In January the restaurant at boutique hotel Cotswolds88 won three AA rosettes with head chef Lee Scott's widely varied and sustainably sourced menu that he changes each day. Kerstin Kühn reports
Cotswolds 88 is a quirky boutique hotel where traditional features meet funky, modern design. Set within a Palladian manor in the quaint village of Painswick, the 17-bedroom hotel blends country-house grandeur with retro furniture and over-the-top touches such as PVC-backed chairs and Leigh Bowery-inspired wallpaper.
Owners Phil and Val Harris took over the property approximately four years ago from previous owner and Loungelover London co-founder Marchella De Angelis.
Lee Scott has been head chef at the hotel's restaurant, the 88 Room, for three years, having previously spent just under a year with Gordon Ramsay Holdings at the Savoy Grill in London. "But it wasn't really my cup of tea," he recalls. "It's such a massive restaurant and I like to be flexible. I change my menus every day here and I love that freedom."
Scott has a brigade of three chefs catering for the 36-seat dining room, serving lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. A dedicated breakfast chef takes care of guests in the morning.
simplified lunch menu
Lunch at the restaurant can be hit and miss - "Sometimes we do 20, sometimes just one table," says Scott - and to avoid food going to waste the lunch menu is a simplified version of the dinner menu, priced at £24.95 for two courses and £28.95 for three.
Scott sources almost all of his produce from within England. Beef is from Herefordshire; pork from Gloucestershire; and lamb, rabbit and venison are locally sourced from the Cotswolds; while fish and seafood come from Devon and Cornwall.
"The GP does suffer when you are doing what we do. You can't buy top-quality produce and have a GP of 78%. But the owners are very supportive and they really back us in what we do," he says.
This January, their faith in him was rewarded as the restaurant won three AA rosettes, putting the 88 Room in an elite group of just 10% of restaurants in the UK holding that accolade.
At dinner, Scott serves two menus: the à la carte, priced at £59 for three courses, and a seven-course tasting menu at £75 (£95 with paired wines).
A recent addition to his menus is a starter of ceviche of hand-dived Scottish scallops marinated in lime oil and seared scallop served with charred asparagus, asparagus vinaigrette, truffle mayonnaise and fresh truffle.
"We only do this dish when asparagus is in season and this year it came in very early - at the start of March," Scott says. "It's a dish I'm really happy with, as it's rich but light at the same time, so it has the perfect balance."
Next up on the tasting menu is salt cod with parsley crust, creamed celeriac, celeriac rémoulade and a crispy chicken wing.
"I love cod, it's one of my favourite fish," enthuses the chef. "I like to mix things up a bit with different cooking methods and textures of the same ingredient."
In that same vein is a main course of Hereford beef. Scott cold-smokes the rump for a day before roasting it, giving it a delicate smoky flavour. "Then we use the cheek to give another contrast, which we braise but it's still quite light. And instead of adding mashed or fondant potato, we decided to mix it up a bit and do barley and snails with garlic and parsley," he adds.
star of the show
On to desserts, and the star of the show is a chocolate and praline ganache with passion fruit cannelloni, passion fruit and vodka jelly, and salty caramel ice-cream. "It's a rich dessert, but those flavours in the right balance are brilliant together," says Scott.
Sample dishes from the menu
Pressed terrine of smoked ham hock, foie gras and chicken with leeks and truffle, beetroot chutney, raison and verjus
â- Celeriac cream with smoked duck and celeriac consommé jelly, spring salad of gizzards and peas, duck bun with orange and almond flavours
â- Roasted loin of local rabbit, rabbit offal, hand-rolled macaroni, pine nut butter, velouté of chanterelles
â- Loin of roe deer wrapped in pancetta, braised red cabbage, beetroot and salsify, blackberry gel, burnt onion mash
â- Huntsham Farm suckling pig assiette, crispy head, slow-cooked shoulder, rack and confit belly, smoked pommes purée, braised endive, honey and lemon thyme
â- Skate wing off the bone with langoustine tails, braised lettuce, roasted young carrots and brown shrimp beurre noisette
â- Pedro Ximenez jelly with tiramisÁ¹ mousse, white chocolate and coffee ice cream, biscotti, chocolate popping candy
â- Carrot cake cheesecake with carrot and orange curd, stem ginger and yogurt sorbet
â- Baked English apple with cloves and cinnamon, green apple sorbet, blackberry doughnut, cardamom cream
£59 for three courses
88 Room at Cotswolds88
Kemps Lane, Painswick, Stroud, Gloucestershire GL6 6YB
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