Dinner at The Dining Room, Whatley Manor's Two-Michelin-Starred Restaurant, The Cotswolds

Whatley Manor has become one of my absolute favourites not only in the UK, but worldwide. This summer, we were invited to check out two of their restaurants, Grey's Brasserie and The Green Room which we absolutely loved (the Chateaubriand is incredible - review here 👈🏼). This time, we were invited back not only to stay in one of the hotel rooms (more on that soon), but also to try out The Dining Room. 

With Niall Keating as the executive chef and having just won his second (!!) Michelin star, we couldn't have been more excited to try it out. Niall's menus focus on using high-quality seasonal produce to create exquisite dishes tying Modern British cuisine with Asian influences from his travels. 

Niall's gastronomic menu comes in the normal variety as well as pescatarian, vegetarian and vegan menus too, making it extremely accessible for everyone. The menus come in at £120 per person, and wine flights start at £75, going up to £210 per person. We decided to go for the normal and pescatarian menus, and The Journey wine flight (£75). 

We first started in the hotel's lounge and ordered a few cocktails while we browsed the menu. A lovely waiter came over to talk us through the menu and asked if we had any questions. Shortly after, the first few courses came out.

Starting on the left, we had the dehydrated carrot in daikon and 5-year soya sauce topped with cornflower. These carrots may look small, but they were bite-sized bursts of flavour. They were lovely and savoury, while the flower added lots of aesthetic appeal. 

In the middle, we had the charcuterie from the manor - bresaola with yuzu oil. Bresaola is an Italian air-dried, salted beef that's been aged for a couple of months. The Italian delicacy was tender, delicious and complemented by the yuzu oil which offered a citrusy zing. Unlike a classic lemon, it holds its flavour really well even once cooked. If you read our previous review of Whatley Manor, you'll know that they use high-quality beef from a local farmer who owns cattle that graze Whatley's front lawn (seriously) and that we absolutely love yuzu. 

On the right, we had sliced Jerusalem artichoke with rosemary from the garden. These had a sweet, nutty flavour and the rosemary was super aromatic. 

We loved that the first few courses were brought to you in the lounge, in a very relaxed and cosy setting.

We were then led through to the kitchen to see Niall and the talented team of chefs create all of the dishes for the Dining Room. This was a super unique experience, as you seldom get to first-hand have a peek into such an incredible kitchen. 

We were given a glass of sparkling English wine to toast to their second Michelin star (a lovely touch), and watched the chefs work away. 

As someone who used to work at a hotel restaurant over university summer holidays, I can wholeheartedly say that I've never seen such a calm, organised group of chefs. It was truly a pleasure to watch them work away and added a lot to the experience which transcended a typical sit-down meal.

Here, we had three of our courses.

We started with the citrus tea (on both menus), a sencha green tea with sake and yuzu through it. Sencha is a type of green tea that's very popular in Japan and China, sake is Japanese rice wine and yuzu is the lovely Japanese citrus. As you can see, there were already hints of Asian influences in Niall's creations. 

We absolutely LOVED this. Served very cold, it was so incredibly refreshing and light in flavour, free of any harsh green tea flavour that you might think of when hearing sencha. It was the perfect palate cleanser to start the evening. 

We then moved onto the mango with tamarind glaze. Tamarind is a really unique, kind of sour spice that's used primarily in Indian dishes. The mango skin was pre-sliced so it was really easy to eat, and the tamarind gave it a nice sour kick. So different to anything we had ever had before. 

The last dish that we had here was the eel in citrus aigre-doux, which we both had as well. It was basically like an eel tempura which was made using a rice flour tempura. Aigre-doux is like a sweet-sour glaze which was delicious.

We had never had eel before but both said that the dish itself was really smoky and meaty (kind of chewy but not in a bad way, just a lot of substance), with a lovely crunch added by the tempura. 

After this, we moved on into the main dining room which had lovely low-light, warm tones to create atmosphere. It was great for vibes, but not as great for photos so these will be quite yellow-toned.

When we were in the lounge, we were asked whether we wanted still or sparkling water and when we got to the table around an hour later, our preference was already there and was consistently topped up as the evening carried on. 

We both had the native lobster custard. Niall uses roasted lobster knuckles and tails topped with Exmoor caviar, finished with an aged soy glaze. The egg white custard is infused with dashi broth which is steamed to order in a water bath. 

