I’ve sampled a few of the Eden Collection’s hotels over the years. In fact one of Mallory’s siblings, Brockencote Hall, is on my doorstep and has never failed to impress.
They’ve taken what was a tired looking hotel with fantastic nosh, given it the ‘Eden treatment’ lifting the décor and food to new heights and voila – a beautiful, successful destination with a focus on gastronomy. An established part of the Collection, Mallory has been wowing locals consistently for more than a decade and with new man in town, head chef Paul Foster at the helm we thought we’d make a well overdue visit. Built during the First World War as a private home, Mallory Court is a stunning old country house surrounded by even more beautiful gardens. Arriving for dinner in the dark meant that we missed that, but inside, the classic and comfortable lounge made up for it and provided a perfect place to relax into the evening.
A Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic hit the spot served with a handful of tasty nibbles including tempura mussels with tartar sauce of which we could have polished off a plateful, garlic prawn crackers and almonds with a smoky hit. Lovely. The dining room is lined with wood panelling and has a grand open fireplace which added a touch of occasion to a random Tuesday evening. We decided to eat from the daily dinner menu at £47.50 per head, but the seven-course tasting menu looked mouth-watering too priced at a relatively reasonable £70 per head. I think soup always feels like a bit of a waste of fine dining and is just not very adventurous. However, my friend chose a celeriac version with salted apple and hazelnut to start. I thought I’d go for my second pigeon dish of the week, this one served with blueberries and sweetcorn. The soup was a brilliant surprise and probably the stand out dish of the whole meal. Incredibly smooth and packed full of flavour it had a crunch from the hazelnuts that we both loved. I never thought I’d be cooing over soup, but it really was fantastic. Although the pigeon was very tasty, it probably came a close second to the first dish of the week. The mains sounded great so we were pretty excited. A dish of pollock, roast scallop, choucroute and gem lettuce was fantastic. I had no idea what choucroute was, but it turns out it’s like sauerkraut which was lovely with the sweet, beautifully cooked fish. Beef rump cap with oxtail and slow cooked carrot was tender and delicious. We were two very happy customers.
CHEESE, YES PLEASE
One of the diners across the room had ordered cheese which looked amazing, so I thought I’d follow suit. The sweet-toothed friend was wooed by a whipped egg custard and poached pear with almond granola. The extensive cheese board laid out in front of me screamed ‘pick me, pick me’ while the waitress talked me through the options. I love cheese served in this way. It’s much more appealing than tucking into a few bits of neatly cut morsels plonked on a white plate. The highlights for me were Epoisse, Morbier and Berkswell, all served with perfect accompaniments. I felt the timing was a bit off with the serving of dessert though. I don’t know if it was intentional, but the warm dessert arrived just as the waitress was beginning to talk us through the cheese selection. Rather than let the dish spoil, it was polished off while the waitress was still in full flow which felt a bit odd. I didn’t try it, but it got a massive thumbs up and a quite a few oohs. We moved to the lounge area for coffee and petit fours feeling chuffed that Mallory had lived up to expectations. It wasn’t just the food that was impressive. The atmosphere was relaxed, but still felt special – a difficult thing to pull off. I must give the staff a nod too. We were looked after brilliantly by Amelia who was enthusiastic about everything. All of the staff we encountered looked happy to be there which says a lot about a place. It’s infectious and makes for happy diners too.