Hurtling down the winding country roads in the heart of Wiltshire in a bid to make my dinner reservation at Howard’s House Hotel was not the best start to my stay. In fact, it was as if I’d brought a slice of London speed with me.
A flurry of apologies and quick freshen up later, I was sat at my table in the most quintessentially English dining room you can imagine – a cluster of white-clothed tables opening onto lush green garden terrace. It’s traditional, but not stuffy, with the only discordant note in the decor being the modern paintings hanging on the wall. That incongruous touch aside, it was exactly what I needed – homely, traditional, tranquil. I took a big, deep breath and a small sip of wine and felt myself start to relax.
It’s a jolly good thing I did relax, because Howard’s House Hotel excels at two things: food and an old-fashioned approach to vigour – the most taxing thing you ought to be doing here is going for a walk around the undulating countryside (or a little drive to nearby Stonehenge). My generally frenetic pace would not have fit in well.
Prepared for my feast, I was pleased to find the staff did their utmost not to hurry us through the array of dishes we ordered. It would have been sinful to shovel food this good down – chef Nick Wentworth’s hearty cuisines consist of locally-sourced fresh ingredients and he triumphs on balancing flavours for a familiar yet slightly unexpected take on classics.
What did I eat? Well, it started with garden beetroot and goat’s curd salad (the goat’s curd was of the melt-in-your-mouth variety), followed by a fillet of pollock with crushed new potatoes, bok choi and harassa (just on the right side of spicy), and for pudding an Apple and Calvados creme brûlée. After devouring some petit fours (made freshly that day) in the sitting room, it was off to the bedroom – another simple, fuss-free affair – very British
Come the morning, a little look through the windows of Howard’s House provided a glimpse of the surroundings which were quite something and, after a hearty full English breakfast, proved too alluring to resist.
The hotel has sat on this site surrounded by the Naddar Valley since 1623 and is perfectly nestled into the countryside. Walking around from the lush gardens into the fields beyond, I found myself spoiled for choice – in one direction ancient woodland, in the other, deep valleys to navigate. The Londoner in me half expected to turn a corner and be confronted with an industrial park or a housing estate, but there was nothing aside from the dotted old houses and endless British countryside.
My day in Wiltshire clearly had an impact on me – there was no hurtling on my way home. Instead, I employed some of Howard’s House Hotel’s tranquility and took the B roads.