After discovering the superb Manoir aux Quat’Saisons near the lovely town of Oxford, it’s time to continue our road trip with another establishment: Whatley Manor. In 2003, this manor was transformed into a luxury hotel, and it has delighted its guests ever since. In February 2017, chef Niall Keating took up the reins at the gourmet restaurant, offering a modern touch to this five-star establishment.
A Manor Dating from 1857
Whatley Manor perfectly represents the Anglo-Saxon manor we all imagine: an incredibly stylish building dating from 1857, 5 hectares of gardens featuring 26 designs… In short, it’s the sort of beautiful pastoral setting that makes you want to sit back and unwind. It belongs to the famous Relais & Chateaux catalogue, as well as the Pride of Britain consortium which lists the United Kingdom’s best hotels.
Complete Intimacy with Only 23 Rooms
The accommodation here is a far cry from the enormous hotels you’ll find in the world’s capitals. There are only 23 rooms and suites, each with a unique design featuring bright and colorful tones and a rather “old school” décor, just what you would expect from an English manor. My suite for the next two nights is very spacious, with distinct living room and bedroom sections that offer a view over the other wings of the manor and the surrounding countryside. TV and sound equipment from the highly prestigious brand Bang & Olufsen bring a modern touch.
Niall Keating’s Michelin-starred gastronomy
In February 2017, Whatley Manor was pleased to welcome one of the most promising young chefs of his generation. With a career spanning the globe, from Copenhagen to the prestigious 3-Michelin-star restaurant Benu in San Francisco, Niall Keating (27 years old) recently returned to the United Kingdom to take the helm of The Dining Room, Whatley Manor’s gourmet restaurant. After barely a year, his cuisine earned his restaurant a Michelin star, attracting an ever-growing clientele. This year, he also garnered the Michelin Young Chef Award, selected and awarded by Michelin for his culinary progress and potential—the marks of a promising future!
After this tantalizing pitch, I have to say that I’m thrilled to discover his cuisine! He has a modern approach, largely inspired by French, Japanese, and Korean gastronomy, and I’m excited to give it a try. Before being seated at The Dining Room, we enjoy a pre-dinner drink by the fireside in one of the manor’s lounges. With a glass of champagne in hand, we review the unique menu on offer for evening dining. We ask for a few changes (my husband and I don’t like pigeon… so we’ll be having fish instead!) and then it’s time to head to the restaurant room.
The multiple-course meal begins, with each dish looking tastier than the last, and we discover incredibly original flavors. We can taste the Japanese influences, such as the tofu topped with Exmoor caviar and accompanied by a chicken broth, my favorite dish. I’m a big fan of Japanese cuisine, and these flavors transport me back in time, to my stay in Tokyo a month ago! It’s the same with the trompe l’oeil-style sushi, featuring a thin piece of flounder flavored with yuzu kosho and draped over a pear slice. We end our meal on a lovely sweet note, leaving us completely under this young chef’s spell. We’ve come to expect emotion and a variety of flavors when we go to a starred restaurant, and tonight, our wager has paid off!
Grey’s Brasserie: a Casual Option That’s Perfect for Your Second-Night Dinner
The following evening, we opt for a more relaxed experience with British cuisine at Grey’s Brasserie. In a more casual ambiance, with long bench seats and a more modern décor, this restaurant is as popular with locals as it is with the Manor’s guests. It’s a very good alternative to The Dining Room. The bistro-style cuisine is perfectly executed; you’ll find delicious entrées on the menu, as well as excellent desserts like the buttermilk panna cotta with lime sorbet.
As for new additions, the Manor is thinking on a grand scale with the Green Room, a space dedicated to culinary events, tastings, and theme parties. These events, which take place several times a month, include meals with guest chefs, wine and cheese tastings, and soirees featuring dishes from a particular country (as was the case recently with Indian cuisine).
The Spa and the Gardens: Plenty to See and Do over Two Days
Aside from the delicious meals, you might ask, what is there to do? First of all, you have to check out the Aquarius Spa with its six treatment rooms and various amenities, including a long indoor-outdoor pool, a tepidarium which is great for relaxing, and a lounge overlooking the pool. For treatments, Aquarius has selected products from Natura Bissé and Ila Spa. Next I should mention the gardens, which are absolutely gorgeous. While the weather wasn’t so nice during our early April stay, we weren’t prevented from exploring the gardens between showers, and we were delighted!
Whatley Manor is a destination in and of itself. We could have explored the surrounding region, but we decided to stay at the hotel and take it easy for two days. In addition to this 19th-century residence’s incredible charm, the cuisine from young chef Niall Keating made our stay unforgettable. One thing is certain: we’ll be hearing more from him in the coming years, and he brings a promising future to Whatley Manor.
- The amenities available, offering a relaxing experience where we could disconnect for a while
- Top-notch restaurants: I fell in love with the cuisine on site, be it the Michelin-starred restaurant or the Brasserie
- The spa: a major asset for a complete hotel experience
- Breakfast: a little disappointing. The continental buffet could be improved.
- The lack of modernity in the room: old-fashioned heating, no central panel for the lights… it was a bit difficult to figure out!
- Suites start at 499£, and rooms at 325£ with breakfast and spa access.
- Dinner at The Dining Room from Wednesday to Sunday evening only.
- Grey’s Brasserie is open every day for lunch and dinner.
- More information available on their website
Thank you to the Whatley Manor for the invitation to explore their establishment. Of course, the content of this blogpost was left entirely up to me!