The Restaurant at Cowley Manor is situated in the grand oak-panelled dining room of the chic Cotswolds hotel, serving a modern British menu which draws upon the finest locally-sourced and organic ingredients wherever possible.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner for both hotel guests and non-residents, The Restaurant at Cowley Manor’s menus change regularly, offering seasonal dishes that are simple, elegant and beautifully cooked.
Cowley Manor also offers a terrace for alfresco eating in the summer months. Plus, a plush private dining room overlooking the gardens and lakes is also available, seating up to 16 people, as an ideal setting for all occasions.
Swarming with British actors and Russian models, The Restaurant at Cowley Manor gave a touch of A-list glamour to SoGlos.com’s evening – almost six years after we first sampled its understated and elegant cuisine.
The tone for the evening was set as we sipped chilled glasses of English fizz on Cowley Manor’s terrace. As the sun was setting over an uncharactestically warm summer’s evening, the views across acres of freshly mowed grass and the shimmering lake were breathtaking, and the subtle, fruity bubbles were all too easy to enjoy.
While we couldn’t describe ourselves as regulars, the SoGlos.com team has dined at Cowley Manor a few times a year since we first reviewed the restaurant in 2007. And as we soaked up the evening’s gentle rays and browsed the latest menu, we wondered just what had changed since our last visit – kicking ourselves for leaving it so long.
Seated at our table for two in the oak-panelled restaurant, the chic surrounds complete with hot pink ceiling, crisp white linen and soft lighting had changed very little since our last visit. But, the chairs now faced outwards, so that rather than looking at those sat on your own table, you couldn’t help but notice everyone else in the restaurant.
Gazelle-like cover girls with Russian accents, platinum locks and exorbitantly expensive handbags were dining with gents in smart jeans and big watches, with a few instantly-recognisable actors thrown into the glamorous mix on our visit – with a relaxed atmosphere filled with laughter adding an air of laidback elegance.
Fresh from the day’s ‘featured menu’ I tucked into a gooey quail’s egg salad, complete with peppery rocket, glistening roasted red peppers and a sweet honey and mustard dressing; while my vegetarian companion chose the red onion and goats cheese tart from the a la carte options, which proved a well-presented and tasty start to the meal with pastry perhaps just a touch too thick.
Plates cleared, glasses filled and smiles aplenty, the service was attentive and fault-free all evening – with Cowley Manor proving, once again, to be home to some of the best-trained waiting staff in the county.
It wasn’t long before we were soon tucking into main courses: mine the pan fried salmon with salty, herb-crushed new potatoes, crisp baby leeks, a smooth carrot puree and a delightful hint of zest from the drizzle of lemon oil, which tasted as good as it looked.
The vegetarian options were a little more limited than we would have liked, and less well executed, with the closed pie of butternut squash and feta proving flavourful, but quite heavy, swimming in a green sea of powerful watercress puree.
The desserts, meanwhile, were a triumph – and worth the drive alone: the sticky toffee pudding proving a light and fluffy people pleaser, complete with lashings of buttery sauce and a hearty dollop of clotted cream.
Not to be outdone, I ordered a beautifully-presented trio of chocolate treats comprised of a mini brownie crammed with hazelnuts and rich cocoa, a rather unusual sugar-covered chocolate ravioli, and a velvety white chocolate mousse – with top marks for all three.
While we don’t often say this about restaurants, dining at Cowley Manor is an experience that simply surpasses the food. That’s not to say that the modern British cuisine isn’t fabulous quality which is presented exquisitely, but there’s a sort of relaxed stylishness that goes above and beyond what’s on the plate.
Cowley Manor has been highly regarded as a rural retreat for weekending socialites for some years now, but just a 10 minute drive from Cheltenham, it is a destination which is quite rightly becoming more and more popular with Gloucestershire locals too. Whether you are popping in for a bite to eat after work or for a leisurely family Sunday lunch, the welcome will be as warm whether you’re an award-winning actor, top model, or not.
By Michelle Fyrne
Monday 30 July 2012
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