Magical Moments Are Woven By Adam Smith At Coworth Park

I’m lost in a glorious meadow, amid tall grasses and vibrant cornflowers. It’s as if time has stood still. All around me scarlet poppies and yellow Rudbeckias sway and dance, the mid-summer sun adding to the colourful haze. It’s like something out of a picture book – a quintessential English scene.

In the distance, the white mansion house that is Coworth Park, a Dorchester Collection Hotel, is gleaming. It’s a place that is rooted in heritage – a house has stood on this site since 1776. Originally owned by William Shepheard, a prosperous East India merchant, it has changed hands and purposes over the years but is now best known – of course – as The Dorchester’s sister hotel in the country.

Meander out of the wildflower meadow (it is so impressive that HM The Queen commissioned the Master of the Meadow, Bruce Yeoman, to create something similar for her) and you’ll arrive at the pristine Polo Fields (another favourite place of the royals, where both Prince William and Harry have taken part in the annual Audi Polo Challenge). From the sunken gardens to the bronze statues by Carol Pearce, which are dotted about the grounds, there is much to explore across the 240 acres that the hotel sits within. Moments of surprise come by spotting an original milestone (marking the distance as 22 miles from London), a giant Indian Bean Tree and the Grade I-listed Dower House, which dates back to 1775, and is often used by actors filming at the nearby Shepperton Studios (giving you another surprise if you spot an A-lister checking in).

Whether you cycle on one of the hotel’s bikes or stroll around, the nature surrounding Coworth Park is worth exploring as much as the hotel itself – not only because of the beauty to be seen on the doorstep but also because – later – there’s a feast waiting for you inside.

Of course, you might already have treated yourself to afternoon tea – taken in the drawing room or in one of the new summer ‘bubble’ pods found in the grounds (available until 24 September) – and perfectly situated for you to play giant chess or croquet, Alice in Wonderland-style, on the lawn afterwards.

But the main culinary attraction at Coworth Park is Woven by Adam Smith. Launched last year, it is the hotel’s modern take on a fine dining restaurant and has already been awarded one Michelin star. Here, magical moments of a different kind await.

But first, if you are staying in one of the 30 rooms in the Mansion House, take time to soak your limbs in the copper tub. Have a read of The Book of Idle Pleasures, thoughtfully left for you on a bath rack, and soak off your day’s explorations with a luxury bath oil by the English historic, beauty brand Mitchell and Peach. It’s the perfect pre-dinner way to prep for an elevated night of dining ahead.

Chef Adam Smith may be a master at the stove, but he is also an expert storyteller, a fact that sings through every course you sample at Woven. “We adopt a forager’s mindset,” he writes in the introduction to his menu. “We carefully observe nature’s calendar to ensure that whatever’s going on out there is being cooked up in here. It brings a natural, seasonal rhythm to our menu – and a sense of excitement to the kitchen…”

Seasonality is big at Woven. Your meal is eaten in a room full of autumnal colours – honey, chestnut, spun gold and russet – making it cosy and warm. Designed by Martin Hulbert Design (MHD), there’s an air of luxury about the celebration of natural materials throughout – of oak, linen and mohair.

Unique pieces catch your eye as you look around. Mounted onto the back wall, as the centrepiece of the restaurant, is a striking, original plaster plaque set with root vegetables, made by artisans Locker & Riley. Above the tables is a contemporary lighting installation, designed by British architect Umut Yamac in collaboration with MHD, which mimics a forest canopy with rays of light pouring through the trees and over the restaurant interior.

From the shadow-effect carpet to the mohair fringed seating, by Italian designer Poltrona Frau, everything is bespoke to the restaurant and there is a thoughtful level of detailing. Handmade cutlery and plates, for example, are all unique, some vintage and some modern, depending on what is being served, adding yet more theatre to the dining experience.

The walls – a bespoke MHD design – feature a subtle hand-drawn oak leaf motif printed onto linen while floor-to-ceiling curtains frame the dramatic Georgian windows, bringing warmth to the space. Dotted throughout the main restaurant are several sculptures used as waiter stations. Made from papier maché and resin, and inspired by the works of British artist Henry Moore, these represent the buttress roots of trees. A nest of tactile wooden handbag stools has been made by a local whittler out of fallen oak trees.

The sense of culinary theatre starts with a series of ‘snacks’ – which in reality are far removed from what you usually think of when someone suggest ‘snacks’ – and are instead beautifully-executed bites. These are made in the ‘pantry’ and wine room that you pass through to arrive in the main dining room and each has a wonderful inventiveness about them. There’s ‘Green Pepper & Cornish Mackerel’; ‘Truffled Potato’; ‘Jellied Devon Eel’, ‘Prawn Salad’… a series of tiny morsels that burst with flavour and which are so moreish you’d happily transfer these snacks to become your main meal.

That is, until the next course starts, as each outshines the last. First comes a ‘secret course’ – if you usually avoid the bread basket, then you will fail miserably here – for the breads that ceremoniously arrive here will be the most tempting you’ll ever see. There’s cardamom-studded brioche, topped with honey collected from the estate, croissants oozy with cheese, crisp flatbreads speckled with seeds and light sourdough, with a selection of butters to spread and dips to plunge into.

Adam has taken inspiration from his childhood and his time working with some of the UK’s best chefs – the chef is a winner of the prestigious Roux Scholarship and has worked at The Ritz and The Devonshire Arms. He also champions British produce in his menu which is divided into sections: ‘From the Larder’; ‘From the Pantry’; ‘From the Stove’ and ‘From the Pastry’. Dishes are brilliantly creative, such as ‘Isle of Wight Tomatoes’ – dressed with Golden Oscietra Caviar, elderflower and bronze fennel and ‘Line Caught Sea Bass’, with courgette, lemon thyme and smoked anchovies. Deceptively simple in description but complex and sewn through with layers of technique and flavour.

As each dish arrives, the well-informed staff chat to you about each, with an easy-going spirit that sparks your curiosity even more. You get a sense of the back story of each dish, and just how much thought, dedication and care has been taken into every element.

As well as dessert – the ‘Caramalised Puff Pastry’ with almond, peach and praline is a stand-out– the feasting continues with a series of ‘treats’ (which are Smith’s version of petit-fours, such as ‘Mango Canelé’ and ‘Macadamia Nut and Oabika’). You can ask for these to be boxed if your appetite has wimped out on you!

At Woven, you will eat some of the UK’s best produce spun into wondrous culinary creations, but you never feel as though you are in a formal, stuffy dining room, the kind that used to be the only type to gain Michelin stars. Here, yes, you dine amid the finest surroundings, yet you feel welcome and grounded. There’s no hushed reverence as a wine is poured (note: try the English wines, they are a speciality); no whispered conversations so you can hear the clang of every fork. No, this is fine-dining where you feel at home.

“I love a table that’s as noisy as my kitchen,” Adam Smith says. “A laden table is an invitation to bring people together. Good cooking and good conversation are two things I never tire of. It’s my good fortune that they’re so often found together.’

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