The Cotswolds is awash these days with swish hotels offering top-notch facilities, five-star service and gourmet dining. Among these is Calcot Manor, located close to the antiques heaven of Tetbury and offering a to-die-for spa, though until recently it was rather let down by its mediocre restaurant. Not any more. The designers have been in, transforming the Conservatory Restaurant into a chic, contemporary space, complete with the theatre of an open kitchen and an adjoining elegant little cocktail bar. The menu suits the new-look surroundings well and is a world away from fusty country-house hotel fare. Organic meat is used to produce an excellent carpaccio, made thoroughly modern by its honey and fig dressing, generous Parmesan shavings and frilly rocket salad. Plump seared diver-caught scallops, served with fennel puree and a Med-leaning roasted red pepper and avocado salad, make another winning starter. Mains keep up the momentum, our favourites including a stunning earthy poached ‘Label Anglais’ chicken served with soft gnocchi, spring vegetables and a rich foie gras sauce, and roast rack of Highgrove lamb with a parsley crust that comes with a deliciously sweet-savoury pea and mint puree. Service, while not always conforming to fine-dining convention, is totally charming, ensuring a dining-room filled with a happy buzz.
Wine Notes: There are excellent buys to be had on this mid-sized list and you are rewarded, by a lower margin, for trading up. Some areas are better represented than others, although Australia and Champagne stand out. Best buys White: 2003 Yalumba Viognier, South Australia, £23. Red: 2001 La Grola, Allegrini, Italy, £33.