At the time of writing there are no Michelin stars in Warwickshire… but by the time of going to press who knows?
I’d heard a rumour that the talented bunch at Hampton Manor had hatched an extravagant plan to bring a twinkle back to the county in spectacular style. Well I couldn’t resist a poke around, could I? The cosy bar was the perfect start to what increasingly felt like a special occasion rather than a week night supper. The staff clearly knew the clientele. The barman hurried to switch a chair for an elderly diner as he walked in because he knew he preferred a high-backed chair.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
A glass of champagne and some very beautiful canapés later and we were off to take our seat in the new dining room. Housed in the old part of the building it’s a world away from its atrium predecessor. The room has a high-end woodland vibe, but not in a twee way. What looked like beautiful wallpaper with a pretty bird motif was hand-painted silk from China. The plates are bespoke, each one hand-made in the Cotswolds, which is a painstaking process but completely worth it. The handcrafted cabinets were beautifully made by William Self in Shirley, who was also responsible for the wonderful trays used to deliver the food. I sensed an almost obsessive attention to detail, a flair for design and probably a budget to match. No expense spared, indeed. I was hoping the food would live up to the high expectations created by the ambience. I liked the food at the old Peel’s, so what’s new? Well, the number of covers has been reduced dramatically and you won’t find any table turning here.
The focus is definitely quality over quantity and after speaking to head chef Ryan Swift and sommelier Seamus Sharkey I was left in no doubt that although they’d nailed the décor and the service, the food was to be the star of the show. We were treated to an extraordinary tasting menu that I haven’t got space to recreate in words, so I’ve picked out some highlights. Believe it or not, the first of them – Textures of Broccoli – was the unlikely favourite. I eat a lot of broccoli because I know it’s good for me, but I wouldn’t choose it as the main event. Yet, not only did the dish look like a pretty little garden on a plate, it tasted really interesting… some pickled, some charred, even an espuma. John Dory with octopus and chorizo was brilliant. Sea bass with langoustine bisque hit the spot and the pork belly with smoked aubergine caviar was a treat.
The desserts and petit fours looked amazing and tasted just lovely, although one of them contained the dreaded popping candy. I’d like these weird exploding morsels to fall out of fashion fast, but I seem to be alone in that. Seamus who has hand-picked 250 wines for the restaurant talked us through the wine flight, each one matching the food brilliantly. A Slovenian sauvignon blanc was particular good. Sometimes food can look wildly different to the photographs flaunted in magazines. That’s not the case here, and the flavour matched if not exceeded the appearance. The price tag stacks up too. Clearly this is a special place and I think £55 for the four-course tasting menu and £75 for seven is not bad at all. With head chef Ryan Swift in the kitchen and a determined management team in place, I left Hampton Manor feeling excited and confident in its star ambition.