As well as loving yuzu, we're both big fans of soya as it has a wonderful salty, umami taste which worked perfectly with the soft lobster meat. The caviar was incredibly soft and melted in the mouth, creating a nice contrast between it and the sweet lobster. Dashi is a kind of Japanese broth that's used in the base of miso soup, adding lots of umami to the dish. That being said, this was probably our least favourite dish as neither of us were that keen on the custard (apparently this is the dish with the most split opinions out of the whole menu as it massively depends on personal taste). 

This was served with warm homemade sourdough that almost looked like a muffin, and a large plate of spiralised salted butter which looked so beautiful (and was the perfect salty addition to the beautiful soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside bread).

We started with the first wine of the evening, the Peller Vidal Ice Cuvée Sparkling Wine from Niagara, Canada. This was such a special sparkling wine which was actually made using frozen grapes, giving the wine more complexity and less dryness than a Brut Champagne. It was really refreshing and zesty, working well with the lobster. 

Our next course was the risotto. On the normal menu, this was with chorizo and scallop, whereas the pescatarian menu had scallop, tomato and xo sauce.

This was completely different to the risotto you've probably had before. It used koshihikari rice, a type of Japanese sushi rice that holds texture like nothing else, has more bite, is soft, springy and slightly sweet. 

The scallop was chopped into cubes, and just melted into the dish. It was so soft and added so much delicate texture to the dish. For the main menu one, the chorizo was chopped, made into a kind of paste and put through the risotto, giving it a fantastic smoky flavour. For the pescatarian one, an xo sauce (shrimp paste) was used with tomatoes. I think this was probably my favourite course - so much flavour and texture in one little bowl. The wooden spoons that they came with were really sweet and scooped up just the right amount of food in each bite. 

This one was paired with the 2016 'Voski', Zorah Rind from Armenia for both dishes. This was our first time trying wine from Armenia, and exactly why our wine flight was called 'The Journey'. Using two grape varieties that we hadn't even ever heard of, Voskèak and Garandmak, the full-bodied white wine was the perfect pair for the very flavourful risotto. Voskèat is "Golden Seed" in Armenian, and Garandmak, "Fatty tail", is one of the most popular grapes in Armenia. 

Our next two dishes were completely different. 

The pescatarian menu had the enoki mushroom in vegetable broth which was warming and delicious. Enoki mushrooms are long, thin and often used in soups and broths in Japanese cuisine. They're great because they soak up all of the flavours from the broth, while almost acting like thin noodles. 

This was paired with the 2017 Chablis 1er cru 'Les Fourneaux', Corinne Perchaud from Burgundy, France. With citrus and vanilla notes, this elegant full-bodied wine worked really well with the broth.

On the general menu, we had one of Niall's signature dishes - the tortellini black, which has been on the menu since day one without fail. 

This tortellini was filled with pork minced meat and a bit of foie gras, wrapped in a squid ink pasta. The sauce is black garlic-based and is really, really rich. As soon as you open the tortellini, the sauce has melted the inside of the tortellini and it starts to blend in with the sauce itself. It's absolutely gorgeous. A top 10/10 dish; it's no surprise that it's one of his signature dishes.

This was paired with a Chilean Pinot Noir, the 2016 Pinot Noir, Ritual from Aconcagua, Chile. With a refreshingly silky and juicy body and cherry and raspberry aromas, this red was great with the meaty tortellini.

Moving on, our next course was very similar with just one addition on the main menu: the salmon with aloe vera and yeast emulsion.

This salmon fillet was deliciously soft and the yeast emulsion was rich and buttery, with a cheesy flavour thanks to the yeast (nutritional yeast, the stuff that vegans use in a lot of their cooking for that cheesy flavour). The aloe vera is done as a gel, and all of the little pickled vegetables on the side added so much umami flavour to the dish. Once again, it had the Exmoor caviar on top of it. 

The main menu version had a thin slice of meat on it, adding an extra layer of flavour and thought to the plate.

Both dishes were paired with the 2016 "Wild Sauvignon", Greywacke from Marlborough, New Zealand. New Zealand sauvignon blanc is one of my absolute favourite go-to wines and this one was no exception. It's one of the top 10 most highly-rated Marlborough wines, and with almond and white nectarine flavours it's not hard to see why.

For the next course, we had the same sides but the 'protein' part of the dish changed. 

The pescatarian menu featured sea bass with kohlrabi, date and ssamjang whereas the normal menu had wagyu beef instead of the sea bass. 

