Open to residents and non, Ston Easton Park’s Sorrel Restaurant upholds a long-standing tradition of serving only the finest ingredients, none more local than those straight from their Victorian kitchen garden tended by Steve and Dale who work closely with the head chef when it comes to the next year’s planting. Where so many fine dining restaurants have installed kitchen gardens in order to impress guests (and reviewers) it’s far more charming to think that this allotment has always served the house.
And charm can be found in spades, quite literally, at Ston Easton Park, not least their elegant restaurant named after the herb grown and used frequently on the menu. Whilst so many hotel dining rooms have rejected white table linen for trendy wooden tables, immediately turning any dining room into a brasserie, regardless of the style of the cookery, thankfully they celebrate traditional fine dining at Sorrel Restaurant – and it would seriously undermine the food on offer were they to have adopted such an annoying fad. The cream panelled room is fresh, comfortable and romantic rather than dark or overly formal, with low lighting that immediately lulls you into the relaxing pace of this joyful Somerset manor house.
The background music is the only thing that would improve the ambience and is easily fixed; classic jazz being preferable to the eclectic opera to pop selection that runs on a loop, and this applies to the impressive drawing room or ‘Saloon’ where it’s enjoyable to peruse the menu over an aperitif, or take coffee and petit fours by the fireside following dinner. Hotels and restaurants often overlook this important element, and it would enhance things no end if the music here reflected the old-world glamour of the place.
One thing that is fortunately not consigned to the past is the cuisine at Ston Easton Park; beautifully balanced between classic flavour combinations, modern techniques and sophisticated presentation that stops short of being stingy with sauces or accompaniments. I’d go so far as to call Sorrel easily one of the best hotel dining experiences in the area, not to mention extremely good value at £45 for three courses or £49.50 for a five course tasting menu.
It’s reassuring to discover that current head chef, Rafel Kalanowski, who has been in the role for over six months, was promoted from the position of sous chef on the departure of Dan Moon (now at the prestigious five star Gainsborough Hotel in Bath). Kalanaowski showcases the skills he picked up from Moon, while his own style is equally refined and befitting the opulent surroundings that make dining here something out of the ordinary and well worth our half an hour drive. Unlike the hotels in the centre of Bath or Wells, Sorrel Restaurant relies solely on reputation not footfall, and time and again we venture back here for anniversaries and special occasions, or just to escape the city and soak up the atmosphere.
My pretty Dorset crab starter featured a technically superb set mousse of the dark shellfish, topped with fresh hand-picked white meat and accompanied by basil oil dots and a refreshing grapefruit, mango and pomegranate salsa. The main of local venison was equally smart and seasonal with a wonderfully seared, rare fillet partnered with an intense, well balanced blackberry jus and a silky pumpkin purée which offered a hint of sweetness. For another celebration of autumn and Somerset, I opted for the apple and almond tart with vanilla ice cream, a comforting tribute to this glorious county and a persuasive nudge to get me to return again soon for afternoon tea.
Sorrel Restaurant at Ston Easton Park, Ston Easton, Bath BA3 4DF. For more information and reservations please visit the website or call 01761 241631.