TRAVEL: A stylish country escape to award-winning hotel

If you are looking for a stylish getaway with luxurious rooms and first class dining, award winning The Woburn Hotel ticks all the boxes, writes Ruth Supple...

Tuesday, 17th May 2016, 9:27 am
Updated Tuesday, 17th May 2016, 10:31 am
The Woburn Hotel

When you have a stressful job that involves lots of driving and long hours, weekends become extremely precious and the last thing you want to do is travel for hours to get away from it all. It defeats the object, in my opinion.

The Woburn Hotel located in the heart of the beautiful Georgian village of Woburn, is less than an hour’s drive from Northampton and yet you could be a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of it and nearby Milton Keynes. The award winning four AA stars hotel is the gateway to The Woburn Estate and the home of afternoon tea, popularised in the 1840s by Duchess Anna Maria, wife of the 7th Duke.

The 55-bedroom hotel offers a modern twist on a classic country house and is perfect for overnight stays or weekend breaks. There was a wedding party in on the night we visited and they’d hired the seven charming cottage suites in the hotel, which vary in size and really are a home away from home.

Recently refurbished to reflect Woburn’s unique heritage, we stayed in the extremely chic and luxurious Racing Room. The main room was dominated by a kingsize bed, with a leather strap effect headboard made out of metalwork, and a framed jockey’s colours and cap were on the wall above it.

From the bed, you could see into the adjoining lounge area, with a stunning, large framed black and white shot of a racehorse that instantly captured your eye. In here, was a lovely purple velvet two-seater sofa, coffee table and second TV, leading into the neighbouring bathroom with a beautiful slipper bath as well as a walk-in double shower.

Dinner and breakfast were served in the hotel’s two AA rosette restaurant, Olivier’s, which combines excellent food with attentive service and is perfect for a romantic meal for two or special occasion with family and friends. The menu is described as being a collaboration of ideas and contributions from the restaurant’s young team of chefs under the guidance of Olivier Bertho.

After being seated in our window table, we decided to skip starters so we could enjoy desserts instead, and chose from the comprehensive a la carte menu.

I selected the beef fillet with caramelised shallots and port sauce, £19.95, with baby vegetables and fondant potato, accompanied by a side dish of fresh spinach with grated nutmeg and garlic, £3.95. The meat was deliciously rich yet tender and the combination of flavours worked beautifully together.

My partner, Kieran, chose the pan fried pork fillet with cider pulled pork and black pudding, £17.95, with apple and parsnip puree, fondant sweet potato and red wine jus. He doesn’t like black pudding so asked for the meal to be served without it and was pleased with his choice, declaring the meat to be perfectly cooked.

Desserts have come under the spotlight on TV lately with the recent BBC2 series of Bake Off Creme de la Creme, where pastry chefs from around the UK show off their skills, and it has given me a much greater appreciation of the precision and flair that goes into the final course.

The choice of desserts at Oliviers was divinely indulgent. I plumped for the chef’s special dessert of the day, the lemon posset, £7.55, while Kieran had the egg custard tart with apple puree and winter berries, £7.50 . . . both were superb and the presentation was first rate.

Breakfast at The Woburn Hotel is a very relaxed affair and includes a choice of hot dishes or a continental buffet. The only trouble about staying here is you won’t want to leave...

Accolades for kitchen staff

The Woburn Hotel is celebrating after two members of its kitchen staff were awarded with separate accolades for their impressive cooking skills.

Kayleigh Button, pastry chef at The Woburn Hotel since August 2015, was awarded the Gold Medal at Hotelympia for her Novelty Cake in the junior section (under 23 years old). This well respected award is organised by Salon Culinaire, the UK’s largest and most prestigious chef competition programme. Kayleigh’s winning cake was inspired by Roald Dahl’s stories. Prior to joining the team at The Woburn Hotel, Kayleigh worked at The Grove Hotel in Watford, as demi chef de partie.

Jake Stokes, commis chef at The Woburn Hotel since June 2015, won Zest Quest Asia 2016 as part of a team of students from Milton Keynes College, where he is currently training. Zest Quest Asia is a student chef’s competition to find those with the best knowledge and skills in Asian cuisine. As part of the challenge, the team were asked to create a four-course Asian meal. They were competing against five other colleges including last year’s winners, Farnborough College. The team was awarded a 10-day culinary trip to Bangkok after winning the competition. Jake also gained a wealth of experience from spending five days doing work experience at Raymond Blanc’s award-winning hotel, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.

Kayleigh said: “I am so proud of my achievements at Hotelympia; winning gold and best in class has been more than I could have ever hoped for, and it has made me feel much more confident about my skills and excited for the next competitions that I can take part in.”

Jake added: “During my time at Woburn I have learnt so much, in particular presenting food to a high standard, and this helped during the competition. Winning Zest Quest Asia is like a dream come true. The competition was fierce, and it was hard but winning has really boosted my confidence, and I can’t wait to enter more competitions.”

Olivier Bertho, executive chef at Olivier’s and The Sculpture Gallery, said: “As a team we are proud of Kayleigh and Jake. They work so hard to make sure that they are at the top of their game, and that goes to show with these impressive results.

“At Woburn we strongly believe in nurturing young talent, and pushing them to the best of their abilities. We have a number of staff members that have worked their way up through the ranks over the years, including Haylee who has been with us for 10 years, she started as a commis and is now a junior sous chef at The Woburn Hotel, and Ben, who has been with us for nine years and joined us as a chef de partie is now senior sous chef at The Sculpture Gallery.

“We believe in our staff and we want them to achieve great things; that is why we are constantly training and developing our teams to encourage growth.”