After a couple of hours spent in Gaia Spa experiencing all the facilities both Julian and I were relaxed and very much looking forward to our evening meal in the 3 AA Rosette Gallery Restaurant. We dressed for dinner (smart casual is the order of the day) and headed down to the impressive Great Hall for an aperitif. For me it had to be a Tarquins Gin & Tonic and for Julian obviously a pint of Tribute. Josh the barmen tended to our every whim and was very friendly, he told us about the upcoming Gin Festival - a date which has already gone in my diary!
We had a bit of time to spare before our dinner reservation so we took the opportunity to have a noisy around the other rooms on the ground floor. The special edition afternoon tea on offer whilst we were staying was Beauty & the Beast and there were some lovely touches around this theme. The monthly special edition afternoon teas are carefully selected to complement the time of the year, season or national occasion.
Josh the barmen came to find us to tell us our table was ready in The Gallery Restaurant and he showed us up to the mezzanine level. Dan our waiter in the restaurant greeted us and showed us to our table which was prime position on the gallery overlooking the Great Hall.
The table was laid to perfection, not a crease in sight on the tablecloth! Dan bought the menus over for us to peruse whilst we enjoyed a glass of Prosecco, well it be rude not to! Dan tried to encourage us to opt for the tasting menu, however we choose to pick from the three course a la carte, we didn't think we would manage the 5 or 7 course option! The menus change with the seasons and The Gallery Restaurant is where Head Chef, Scott Paton, showcases fine dining using only the finest locally sourced ingredients.
Our decisions were made and our orders placed. Canapes were bought to the table, all of which were divine. The first was Pecorino biscuits with goats cheese and cheddar and cream, followed by Brie and red onion marmalade tart with puffed potato. Normally I am not a great lover of canapes but hand on heart these were the best I have tried.
As expected the bread was all homemade and served warm along with french butter.
The Amuse Bouche was a pear jelly, roquefort panna cotta and walnuts and chives - again this was heaven in a bowl, light and very tasty. It really woke the taste buds up, so we were both ready for our starters.
Julian decided upon the pan seared scallops with celery root, truffle emulsion and shaved winter truffle and I chose the chicken liver parfait, quince, carmalised hazelnut and mustard.
We ordered a bottle of Rioja to accompany our main courses of slow cooked lamb with variations of alliums and Pedro Jimenez scented jus and Roast Creedy duck with orange braised chicory and thyme. Well what can we say, neither of us our food critics but we can totally understand why the restaurant has been awarded 3 AA Rosettes, the quality, service and taste combinations were outstanding.
It's a tough job doing these food blogs, we were both quite full but to give a fair review we really felt we should try some of the tempting desserts. I, of course, chose the chocolate themed one - Variations of milk and chocolates and Julian plumped for the selection of artisan cheeses.
Dan suggested I had a glass of dessert wine to complement my chocolate desert and recommended the Californian Black Muscat - good choice Dan. Julian had a glass of port to go alongside he selection of cheese.
Both desserts were nearly too pretty to eat! The cheese board contained 5 cheeses, one of which had a real nutty flavour. We asked Dan what the cheese was and he informed us it was a Cave Aged Comte which is a hards cows milk cheese, from eastern France, mild flavoured with hints of brown butter and roasted nuts - super scrummy and I will be looking out for that again.
Head Chef Scott Paton says: "I want food to be colourful, vibrant and to stand out. When I put a plate of food in front of a guest I want it to make them smile and to create memories. I want guests to see a dish and immediately think that food will taste good before they taste it. The first impact of each dish is visual and each dish must be technically well executed. My food isn't theatre - my food looks good and tastes even better. I don't want guests remembering smokey nitrogen I want them to remember the visual impact of the dish, savour the taste, and the lasting experience."
Well I can tell you Scott, you have delivered on all your promises, the food looked mouth watering, tasted even better and the whole experience was one we would thoroughly recommend. We really liked the fact that it was not at all pretentious, we felt comfortable and cosy in the restaurant and it was lovely to see that in the Great Hall people were even eating bar snacks off their laps.
Feeling totally stuffed and no room left for a nightcap in the Great Hall we headed up the 'wooden hill' to our room for the night. The hotel offers a turn down service so we were greeted with our bed all set for the night along with a bag of homemade lavender fudge along with some Gaia sleep balm - a lovely touch. The bed was so comfy we probably didn't need the sleep balm.
Unfortunately as we were staying on a Sunday we had to get up early the next morning so we could leave and be back home to start work for 9am that Monday morning. Breakfast is served in The Gallery Restarant between 7 -10 am on week days. The hotel also offer room service delivering a morning cup of tea/coffee if you are staying in one of the historic four poster rooms.
Breakfast as expected did not disappoint. The selection was mouth watering and using the best of our fabulous local produce. I am a devil for fried breakfasts, it is probably one of my favourite meals (aside from Sunday Roast and a good Nepalese curry!) so I chose the Full English minus Black pudding. Julian opted for the slightly more healthy Eggs Benedict.
With reluctance the time had come to check out and enter back into the 'real world' again. We headed down to reception to settle our bill. On checkout out we were given a departure bag which contained two bottles of water along with some homemade macaroons - something for the journey - a lovely touch I thought.
If only every Sunday could be this Sublime!