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Usually, the focus of a hotel is on the hotel bit: namely, the bedrooms, the décor, the room service, menu-order pillows, fluffy white dressing gowns, impressively large bathtubs, a good selection of TV channels. Of course. Hotels are, after all, in the business of sleep – they’re where we go to wind down, to lie in.
Fishmore Hall, Ludlow, however, is different. It is not a hotel people go to for the hotel bit (though, yes: of course, people do sleep at Fishmore too – they’ve got all the fluffy slippers, dressing gowns, oversized bath tubs, pillow menus and this and that). But, no one goes to Fishmore Hall just for sleep. No. People go to Fishmore for the food. The exquisite, gourmet, delicious food, by head chef, David Jaram. And that is exactly why I am here.
Before moving into the dining room however, I will briefly touch upon the bedroom. Spacious, yet still cosy, tall windows with pretty country-side views, a nescafe coffee machine, the option of having hot cookies brought up, clipper tea (I’m somewhat of a clipper tea aficionado), a huge, luxurious bed with soft linen, little white slippers, free wifi – everything one could possibly want in a hotel room. However, I have one qualm. The whole room is open plan, including the bathroom; the bath is just a few metres away from the bed and the toilet is behind just a free standing wall, with no doors on either end. It’s a bit of a strange arrangement, I must say, but I don’t mind it too much (just turn the TV up and have the coffee machine on when your partner goes to the toilet!).
Having only eaten toast for breakfast followed by a chain of coffees and a non-descript sandwich during my just-gone-by day in Shrewsbury (just under an hour away from Ludlow), I am, by the time we go down to be seated for dinner, quite hungry. The restaurant, Forelles, is unassuming and quiet, with a modest, but beautifully considered décor (my partner notices that even the fire door handles are uncharacteristically aesthetically pleasing). Before our first course, we are treated to a small entrée. I enjoy the sun-blushed tomato oil on crisp bread, dipped in hummus, crunching away un-elegantly. Upon waiting for our starters, I take the small pot of hummus to my place-setting and, whilst avoiding the eye-line of the reflection of a waiter (serving another couple), scoop out what’s left with my little finger. Yes, very unglamorous. But, for hummus this good, it just has to be done. Unexpectedly, before the starter, we are given not only hot, fresh bread (with perhaps the most mouthwateringly salty butter I’ve ever tasted), but also a small amuse-bouche: a white truffle, corn and beetroot soup – sweet, light and more-ish. A little teasing for the hungry stomach.
My starter is beautifully presented: bright green watercress soup, with halved boiled egg and a golden flourish of saffron in the centre. It doesn’t look like this for long, however. With a spoon in my hand, I take to the light challenge of destroying it. The flavours in this dish create a very unusual combination, each element being very light and delicate in taste, but surprisingly, it works quite magnificently. My partner’s pigeon starter is gone in an instant over exclamations of enjoyment.
For my main, I decide to be boring and pick a simple butternut squash and wild mushroom lasagna. I start to regret this, however, when my partner’s mackrel with cucumber sorbet comes to the table, stunningly presented in little bite-size clusters across the plate. My mind’s imagining of what my lasagna will look like, however, (standard pasta sheets with butternut squash and mushroom instead of the usual mince-meat filling) proves to be quite different to the one I am served… The top layer is an egg white foam with a spherical tip of butternut squash puree, all in the shape of a cracked egg. Beneath the foam is a whole poached egg, perfectly soft in the centre. The yolk pours out and spills across the lasagna sheets beneath which are not made from pasta, but are, rather, thinly sliced sheets of butternut squash. In between these orange layers are tenderly cooked wild mushrooms and , to top off the whole dish, are crispy, cooked, salted sage leaves. There aren’t really any words that can adequately sum up the tastes and textures of this dish. At lack of better word: delicious… divine.
I finish with a bread and butter pudding soufflé. Perfectly formed, like a cloud in a ramekin, with a side of tonka bean ice-cream. The soufflé is so light that, as I pierce it with my fork, there is the sound of tiny bubbles popping. My partner has the ten-cheeses cheese board, and impressively manages to finish it. We retire to our room quite satisfied. An absolutely remarkable dinner, worth travelling to Ludlow for to indulge in. Just five minutes after eating, I sprawl across the bed snuggled up in a big fluffy dressing gown with a clipper tea in my hand, in a post-dinner stupor. Whereby, usually, a hotel has a restaurant, it is the other way around here at Fishmore hall. Here, Forelles restaurant has a hotel.
For more information go to their website here
words Claire Hazelton