Stay here: Eckington Manor, WorcestershireBy Alicia Grimshaw
It’s always nice to hear when you set foot into the taxi that the place you’re going to has ‘lovely staff” and ‘the team are very accommodating’. The taxi driver goes on to mention ‘you only hear good reports’ and ‘they’re just a really friendly bunch of people’.
The place in discussion is Eckington Manor, a 5 star hotel, restaurant and cookery school set in the rolling hills of the Avon valleys. It’s a place that belongs on a postcard or a cover on one of those National Trust brochures. Eckington Manor was thrust into the spotlight last year when Head Chef Mark Stinchcombe, romped to victory in Masterchef, The Professionals 2015. Aside from the charcoal emulsion, and honeycomb served three ways – Eckington Manor offer much more than a slap up Sunday roast and a cracking bread basket. The hotel is a home away from home, and the dedicated staff are on hand to make sure your stay is as comfortable as possible. Next time you need to escape the city rat race, hot foot it on a 2 hour train journey for a weekend of comfort, country air, and a celebration of the finest British produce – we can’t recommend Eckington Manor enough and here’s why:
Eckington Manor: The Accommodation
From the outside, the hotel looks best suited to a period drama – there’s exposed brick, timber beams and wooden windows. There’s a communal area where you can enjoy the roaring open fire, or take advantage of the cosy sofas and switch off from social media. There’s a range of accommodation; from classic rooms up to junior suites. This isn’t just your run of your mill country hotel, this is so, so much more. Go wander down the winding lanes, put your feet up in the study or order a a cocktail at the garden bar – Eckington Manor feels like home.
The Junior Suites are fantastic, and are the ideal option if you’re having a blow-out weekend. The suites are decked out in calming, neutral decor – you can’t help but feel completely at ease in these rooms. There’s a free standing, roll top bath and a glorious super king size bed kitted out in the finest Egyptian cotton. Along with the spacious bedroom, there’s a living room complete with a sofa and a mini home cinema (watching a film after a big meal is always a good idea). The room is also home to a wood burning stove, ideal for the chilly nights or for extra warmth.
The deluxe room boasts distinct features including a vaulted ceiling complete with beams – it’s a spectacle, but oh, so cosy. Each room has been individually designed to the highest level of comfort using collections from Mulberry, Designers Guild, Andrew Martin and Fromental. These rooms have unique“Fired Earth” en suite shower room. Think copper features and wooden fixtures. Lounge around on the super kingsize bed with the most cloud-like, comfortable mattresses and luxurious bed linen.
Eckington Manor: The Food
Eckington Manor has a 300 acre farm providing seasonal produce for their acclaimed kitchen. Food is at the beating heart at Eckington, the farm provides an abundance of herbs, vegetables, fruit, plus pedigree herds of Aberdeen Angus and Highland cattle; Lleyn sheep and Gloucester Old Spot Pigs. The menu changes on a weekly and sometimes daily basis and showcases the finest seasonal ingredients around. You can’t help but comment on the high quality produce – it’s without doubt the freshest rhubarb or the juiciest beef you will ever consume. The staff are really proud of being self-suffcient, and make sure that all dishes are executed to the highest standard they possibly can be.
Restaurants in the capital focus too hard on being overly concept – no one wants to eat a de-constructed cheesecake. However, this isn’t the case at Eckington. It’s high quality modern British cuisine nicely balanced by the quirky presentation and the generous portions. Dream team and Head Chefs Mark and Sue Stinchcombe are the driving force behind the food. Night after night, week after week, they constantly push the boundaries of cooking. Together they create diverse and imaginative dishes that go above and beyond hotel cuisine. As cliche as this sounds, you can’t just taste the incredible food being served, you can taste their passion, too. Here, it’s a work of foodie art.
Eckington Manor: Dinner
Dinner at Eckington Manor is their forte, and if you can, go the whole nine yards and sign up for three courses. You’d be silly not to try all the delicious food on offer (and you’d also regret it on the train home). The salt baked celeriac with a truffle brie is light dish to kick off proceedings – the saltiness of the celeriac nicely paired with the creamiest brie. The dish is finished with a poached pear for added texture and rounds off the dish nicely.
Although their menu changes regularly according to the seasons, there’s one dish that has become a regular fixture and that’s the Eckington Manor rib eye of beef with braised shin and caramelised shallots. This, this is the dish that will have your taste buds singing and your stomach dancing. You can’t help but comment on the beef after every mouthful. There’s beef, then there’s Eckington Manor’s beef. The beef is coated in a light wild mushroom and red wine jus and is served with wilted greens. Honest, good food executed so well.
Next up: dessert. If it’s still on the menu, the rbhuarb souffle is a must. This is not an exaggeration, it will be hands down, one of the best souffles you will ever try. It’s almost too good to eat and is certainly an Instagrammers dream. The souffle is cooked as it should be – with a soft, creamy centre and a subtle egg flavour. Pour in the rhubarb jus and the flavours take your tastebuds to new heights. And, it doesn’t finish there – the souffle is accompanied by gingerbread ice cream. One scoop of the ice-y delight is not enough. We won’t judge if you mop up the dregs with your fingers, we certainly did.
Eckington Manor: Sunday Lunch
Eckington Manor has only started to operate a Sunday lunch service, but it has already proved a massive hit. Yet again, the restaurant serves generous portions of well loved British dishes. No frills, no pretentiousness – you know the drill. Simple. Fantastic quality food.
The Sunday lunch menu follows in the same footsteps as the dinner menu, with the dishes changing weekly. Veggies need not worry – the parmesan gnocchi, local asparagus, butternut squash veloute and chestnuts is a combination of tasty goodness all on one plate. Yet again, the winner has to go to the roast beef. The beef is served with cushion-like Yorkshire puddings, a mound of fresh seasonal vegetables, and red wine sauce. You can’t knock it.
Eckington Manor: The Verdict
There’s not much more to say that hasn’t already been said. It’s a luxurious bolthole in the country that shouldn’t just be visited for the food alone – the accommodation is also a big winner. Take a break from the city, switch off from the world, and enjoy a leisurely weekend at Eckington Manor. That’s happiness, right there.