Having spent most of last year saving up for our wedding, we promised each other this year would be the one to treat ourselves a bit more. So having spotted a good deal on the internet a few weeks ago, I booked us in for an overnight stay at The Kings Hotel in Chipping Campden.
I know what you’re thinking. Who on earth stays overnight in Chipping Campden when they only live in Cheltenham?! Erm…us! And why not, I say! Why explore the rest of the UK and indeed, other parts of the world, when we have beautiful places just a short drive away?!
All week I had been eyeing up the delights made in the kitchen by the Head Chef, Ian Percival, on social media, and was getting very excited indeed about our visit.
Our satnav played along with our mini-break idea, and took us the scenic route, so we really felt like we were on a ‘proper’ holiday. And when we arrived, the Deputy Manager gave us a warm welcome, and a slightly funny look, when he found out we’d come all the way from…Cheltenham.
Up in our room, a slate of chocolate truffles was laid out, just waiting for someone to eat them, so we kindly obliged and savoured every last bite whilst we scrubbed up ready for dinner.
We sat at the bar with a tipple whilst we perused the menus. Being in the Cotswolds, I obviously had a G&T with Cotswolds Gin and Kingsley also chose suitably, with a beer from the Cotswold Lion Brewery.
We were seated near the hugest fireplace you ever did see, and we felt instantly at home (when I say home, I mean our dream home, we only have radiators you see). First up, we were served freshly baked bread with beef dripping butter with duck crackling along with the more usual salted butter. Battle of the knives commenced as Kingsley and I fought over the dripping and crackling. You know I’m not one for hoity-toity language, so here’s my description: It’s like a roast dinner spread on bread. And yes, that’s a good thing – a really bloody good thing.
Our waiter arrived with two plates, and I thought, ‘Christ those starters are small’, but I needn’t have worried as they were an amuse-bouche from the chef. We had Ham Hock Terrine with Pickled Shallot and Radish. We didn’t know it was radish when we were eating it (because we hadn’t listened), and it had us both guessing – but we both loved it.
Next up, we had another treat from the chef in the form of Tempura Oyster on Pickled Cucumber with Caviar and an Oyster Emulsion. At this point we looked at each other awkwardly; I don’t do seafood, and Kingsley had never eaten oyster before, so this was either going to go one way or the other. Fortunately, Kingsley was brave and did us both proud. He finished his off, then I passed mine over and he didn’t hesitate. I took that as a good (and tasty) sign.
Time for our starters and I had chosen the Beetroot Tortellini, consommé, pickled cucumber and baby beetroot. Kingsley had Pan-Fried Scallops, cauliflower and macadamia praline. The scallops were cooked perfectly – as you’d expect, and Kingsley was chuffed with his choice. My tortellini was so beautifully done – unlike my own pasta making skills – and the consommé really tickled my taste buds with its mix of sweet and bitter flavours.
For mains, Kingsley had Seared Loin of Venison, oxtail croquette, piccolo parsnip and black olive and I chose the Roast Duck Breast, crispy confit leg, carrot, celeriac and baby gem. There were so many elements to my dish, that with every forkful I was pleasantly surprised with the new combinations of flavours and textures. I always get a little bit worried by not choosing the right things from the menu (and getting the dreaded food envy), but I can safely say, on this occasion, I did good! Kingsley said similar about his main; he thoroughly enjoyed the different textures it offered, and the venison, as with everything, was cooked to perfection.
So what comes after mains? Nope, it’s not dessert. It’s a pre-course to dessert, evidently. We got to taste a mini version of the Poached Rhubarb with gingerbread ice cream, rhubarb mousse and grenadine. I’m not sure what I loved more, the idea of a whole new course leading up to dessert, or the actual dish itself.
So for the actual dessert, Kingsley chose the Peanut Butter Parfait, banana, caramel and chocolate mousse. It was a really well thought-out dessert with a delicious caramelised banana. I knew what I was having for dessert, even before we’d arrived – I’d seen pictures on Twitter: Chocolate Delice, milk puree, mirror glaze and hazelnut. I ate that dessert like it was a piece of art, gently tucking into the chocolate delice bit by bit and letting it melt in my mouth (whilst my eyes rolled back and I dreamt of paradise). It was the perfect ending to the most perfect meal.
There’s no denying Ian Percival is very talented chef, very talented indeed, so much so that I’m rating this meal on a par with my favourite meal ever with Gloucestershire’s finest chef’s (which you can read about here). But it wasn’t just the food that made this experience something special, the serving staff were the absolute best. They were so attentive, so professional and passionate, and yet still, the evening felt ever so relaxed.
It’s safe to say, we’ll be returning.