Few sights command The Gannet’s attention more than a plate of the first asparagus spears of the season, just yearning to be trawled through a bowl of hollandaise sauce. This year, however, they had to compete with the idyllic view through the 17th-century windows of the aptly named Mount Inn, in the hilltop village of Stanton, Gloucestershire.
Visitors from Tewkesbury to Taipei are drawn to this corner of England’s rolling hills and honeyed stone, and the handsome village of Broadway, a couple of miles northeast of Stanton, hosts more than its fair share. Should the tourist throng prove too much, I recommend seeking sanctuary at nearby Dormy House, a blissfully tranquil hotel that also boasts top-notch food.
The hotel’s newest culinary venture is called MO: a dining room jauntily decorated with pineapple-motif wallpaper, containing a smart kitchen surrounded by a horseshoe-shaped counter. Centre stage is head chef Sam Bowser, who cooks for a maximum of 12 guests and clearly revels in the chance to season his excellent produce with a dash of showmanship.
Dinner started with a little brioche roll and some deliciously smoky, mustard-dabbed morteau sausage, followed by a duck egg drolly nestled in straw, its scrambled innards perked up with fresh morels and a sparkling Sauternes jelly.
Then there was a perfect seared scallop from the plancha, sweet and meaty, with a blob of reduced whey (a by-product of the kitchen’s homemade cheese), scorched cauliflower and trompette de mort, puffed wild rice adding crunch; langoustines, dusted with powdered scallop roe and grilled over charcoal, served with Amalfi lemon and – hidden underneath the plate – a bowl in which another langoustine lolled in a lightly set shellfish bisque and a cloud of yuzu foam; and applewood-smoked pink veal in a puddle of maple syrup-spiked jus, a purée of smoked bacon alongside. The finale was a kind of deconstructed rhubarb cheesecake topped with a bubble gum-pink rhubarb tuile: a showstopper in every sense.
In the wrong hands, a “chef’s table” can be – frankly – a bit dull. MO is anything but: Bowser and his team are by turns skilful, playful, refreshingly unpretentious and thoroughly entertaining. It makes for a very jolly evening, totally in keeping with the ethos of the Danish-owned hotel, which oozes hygge from every crack in its Cotswold-stone walls.
Actually, it was another Danish expression that sprang to mind as I retired, digestif in hand, to the comfort of the lounge: slå mave (literally meaning “strike the belly”), which refers to the need to put one’s feet up after a good meal. I found the urge irresistible.