While country weekenders regularly flock to Whittlebury Hall for its rolling green golf club, luxurious day spa, smart Silverstone-inspired sports bar and lavish guest rooms, a dinner at Astons – Whittlebury’s in-house restaurant boasting two AA Rosettes – has to be rated among one of its most impressive assets.
Although it is designed to cater for hotel guests, visitors and functions, the excellent service makes you feel as if you were the only customers.
As soon as we sat down, we were greeted by our waiter, Rafael, who introduced himself and advised us on the wine list and the à la carte menu.
As it was my boyfriend’s birthday recently, we treated ourselves to a lovely French Pinot Noir, reasonably priced at just under £25, which arrived with a basket of soft warm rolls and butter. But we didn’t even have the time to fill up on bread as the starters came quickly after: a plate of cured continental meats served with crostini and olive tapenade for me, and a mix of Scottish smoked salmon with potato and frisse salads and ‘lemon gel’ for him. Both dishes were unpretentious, flavourful and the perfect size, working nicely with the fresh bread.
The mains took a little longer to arrive but, with our bottle of wine and chic surroundings bustling with people and atmosphere, we were happy and when the food came it was more than worth the wait.
I went for the confit pork belly with pearl barley and winter vegetable casserole – and it was perfect. The portion was very generous and the meat was faultless: not too fatty and cooked perfectly with a well seasoned crispy top, all nicely complemented by the sauce from the casserole.
An absolutely fantastic - and effortlessly romantic - evening.Francesca Gosling
My boyfriend had the pulled lamb shoulder, which was served on skewers with crushed potatoes, vegetables and a red wine jus. He said it was exquisite and, even as a person who has never liked lamb, I couldn’t help but agree after a cheeky little bite.
As usual, after a break I still had room for dessert and, as usual, I went for the most chocolatey option: a dark chocolate and raspberry cheesecake with chantilly cream and topped with a solid chocolate shard. It turned out to be more of a mousse filling than a traditional cheesecake, but it was nonetheless beautiful: both rich and tangy, and an ideal finish to the meal.
Equally delicious was my boyfriend’s dessert of pistachio crème brûlée, an interesting twist on the classic dish – giving it a creamy, nutty flavour rather than just the usual caramel sweetness.
We rounded off our long and leisurely dinner with a coffee and a gracious goodbye from Rafael who, we both agreed, definitely contributed to an absolutely fantastic – and effortlessly romantic – evening in one of Northamptonshire’s most beautiful country settings.
VALUE pricey but worth it
SERVICE goes extra mile
DISABLED ACCESS all on ground floor
OVERALL unique, romantic, lovely evening out
STAR RATING: 10/10
PRICE: Set menu is £36 pp