Whatley Manor’s revamped eaterie is cutting quite a swathe with its chic European interiors and innovative menu.
Grey’s Brasserie nestles in the super salubrious surroundings of the bucolic country house hotel that is Whatley Manor Hotel & Spa, a one-stop pampering paradise in the rolling Wiltshire countryside. It’s very near the pretty market town of Malmesbury and just 15 minutes away from Tetbury, the area’s hot spot for antiques, interiors and independent fashion boutiques.
Light, bright and spacious, Grey’s has recently had a makeover which has transformed the aesthetics from high-end Alpine-style ski resort (the owners are Swiss) to chic, European eaterie with a dash of urban cool in the countryside (no wonder we love it!).
Curvy, duck-egg blue leather banquettes, velvet armchairs and French grey walls create the sense of a classy brasserie that wouldn’t be out of place in the chic arrondissements of Paris, but it doesn’t feel so posh that you need to rock up in your best threads. In fact, it’s quite the relaxed, come-as-are establishment which is just the ticket for a weekday lunch, mid-week supper or weekend outing. And there’s also a rather nice bar to prop up!
SCOFF & QUAFF
There’s nothing derivative about the menu here – I haven’t seen such an original one for a long time and I go out to eat a lot (and don’t my elasticated trousers know it!). I really liked the mix on offer – from an amuse-bouche of curried nuts and a coastal cheddar sausage roll with spicy tomato butter beans starter, to an osso bucco with Jerusalem artichoke main and chocolate caramel mousse with raspberry sorbet dessert.
It’s a really free-ranging global menu and it was very hard to choose what to go for, but in the end I opted for the baked eggs with tomato vinaigrette and chorizo as a starter, which stopped my chit-chat with Muddy Wilts editor Joanna in its tracks as I concentrated on the explosion of flavours hitting my palate. Who knew baked eggs could taste so good?!
Joanna plumped for the French Onion soup which she pronounced ‘”OMG amazing” and it really did look rather fine with its floating cheesy toasties.
For mains we decided to share the beef brisket with polenta crisp, turnips, pickled cucumber & paprika aioli and the roast cauliflower steak with seasonal veg & mushroom sauce. The former was melt-in-your-mouth stuff and the latter, well, I’m a diehard steak fan (the cow variety), but this cauliflower version could do a lot for the vegetarian cause. It was incredible and so imaginative that Joanna and I were left speechless again (and after a G&T and glass of fizz, that’s quite a feat!).
We sadly didn’t have time for pudding, but if we had I’d have gone for the aforementioned mousse, accompanied with the recommended dessert wine, a New Zealand Muscat. And then I’d have been as merry as a lark. Must remember to arrange after-school play dates for my next luncheon outing! Oh, and a chauffeur, as the wines at Whatley are something special – globally curious like the menu, you’ll find everything from English bubbly to rich Israeli reds. And the cocktail menu is fun too – I have my eye on a Marmalade on Toast – a Cointreau and Prosecco number – next time I visit.
If you can make a day of it, you’ve got all the delights Whatley Manor has to offer here and, by God, what delights they are! The Aquarius Spa is superlatively good with its amazing Ila-Spa and Natura Bissé treatments (I had a facial in the latter’s pure oxygen bubble last year and it took years off me!), cosy tepidarium and glorious hydrotherapy pool which extends outdoors giving you the most perfect spot to drink in the beautiful surroundings.
The gardens are delicious too and perfect for a post-prandial stroll with lots of pockets of loveliness where you can sit and go ahhh. It’s a great place to come if you’re feeling stressed or knackered. I reckon there’s special air which relaxes you. And it’s so quiet! Joanna and I left feeling blissfully Zenned out.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: I really fancy this as a weekday lunch spot with your bestie, with our without a cheeky visit to the spa (oh go on then, with). But it would also be great for a couples get-together on the weekend. It’s very relaxed so kids wouldn’t be out of place and they’d love the chicken burger in a brioche bun with skinny fries.
Not for: While there are some romantic nooks and crannies in the brasserie, if I was going to Whatley to spark the flames of passion, I’d probably opt for a table at The Dining Room which has more of a hold your hands across the table feel to it.
The damage: I reckon for the quality of haute cuisine you get, this is a real bargain. The Market Lunch Menu is only £24.50 for three courses and you can opt for a steak in that. On the à la carte, starters range from £7.50 to £12.50, mains from £16 to £36, but the latter’s for the whopper 200g fillet steak from Bristol butchers Ruby & White. Desserts are all £8.50.