But when it comes to classic good food – the Brits hold the monopoly in the kitchen.
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So when I was invited to enjoy a wine/dine experience in the south west of England I couldn’t help but hope for some good homely food – and I wasn’t disappointed.
Set in the heart of Shakespeare country, the Mercure Shakespeare in Stratford Upon Avon is on of the most charming hotels in the area.
Offering visitors a quintessential step back in time and in keeping with the Elizabethan trends and décor of the time, my partner and I were made to feel immediately at home.
Attention to detail in the hotel was second to none, even my room was aptly named Othello after one of Shakespeare’s most famous works.
With Britain in the middle of a mini-heatwave we set out to explore. Having only previously been to Stratford Upon Avon on the ever-forboding school trip where my 8-year-old self was more interested in trading stickers with my friends than learning about the Shakespearian tragedies – a second visit was well worth it.
We spent half the day strolling along the numerous trails and paths scattered along the banks of the River Avon. We were happy to spend time outside but of course a visit wouldn’t have been a visit without a trip to the birth place of the great bard and the home of Anne Hathaway – his wife and the inspiration for many of his plays.
The gardens of both houses are a pretty rest-stop. All our exploring meant we had quite an appetite when we returned to the Othello restaurant – adjoining the hotel.
The Sommelier was on hand all evening for all our wine needs, offering a dry white Chardonnay for the primary courses while preparing a hearty red for the later meat dishes.
Mercure’s Grands Vins offering is one of the hallmarks of the hotel brand – an extensive wine list of high quality regional and international wines, sold by the glass as well as the bottle.
This unique concept is designed not only to introduce grapes and varieties people may not be familiar with, but also to give guests the chance to sample high-end wines at an affordable price. The Grand Vins are categorised into four different flavour areas: „Fresh & Tasty”, „Fruity & Light”, „Balanced & Elegant” and „Spicy & Full-Bodied” and we were guided through the unique matching process with our food.
The wines are selected by experts including Mercure’s own Echansons. The Mercure Echansons are wine specialists – knowledgeable about everything from winemaking processes to wine regions to the all-important tasting – and are on hand to guide guests and offer advice on wine selection.
The brilliant chef set a menu offering two choices for the evening’s meals. A small starter got the taste buds going – I chose the potted shrimps while my partner in crime went for the liver-chicken parfait with onion jam and toasted brioche.
Not averse to sharing I tried both and was pleasantly surprised – the shrimps were well cooked – not tough while the parfait was smooth and creamy.
A soup of cauliflower and pea came next following by a refreshing lemon sorbet to break the courses – with a sharp but refreshing bite it was a perfect respite.
Next to the table came the mains with an offering of both meat and fish dishes, I chose the pan-friend lamb with rosti potatoes, savoy cabbage and celeriac and rosemary glaze.
The lamb was wonderfully cooked – still slightly pink in the centre and the celeriac made a perfect accompaniment to the hearty meal.
For a lighter option, a sea bass main was also on offer matched with a fennel confit on a bed of spinach.
Five courses were finished off by the ever-pleasing choice of a warm chocolate brownie or strawberry pavlova.
If that wasn’t enough – the next morning a well-stocked English or Continental Breakfast came our way.
The food and service throughout the trip made the wine/dine experience well worth having. That it was located in one of the most beautiful spots in the country was simply the cherry on top of a fantastic weekend.
The ‘Wine and Dine’ Experience is available at 18 stylish hotels, including the chic Mercure Bath Francis – set in Queen’s Square (one of Jane Austen’s favourite settings for her novels), the Regency-era Mercure Cheltenham Queens Hotel, and the Mercure Stratford Upon Avon, dating back to 1637.
Personally our experience was fantastic. The hotel was wonderful with its low ceilings and quaint character and the delicious food made the visit just that extra bit special.