No longer just a Georgian cottage, this boutique hotel is now a fine dining destination drawing foodies from far and wide.
Earlier this year the 1919 restaurant, The Cottage in the Wood, received its third AA Rosette accolade. An award for the passionate creativity of Rob Mason, Head Chef. Additionally, Katy has been nominated for Chef of the Year for the restaurant’s outstanding food quality. Currently, Mason is on the shortlist of four chefs.
Spread across three buildings, The Cottage in the Wood is a 32-room hotel perched high on the Malvern Hills, with spectacular panoramic views across the Severn Valley.
This Precambrian rock outcropping has attracted an eclectic selection of celebrities, including Margaret Thatcher, Joan Collins, Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, Edward Fox and Felicity Kendall.
“Lift thine eyes to the hills,” is the motto of Great Malvern. Many visitors are drawn to walking and cycling through the 6,500-million-year-old rock cliffs that are criss-crossed by trails. On a clear day, from Worcestershire Beacon, you may be able to see 13 counties and 200 miles away. And of course across the border to Wales.
A warm English country house welcome awaits us. Dinner time confirmed and breakfast slot booked. We were helped with our luggage and taken to our room.
Room 2 is one of nine rooms in the main palace. Two chairs frame a scene that stretches like a map of a green quilt work, chimney stacks peeking through thick foliage, toward the distant horizon.
Each room in the hotel has its own distinct style. Dove gray paintwork, a gray herringbone carpet and a silver leaf wallpaper all contribute to Room 2’s calming atmosphere.
As well as providing hanging space, the wardrobe has a safe, tea and coffee trays and a small fridge with cold water.
More rooms are found in the Beach Cottage, the estate’s oldest building with exposed beams and quant windows. Strong in terms of sustainability, the recently renovated coach house has many rooms that open onto private terraces offering sweeping views across the open countryside.
A print of a Degas bath, blue and impressionistic, stars appropriately in this stylish powder-blue-and-white half-tiled bathroom.
Bramley toiletries are offered in both rainfall showers and roll-top baths.
Celebrating the cottage’s heritage, the 1919 restaurant features tall floor-to-ceiling doors that open to the view and rooftop tables.
Rob Mason and his young team are driven by a desire to source local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients. A succulent confit of Gloucester Old Spot Pork Belly reaches very few food miles.
Intense autumnal flavors of heritage beetroot and plump blackberry star alongside salt-aged duck breast. Traditional favorites are reinvented with black pudding given an exciting new crumbly texture and an almost startling depth of flavour.
Have breakfast, some hotels forget they are an AA 3 Rosette establishment. Not a wooden cottage. For a full English, a local butcher perfectly procures bacon, black pudding and sausages.
In the bar, a collage of album covers, Sir Edward Elgar’s Neighbors Adam Ant, The Specials and The Jam, nicely represents the decor’s stylish mix of traditional and contemporary. The soundtrack generally has a relaxed jazz vibe playing though. A more casual terrace menu complements the fine-dining 1919 restaurant.
Stepping up a gear from walking through the Malvern Hills, guests can book a Land Rover experience at Eastnor Castle to navigate 66 miles of challenging terrain. Staying on the motoring theme, the Morgan Experience at Great Malvern offers an insight into the construction of classic cars.
A large portrait of Edward Elgar, which fronts the 1919 restaurant, is a reminder that the composer once performed at the house. The Elgar Trail, wanders through Worcestershire, tracing its history. The National Trust built a museum at his birthplace in The Firs, near Worcester.
A five minute drive takes guests to Great Malvern. Victorian balconies and lacy ironwork are a reminder that in the mid-19th century, the spa town was famous for hydrotherapy, with more than 100 freshwater springs.
Florence Nightingale was a vocal fan of the city’s “cold water cure” even though she was often bedridden for the last five decades of her life.
Other nice touches
Homemade chocolate cookies, sprinkled with white chocolate chips, remind guests that they’ve arrived in gourmet territory. Fresh milk is waiting in the fridge for coffee or tea with those cookies.
Maps of the start and finish of the circular walk at the hotel are available from reception. Although there are plenty of walking opportunities, this 50-minute trek is an ideal introduction to Malvern.
A retro record player is offered three classic vinyl long-players from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Massive Attack.
Rooms from £149.
The best bit
It is billed as a seven course menu. But eight, nine or ten courses come. Innovative cheese custard and fennel salami canapés feature on the menu, as does intense cod roe emulsion served with house-baked sourdough bread, making nine in total. But a surprising pre-dessert of panna cotta slithers with smooth passion-fruit and tangy pineapple toppings can count as tenths.
Although the essential principle is local and seasonal, Oriental XO fish sourced crab brings a depth of marine flavor. The miniature brioche croutons contribute a contrasting crunch. A similarly subtle Far Eastern flavor accompanies the dashi sauce.
The menu displays an imaginative creativity that pushes culinary boundaries. Baron Bigod Brie, Suffolk-sourced, challenges the best French cheeses. But it’s a cheese plate served with a knife and fork. A slice of brie served on a warm sweet slice of fruit bread drizzled with honey.
Always a quiet country escape in a beautiful rural setting with echoes of CS Lewis and JR Tolkien, The Cottage in the Woods has moved on. Rooms have been renovated and public spaces blend homage to the cottage’s elegant Georgian origins with a more colorful contemporary style.
Meanwhile the restaurant goes from strength to strength. Rob Mason and his talented team have put the 1919 restaurant on an ambitious trajectory that could lead to a Michelin star.
Disclosure: Our stay was sponsored by Wood Cottage.
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