Joseph and Alison Petitjean have owned and run Brockencote Hall for the last 24 years. They had been living in France and were just married, and they had a dream of opening a country house hotel in England. They visited properties suitable for conversion to an hotel and settled on Brockencote Hall. They bought the building in 1985 and 10 months later Brockencote was ready for business.
The restaurant here is popular with locals around Worcestershire and with the AA who awarded the restaurant 2 Rosettes in 2008. It’s not only the food that’s a draw – they have a notable wine list. This grand house is described as “A little piece of France in the heart of England” so that country’s wines are well represented.
We visited Brockencote on a bright spring day. Daffs were glowing and new-born lambs were gamboling. The Worcestershire countryside was at its fresh and budding best and the Hall looked impressive in the sunshine. The estate dates back 300 years or so with 70 acres of established trees and pasture. This is the sort of stately home that tourists as well as we British love so much.
The entrance hall had a welcoming log fire burning which was appropriate for the day. Spring, yes, but this is England and the wind was chilly. The contemporary bar and conservatory was where we nestled to peruse the menu. Not a long bill of fare but just as one would wish from a high-end kitchen where quality is always paramount – and using seasonal and local produce where possible.
The main dining room (there are others for private dining) is stunning. High windows looked out onto some of those aforementioned acres. The house exudes an air of cultivated tranquillity and charm, and that includes the dining room which is an exercise in pastel shades – a room that has contrived to retain its original majesty yet has introduced cool modernity.
We started with an amuse bouche, a demi-tasse of one of the most memorable soups I have ever had: a gloriously rich and creamy carrot and orange soup. (Note to reviewer: ask John for the recipe). A balance of sweet from the vegetable and tang from the citrus and then there was a deft application of aromatic seasoning. This should be a signature mini-dish.
Slow Cooked Belly of Jimmy Butlers Pork, Cabbage and Bacon, Spiced Apple, Pommery Mustard Jus was the main course. Well worth trying and one of the best examples of this trendy cut of meat that I have had in a while. The meat was flavourful and melting and the presentation thoughtful. I am not keen on pork belly with crackling. It seldom works and, in my humble opinion, it’s inappropriate for a slow-cooked item when one wants to enjoy the almost gelatinous quality of meat, flavourful fat and rind. Perfect!
The desserts here are visual stunners! OK, so I didn’t just give them admiring glances, I was enticed by a couple and scoffed mine and a good percentage of my companion’s. That’s not perhaps a very genteel word but one only “nibbles” when being polite. I, on the other hand, enjoyed every spoonful with appropriate epicurean passion.
Goats Cheese Mousse, Poached Rhubarb, Gingerbread, Vanilla Ice Cream was my own choice and this was a delicious example of traditional ingredients as a canvas for culinary artistry. Sharp mousse, sweet rhubarb, punctuated with the spiced cake.
My guest’s choice of dessert was equally appreciated …by both of us. Well, I was the official reviewer and it was my duty to taste, and in this case Parsnip Pannacotta, Caramelised Apple, Shortbread Crumb, Brioche Ice Cream. A slice of fruit like a disc of translucent glass balanced atop this unique parsnip preparation, which rather made one look at that root vegetable in a different light. A tapestry of texture and taste. Perhaps a parsnip is not just for Christmas but can actually be enjoyed! Another seasonal winner.
Chef John Sherry is a man content with his kitchen. He should be: Alison and Joseph rebuilt the old kitchen which had become too small for such a successful restaurant. It’s now twice the original size and is worked by a seven-strong team. They cook 350 or so lunches and dinners a week, as well as catering for weddings and private dinner parties.
It’s no surprise that they have so many regular diners at Brockencote Hall. The restaurant is striking, the staff attentive but not pushy, and the food is as good as you will find either side of La Manche. I look forward to a return visit. I’ll unwind in the lounge, take a stroll around the grounds to build an appetite for what I am sure will be a superb dinner. This is indeed a destination restaurant.
Two Courses £17.00
Three Courses £22.00
Brockencote Hall Country House Hotel & Restaurant
Chaddesley Corbett, Near Kidderminster, Worcestershire DY10 4PY
Phone: 01562 777876
Fax: 01562 777872
Visit Brockencote Hall here: www.brockencotehall.com
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018