The view from every window endorsed the fact that this was truly a ‘country house hotel’ set in spacious grounds surrounded by farmland. Sipping pre-dinner cocktails on the sunny west facing terrace offered a timeless experience with the garden seamlessly flowing into the field with sheep quietly grazing, a couple of cock pheasants proudly strutting around, each asserting to be the most impressive and a lonely goose . There was no fence to interrupt this idyllic scene as the ‘must have’ for grand houses since the 17th century was the ha-ha, that vista could have been any time in the last 400 years.
Brockencote Hall is set in the middle of its grounds, slightly elevated on its plinth of a mound. The approach certainly sets the ideal scene for a grand arrival up the long drive passing the lake on which a few ducks and a lone Canadian goose adding to the scene. We later found there was activity under the water as well with some really quite large fish making the occasional splash.
The hotel is not just about the building and location; the food and service were our first criteria in choosing to write a review. Over several years, we have visited four of the ten hotels in the Eden Hotel Collection; each has offered excellent food, well above the norm with menus that offer chances to explore new combinations of flavours. To us, the quality and attitude of staff are important as an hotel is very much a ‘people business’ where personable, efficient but discreet service scores highly.
We dined in the Chaddesley Restaurant decorated in a classical style in modern greys and damsons. The hotel is known by local foodies and a young crowd for its dining experience and we were not disappointed with the seasonal menu offering imaginative and delicious food.
The Head Chef, Tim Jenkins, uses only the freshest of ingredients to create an interesting menu. My dinner started with a soft veal sweetbread ravioli with a light onion veloute and pickled mushroom. This was followed by a salt aged Goosnargh duck breast and then, the ultimate treat, a light as air white chocolate and vanilla dome with English strawberries and basil. A true taste of summer at its best and it was certainly the highlight of our visit. Breakfast was just as good with everything you could ask for.
Craig, the Manager, together with all the staff were all attentive and helpful with all our questions on local and historic sights, of which there are many! The service was at all times excellent and efficient and touches such as the ‘Local Information’ sheet and the daily ’Brockencote Hall Times’ listing places of interest, walks and sights together with the weather forecast, were a great idea.
Impressions and reputations can last generations longer that the root of the original opinion; for some foreigners who have not visited London they still believe it is a city of endless fog and smog. I still think of the Midlands being associated with heavy industry, not quite in the same vein as Queen Victoria who requested the curtains on the Royal train being closed when passing by the area.
I have to correct myself as, whilst we live in the ‘Garden of England’ county of Kent, we have far less unspoilt countryside than the Midlands enjoys. Although fruit growing is in some localities increasing, many Kent farmers now prefer to grow cereals with the result that great, bald prairies are being created and the mature hedgerows with their trees are being grubbed. There would appear to be better planning authorities as our urban sprawl is out of control and swamping the countryside and villages. The Midlands seems to have created a better balance with rolling, verdant countryside on one side and just around the corner the industries contain themselves within their limits.
The quiet countryside contains many diversions; the National Trust has a whole feast of properties to explore. The Trust is fairly purist in its estate of houses Packwood at Lapworth, Warwickshire is an exception, their description of ‘much-restored Tudor house’ is short of the mark. It was interesting but even using period artefacts, ‘Disney’ style is not my choice. Nevertheless, I was very taken with the Carolean part of the gardens which was superb with its stunning herbaceous borders. The real show stopper is the raised walkway and its planting on the link between the seventeenth century brick gazebos.
Another property where the house was not the focal point of my interest was the Victorian house; Wightwick Manor nearby Wolverhampton. The contents are fascinating and opened my eyes to a period that I have regarded as a bit of ‘chocolate box’ art with the Pre-Raphaelites, William Morris, etc., they are all here in big numbers.
There is just so much to explore and see in this beautiful part of the country. Brockencote Hall lives up to the promise of peaceful surroundings in which to base yourself as well as a place in which to relax. However, I have just one concern and that is for the lone goose wandering disconsolately around the lake searching for a mate. If only he could find a lady goose everything in the garden would be rosy.