Olivier’s restaurant at The Woburn Hotel has relaunched with a fresh look and a brand new menu to match. We stayed for a night – minus the kids – to see what all the fuss was about…
I’m not normally a tea snob, especially after a long drive to a hotel. As long as there’s a teabag, something to put it in – plus about five of those Borrower-sized pots of UHT milk – I’m happy. Making a sub-standard cup of tea is usually the first thing I do when I arrive, but The Woburn Hotel might have changed all that.
A few weekends back, after an initial wander around our room for the night (we stayed in Slipperfield Cottage, one of seven cottages opposite The Woburn Hotel’s main building), I opened a cupboard to find a gorgeous set of bone china teacups and a teapot, plus a jug of fresh milk in the fridge.
Factor in some dainty marshmallows and fudges – the posh sort that come in their own little paper wrappers – and this was no ordinary hotel-room brew. The Woburn Hotel is four AA-starred for a reason, and although it ticks all the big boxes – fancy location, elegant rooms, award-winning restaurant etc – it’s the finer details that really give you the measure of the place.
Olivier’s restaurant at The Woburn Hotel
Attention to detail was a big deal at dinner that evening, where mounds of butter at just the right temperature for spreading were served up alongside still-warm bread rolls in a choice of olive and feta, or sun-dried tomato flavours (or both, our waitress offered when we couldn’t decide).
To get a sneak peek of the new à la carte menu, which launched the following week, the executive chef offered to pick out some highlights for us to try. I hate choosing restaurant dishes and suffer from acute menu-choice envy, so we gladly accepted and waited to see what arrived.
Of our two starters, the meltingly-soft grilled scallop with a crispy crab bonbon, crab mayonnaise and avocado dip turned out to be my favourite, but the carpaccio of venison with crunchy parmesan wafers, grilled asparagus and truffle salad came in a very close second (I’d never have chosen either of them – there should be a ‘lucky dip’ option for perpetual ditherers like me).
Most of the starters on the new menu come in around the £10 mark, and we chose a bottle of Merlot at the cheaper end of the wine list at £24.95, although the options go all the way up to a 2008 Château Grand Puy Ducasse Pauillac for £99, if you’re feeling flush.
The first of our mains was a baked cod loin wrapped in local chorizo with baby spinach, tempura mussels, squid rings and saffron mash – priced £17.50. I’m not a huge fish-lover, so I opted for the second dish – pan fried guinea fowl with ham and pea croquette, sweetcorn purée and tarragon jus, at £17.95. It was every bit as good as it sounds, and the sweetcorn purée was a welcome discovery.
For dessert, we had a duo of apple tart and blackcurrant mousse served with a quenelle of sorbet and fresh berries, and a second option of glazed orange cheesecake with blood orange curd, ginger biscuit and chocolate sauce. I also spotted a chocolate fondant and a twice-baked brie soufflé on the menu – two reasons (as if I needed them) to go back.
Olivier’s also has a children’s menu for under-12s, and there were a couple of families dining when we arrived at 8pm on a Saturday night. The hotel’s afternoon tea also gets great reviews on TripAdvisor – it runs every day from 3-5.30pm and costs £17.25.
Staying at The Woburn Hotel – nearby attractions
After a drink in the elegant Repton Room – named after the 18th-century landscape gardener, Humphry Repton – we set off back to our room for bed. Like several of the cottages, Slipperfield is set on two levels, with a downstairs living room and upstairs bedroom and bathroom. The decor is classic and elegant, and apart from a bit of noise from late-arriving neighbours, we slept soundly beneath the building’s 300-year-old wooden beams.
In the main hotel, room options include suites and executive rooms, as well as interconnecting family rooms if you’re visiting with kids. There’s free WiFi throughout, although I struggled to get a phone signal. And as for service, everything was faultless.
Breakfast the next morning lived up to expectations set by dinner the night before, and we had a look through the long list of local attractions before we reluctantly checked out. The hotel is right at the entrance to the Woburn Estate – a 3000-acre blanket of greenery that includes gardens, a vast deer park, Woburn Safari Park and Woburn Abbey, so there’s no shortage of things to see before you head off home. Entrance into the estate is included when you stay at the hotel, and a wander through this pristine slice of the Bedfordshire countryside is the perfect way to round off a visit.
After one last cup of tea, of course…
The Woburn Hotel is at 1 George St, Woburn, MK17 9PX. To book, visit www.thewoburnhotel.co.uk or call 01525 290441. Prices start from £290 per room per night for bed & breakfast and there are some special offers including a family safari package for £315.00 for up to two adults and two children, which includes entry to Woburn Safari Park and money off dinner in Olivier’s.
Huge thanks to the team at The Woburn Hotel for hosting us in return for a review – and to the executive chef, for saving me the pain of choosing my dinner.