My brother loves his food. Goes bananas for a juicy steak. Almost froths with delight over a meaty mixed grill. I’ve even seen him tap dance with joy over sea bass.
This is a man who’s fortunate enough to have travelled the globe and eaten some of the best nosh on the planet. But one thing guaranteed to put him in a seriously foul mood is a pretentious, snooty restaurant. And trust me, when my brother is grumpy it ain’t a pleasant place to be. Now based in Australia, we only get to catch up once or twice a year and it was my turn to select the venue and pick up the tab. I needed special food in an easy, comfortable environment. It was time to revisit the Hall.
Nailcote Hall oozes original oak beams, luxurious red drapes and enormous fireplaces, all of which appeal to my sense of old world charm. In truth I hadn’t eaten there for some time but I’d heard some very good things about the new head chef Daniel Topa and expectation levels were high. First stop, the stylish Celebrity Bar where pre-dinner drinks were served surrounded by images of international stars who have all taken part in the legendary golf tournament held at the Hall every year. Although mid-week, the place was buzzing. “Mate, I like this” my brother purred with his new Aussie twang. His enthusiasm continued as he perused the excellent wine list that reflects proprietor Rick Cressman’s personal favourites. Our host for the evening was the adorable Carole, a maternal fixture at the hotel for nearly 20 years, who sums up the personal touch that runs throughout Nailcote. She talked us through the menu that boasts the traditional dishes that the regulars love to more modern plates with some exciting twists. This is a menu to suit all tastes.
Selections made it was through to the impressive and seriously relaxed ambience of the Oak Room Restaurant for the main event. The meal started nicely with a glorious Cornish crab cake with bombay potato and coriander hollandaise for him and a pressed ham knuckle and celeriac remoulade for me. Although I wasn’t a big fan of the accompanying pork crackling puffs, the soft, salty terrine combined beautifully with the shredded celeriac. A lovely glass of sauvignon blanc and an hilarious story of world domination later, it was on to the mains. We looked on enviously as the young couple next to us thrilled in the theatre of the speciality house flambé dish but there was no need to be concerned. The succulent, pink roast rump of Welsh lamb was perfectly cooked and served with a velvety, rich lamb jus (“I think you mean gravy, mate”) and excellent ratatouille. However the stand out dish of the meal was the excellent wild fillet of sea bass. Served with thinly sliced potato ‘scales’ and creamy leek fondue it sadly didn’t receive the tap dance it most definitely warranted.
Nailcote has long been revered for its excellent desserts and although my brother lacks the sweet tooth that has blighted the rest of the family, nothing was going to keep me away from the iced rhubarb and custard parfait. Served with a refreshing apricot and ginger sorbet it is reason to return to the Oak room alone. Yum. It was a top evening (dare I say ‘ripper’?) and with a big thumbs up from both sides of the world I’d encourage you to try it out for yourselves. Our choices for the evening were all from the a la carte menu with main courses averaging around the £20 mark, but the Nailcote also provides an excellent set menu.