiwork and is open in the evenings (Tues to Sat) and for Sunday lunch. Here Michelin-starred executive chef John Wood and head chef Paul Napper have created a selection of fine-dining a la carte menus: we’re talking loin of venison, chocolate and blackberry ravioli and rhubarb crumble soufflés with custard and honey ice cream.
The Potting Shed across the airy hallway, meanwhile, is more of a boozer and is open all day, every day for brunch, lunch, dinner and evening cocktails. There are five different types of afternoon tea to be had (we like the sound of The Farmhouse, with savoury scones, sausage rolls, mini pasties and jam tarts) as well as a gluten-free option. And, just in case that didn’t cover all hungry eventualities, you can even order a hamper (they start at £27.50) if you’d rather just go sit in the grounds or have an indoor picnic in your room. There’s also a 20-mile radius food mile policy, where possible. Impressive.
On this occasion, though, I didn’t much fancy the crumbs, and so settled for a pub lunch in The Potting Shed. The menu is surprisingly rustic for such a glamorous setting (you can still smell the new paint). There are sandwiches served with coleslaw and crisps; sharing platters of deliciousness with shrimp butter, plaice goujons, quail Scotch eggs and sticky ribs; and the usual pub classics of fish and chips, ham and eggs, and pies. But, as we were to discover, each dish has its own Dormy twist.
We started with soup and Welsh rarebit (£6.75) and a terrine (£7.95). The soup (a true test of any kitchen) was served in a mug and was silky smooth, warming the soul like a culinary hot water bottle, a delicious blend of savoury celery and Stilton. Two wedges of rustic bread topped with a bubbly molten mound of spiked rarebit topping were obedient dunkers and provided an extra cheesy, salty hit. Mmm. The terrine was a combination of pressed, gently smoked ham hock and Cotswold chicken, served with a tomato and raisin chutney and plenty of bread.
Big beardy Rich went for the beef burger (£14.95) with local streaky bacon, Gruyère and a leaf of baby gem. Pillow-like buns sandwiched the meat feast, and the hand-cut chips, which had been cooked in Wagyu fat, were almost in proportion with all 6ft, 6ins of Rich, so mighty were they, while the coleslaw looked as pretty as it tasted good, thanks to matchsticks of beetroot.
My 18-hour Cotswold pork belly (£13.95) could barely hold itself together, so meltingly succulent was the slowcooked meat, and a cheeky smidge of apple sauce hiding under the expertly crisp crackling was a tasty surprise. The sage-studded pomme purée was the best kind of mash, creamy and lump-free; cabbage, green beans and mange tout provided a vibrant crunch, while the gravy brought everything together like some sort of umami no-nails-glue.
Puds (all £6) felt a little too posh for the pub, but that’s the benefit of having the same staff for both kitchens and we certainly couldn’t be heard to complain between stuffing our faces.
Rich’s white chocolate cheesecake was a little bit too clever for its own good. Deconstructed, fiddled and faffed – it tasted good but certainly wasn’t a cheesecake. A cranberry jelly of some sort wrapped itself around a white chocolate mousse, and there were a few biscuit crumbs floating around on the plate, while various quenelles of sorbets and creams were dotted around, with chopped and whole dried cranberries. Intriguing.
My millionaire shortbread mousse was topped with such a shiny chocolate ganache that I could have reapplied some lippy in the reflection if I hadn’t demolished it so quickly. Salted peanut ice cream gave a grown-up edge, while a trendy smear of salty caramel and whole walnuts finished it off nicely.
The name Dormy, referring to an unbeatable round of golf, has never been more apt.
Laura Rowe, Crumbs Editor