The sea bass was perfectly cooked and charred on top. Kohlrabi, also known as wild cabbage, was fermented and cut into cute Michelin-star shapes. Ssamjang is a Korean dipping sauce which has a mildly spicy, salty flavour and the little balls on top were actually made out of dates!  The smoky sauce (made using the date balls) complemented the sea bass *perfectly*.

This was paired with the (very popular especially this summer it seems), 2018 Whispering Angel, Cave d'Esclans from Provence, France. It's a beautiful light-coloured, dry, crisp rosé (the only type you should be ordering 😉) which has a zesty citrus, summer berry flavour. Perfect for white fish!

Now for the A5 wagyu. Over the last couple of years, wagyu beef has become increasingly popular. Why you ask? It's got a high fat content due to its beautiful marbling making the texture is incredibly soft - it simply melts in your mouth. Although there's a myth that the cows are fed beer and are massaged daily, it's not true for all wagyu beef. They are, however, reared in a special way and receive a lot of care (compared to other cattle farming methods) and you really taste it. Incredibly soft and delicious. Although the proteins were different, the sauce and sides worked perfectly with both the sea bass and the wagyu.

This one was paired with another unique wine - the 2013 "Pretty Pony", Kanaan Winery in Ningxia, China. A 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, the Pretty Pony is an awesome wine with strong dark berry flavours.

Now moving onto desserts! These were the same for both menus.

First, we had the chocolate with extra virgin olive oil and nasturtium. It was made from a chocolate cream made by emulsifying melted chocolate through crème anglaise and eggs topped with a chocolate crumb. You might wonder why it was paired with extra virgin olive oil ice cream, but it's actually an established thing to have ice cream with olive oil and toasted pine nuts in Italy. The key is to use a light, fruity olive oil rather than a peppery one. 

The verdict? Absolutely incredible. The chocolate was so incredibly smooth and rich, while the chocolate crumb added a nice crunch to the course. The olive oil ice cream made the whole thing incredibly soft and smooth, while offering lots of strong fruity olive oil flavours. This was definitely a more 'grown-up' dessert - very balanced and not overpoweringly sweet. It was topped with nasturtium which also comes from Whatley's garden. 

This was paired with the most incredible dessert wine we have ever tried. You know when people tell you about the tasting notes of wine, you take a sip and you don't really get it? Well, we were told that this had a chocolate flavour and aroma. We were dubious, but this wine from Uraguay delivered just that. It was rich, velvety and most importantly, *actually* smelled and tasted like chocolate. 

It was the NV Tannat "Alcyone", Vinedos de los Vientos from Atlantida, Uraguay. I've linked it here because you'll want to buy a bottle for your collection

The last course was the matcha choux - a classic crème patissière choux bun dusted with matcha powder. 

Matcha is another type of green tea (like sencha, earlier on in the meal), and has also become increasingly popular in the last few years. These were wonderfully crunchy and soft inside, with an initial vegetal taste that finishes sweet. 

Both desserts were a great, light yet satisfying end to a savoury meal - something too sweet would have been too extreme. It was nice to have the lighter choux bun after the chocolate as a kind of finishing palate cleanser. 

Overall... we don't even have any more words to explain how incredible this whole meal was. Every dish was presented so beautifully and had an array of both texture and flavour. So much care and skill had gone into every single element on every plate, and even something as small as the carrots took over 24 hours to create, and were finished within about 30 seconds (because they were so good).

We would highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend Whatley Manor for both a more relaxed meal in the Grey's Brasserie, or for a more formal sit-down experience at The Dining Room. It's honestly such a unique experience, not only because of the incredible food, but because of the fact that it's a three-hour journey from the lounge, to the kitchen to the dining room itself. 

At just a 35-minute drive from Bath, it's perfectly feasible to go here for a special occasion, and we would strongly encourage you all to try it out for yourself.  

🌟 The interiors were very warm and soft, with beautiful white tablecloths on all of the tables. It is definitely a Michelin star experience in that the room is very quiet, free of any loud music and simple in order to focus on the courses themselves.

🤵🏻 The staff are incredible. They are all extremely knowledgeable and have very high standards of customer service (sometimes rare to find nowadays). There were so many small touches that really made them stand out: understanding and flexibility about food intolerances, clearing the table (including crumbs) between every course, topping up water without hesitation and replacing the bottle when one was empty. 

🌿 Perfect for food intolerances and requirements - there are vegetarian, vegan and pescatarian menus. Niall can vary the menu and swap certain dishes if you have any allergies. It's perfect.

💰 ££££ (but great value for a chef and menu of such high calibre) 

Disclaimer: Press invite - complimentary meal and drinks.