Bybrook Restaurant* // Wiltshire // England

The Bybrook at the Manor House is one of those destination restaurants that sound like a great idea for a luxurious, country weekend escape. The grand stone building sits in beautiful parkland and has all the wood panelling, fireplaces and elegant furnishings that you could ever desire. The only problem is, it’s *1 restaurant serves a very ordinary menu, which doesn’t deliver the “unusual flavours and stunning presentation” that they would have you expect; a real shame.

Getting off to an unassuring start, Chef Richard Davies presents “duck liver” au torchon, perhaps trying to trick diners who might be squeamish about eating foie gras, into doing just that. A bit odd that he isn’t more up-front with his guests. No matter, as the house-made foie gras is well prepared. It’s coated in a power of dark cocoa to add another dimension to the bistro classic, while an apricot purée provides the tangy sweet element to the dish. What is less convincing is addition of the crunchy gingerbread pieces for crunch sake. Worse though are the two lonely blanched beans and rolls of beetroot, which add absolutely nothing to the dish overall.

Though despite the foie gras not quite coming together, it’s certainly better than the grandly titled Manor House confit belly and braised cheek. This dish would be up there in a competition of the most lack-lustre Michelin courses in the country. Yes, cheap cuts are fashionable, and in this case they are tasty. But what is lacking at Bybrook is a seeming unawareness of what sauces and accompaniments are needed to go with good quality meat to elevate them to a special level (Please now look at the fancy school dinner style photo of meat and three vege). Bland vegetables and a deep fried potato swirl are not good enough to deliver this.

While some say that countryside restaurants can fall behind because of the lack of competition that similar level restaurants get in the city, we don’t buy that. Just look to the stunning food served at The Elephant Restaurant in Devon and The Burlington in Yorkshire to see just how great British regional cooking can be. Bybrook, certainly feel below expectation for us.

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