Fishmore Hall and Forelles 3 AA Rosette Restaurant, Ludlow
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Country house hotel in Shropshire
Any excuse to revisit Ludlow is fine by
me. With its large ruined castle,
picturesque streets and strong foodie heritage, this Shropshire market town
ticks all my boxes for a quintessentially English weekend, even if it is within
shouting distance of the Welsh border. The
rolling Shropshire hills are a paradise for walkers and the area has more than
its fair share of heritage attractions within an hour’s scenic drive.
So the chance to overnight at Fishmore Hall, a contemporary
boutique hotel just outside Ludlow was not to be missed. Especially with the added inducement of
dinner cooked by Chef Andrew Birch. Awarded 3 AA Rosettes for his exceptional cuisine, Andrew will be taking
part in the Great British Menu, in an episode to be transmitted on 12 September.
Built as a private house in 1810, Fishmore
Hall was turned into a school during World War II, but the property was
derelict when Laura Penman bought it in 2007. In less than six months, she had transformed it into a stylish hotel
with 15 character bedrooms ranging from Standard through Superior and Executive
to Luxury. Among the hotel’s many
awards are Shropshire Chamber Leisure and Tourism Business of the Year in 2011.
Standing beside a country road, Fishmore Hall is surrounded by farmland, and our spacious bedroom offered views to the hills across a field of glorious Longhorn cattle. Neutral walls were offset by highlights in teal blue, brown and black, making for a stylish and relaxing atmosphere. An investigation of the welcome tray revealed a wide selection of organic teas and coffee, with fresh milk in the mini bar rather than the dreaded long life version. There’s complimentary bottled water too and home-made biscuits are available on request. WiFi is free and – oh great joy – easily accessed without a password. And the vast Hypnos bed promised a great night’s sleep.
A large bath for me, a rainfall shower for
my husband, made us both happy. I’m
always pleased to see Molton Brown toiletries but would also have liked a small
bar of soap – not everyone likes slippery shower gel! There was more delight from me at the
magnifying mirror, although with no natural light in the bathroom, the lighting
around the mirror actually made it quite difficult to see. Wonky mascara yet again. But they’re small niggles.
Gastronomic dinner is served in Forelles
restaurant except on Sunday evening when the brasserie menu only is
available. A light, bright
conservatory-style room, Forelles looks towards Clee Hill and takes its name
from a variety of pear which grows in the hotel garden.
The restaurant is open to non-residents so
I’d advise booking your table at the same time as your room to avoid
disappointment. And you would be
disappointed if you didn’t get to eat here. We browsed the menu over a drink in the small bar and had to ask the
friendly young staff for help with the odd unfamiliar ingredient or spice. But equally because the description gives no
hint as to how the list of ingredients will be combined. Do I need to order potatoes or a side dish,
I asked. No - each dish is
complete. And, we soon discovered, also
a work of art.
Tiny canapes are followed by an
amuse-bouche before we even get to the first of our three courses. When they come, I am captivated by the way
Andrew has transformed an apparently simply list of ingredients – most of them
locally sourced – into dishes that are both beautiful to look at and delicious
to eat. I start with a delicate
combination of shredded crab, caviar and sweetcorn; followed by sweet flaky
hake with morelles and mussels. For
dessert, the most sublime salted caramel fondant, liquid gold pouring from the
thin sponge and served with cider sorbet and creme fraiche. Oh and did I mention the tiny pot of lemon
posset after the main course to cleanse the palate? Perfectly balanced.
There is a seasonal menu with five or six choices and also 6 or 8 course tasting menus. All that artistry in the kitchen doesn’t come cheap - but Andrew has won a clutch of awards including Welsh Chef of the Year in 2004 and Young Chef Apprentice of both Britain and Europe in 2005. When he does his thing on the Great British Menu, he’ll be representing Wales.
are various packages detailed on the website
including DBB, Mid-week Dining Offer, Walking Break and a Gourmet Package. Check the site for the up-to-date seasonal rates.
The room folder tempts you to explore the
surrounding area with information on attractions such as Acton Scott, location
for the TV series ‘The Victorian Farm’; beautiful Stokesay Castle (English
Heritage); the Severn Valley Railway; and the National Trust countryside around
Carding Mill Valley and the Long Mynd. A
delightful corner of England and a delightful base from which to enjoy it.
Shropshire SY8 3DP
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