SquareMeal Review of
The Dining Room at Whatley Manor
Lavishly turned out as a country-chic hotel, this ivy-clad Wiltshire grandee is now one of the UK’s great escapes – an epicurean package crowned by the immaculately appointed Dining Room. The departure of chef Martin Burge left new boy Niall Keating (ex-Restaurant Sat Bains) with big shoes to fill, but he’s risen to the challenge by beefing up the tasting menu to 12 courses and garnering a Michelin star in the process. Global influences abound, although there’s a fondness for Asian twists – as in vinegar-doused oysters crowned with crispy seaweed strips or a tortellini/Chinese dumpling hybrid which places squid-ink pasta in a salty pork broth. Such zesty experimentation occasionally teeters off-course (egg-white custard topped with salmon roe grabs attention but not taste buds), but the gastronomically curious will have a field day and there's much to enjoy – notably the sushi-rice risotto infused with chorizo. Simpler pleasures, such as crisp-crusted mini sourdough loaves and a dish of delicate beef loin dotted with spots of wasabi also demonstrate a slick kitchen. Equally dynamic wine pairings are a worthwhile investment, while the visibility of the chefs in the dining room is a nice touch. For event dining in a sumptuous, pastoral setting, Whatley Manor’s still a winner.