For the past 4 years we have lived a 2 minute drive-away from Brownsover Hall Hotel, and not once have I taken a walk up there, let alone stepped foot in the building – until this weekend. This weekend was different, it was the first time I’ve had a proper chance to take my Mum out for dinner without children/being pregnant/breastfeeding (all situations have been heavily featured in the past 3 years…) so I wanted to try somewhere different, somewhere special – the kind of place I go dressed up with my Mum.
Brownsover Hall Hotel, or should I say – the WineGlass Restaurant – was my chosen venue with good reviews on TripAdvisor, close enough to get a taxi to avoid driving, and a menu that doesn’t sound out of place when read out with “The Masterchef Voice”).
It just so happened to be raining and very dark at the time we arrived at the hotel, which is at the end of a little windy path through the trees, so imagine the opening scene of a horror movie and you won’t be far off. All that was missing was the flash of lightning and crash of a storm. Personally, I loved that the weather added to the anticipation of not knowing what lurked behind the grand door of the Gothic mansion which stood before us. Even when we walked in there was nobody sitting at the reception desk or even in the entrance hall, and any sense of scepticism about the hotel’s haunted status quickly vanished!
Finding our way through to the body of the Victorian building, we were (thankfully) warmly-welcomed by the waitress who showed us to our table in the dimly-lit restaurant where there were around 4 other couples dining (this was 8.30pm and they all seemed to be hotel guests). Immediately a slate board with bread and oils was placed on our table, always a good sign when this is part of the service. We ordered a bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc off the wine list which offers a decent selection with a range of reasonable prices (£18 upwards a bottle).
The menu we were given was not one I found on the website beforehand, but was in fact full of more temptations for a pescetarian with an an appetite. I swayed towards the Smoked Haddock and Leek Tart for starters and Sea Bass on Mussel and Clam Stew for main, deciding not to go for the veggie options of Halloumi with Watermelon starter and Aubergine Parmigiana main course. My Mum, typical Yorkshire comfort-food-lover woman that she is, ordered a meat feast of Pork Terrine to start, and Beef Bourguignon Pie for her main.
My Smoked Haddock Tart came with a poached egg which had the perfect runny yolk to accompany the wedge of tart which was perhaps more quiche like, but super tasty all the same! The Pork Terrine disappeared before I managed to have a good look at it, so you can guess the thoughts on it.
Feeling less hungry after the bread and generous portion of tart, I was slightly over-whelmed by the main course of Sea Bass on Mussel & Clam Stew which contained what some might call… value for money! At £20, it was one of the most expensive dishes on the menu, and came as the waitress described – 2 fillets of sea bass resting on a creamy Moules Mariniere.
The sea bass was lovely but one fillet would have been plenty for a more refined plate. In fact, I ended up eating all of the mussels and clams first as it was deliciously creamy and could be a dish in itself without the sea bass. I would definitely order the stew by itself, but would love to see it with bigger, fresher mussels that take me back to camping holidays on the north coast of France in the nineties.
On first glance, the pastry that topped the Beef Bourguignon Pie looked a little pale but as my Mum broke into it, she found what she said was heavenly-tender pieces of meat in a very rich gravy. The perfect winter-warmer, which she enjoyed but regrettably couldn’t finish!
The dessert menu was inevitably waived, and instead of coffee, we opted to have “one for the road” in the hotel bar – a glass of Port.
Overall, we had a lovely relaxed evening in the quiet restaurant and bar (no weddings on that night) and although the restaurant was perhaps not fully what I expected (I had visions of discovering a real hidden gem in Rugby, a classy modern wine bar maybe) it was certainly a fine choice for the occasion, and I would love to return for a jazz lunch.
I’ll end my post with a few of photos of the interior: