Special Dispatch: Woolverton House Hotel, Woolverton
Woolverton (near Bath)
01373 830 415
by Des Ayuno
It wasn’t the most enjoyable of country escapes. A work trip with the new assistant necessitated more hesitant, inane chat and awkward silences in two days than one hopes to have to endure in a year. On day two, sitting in painful, high-backed chairs in the otherwise deserted hotel conservatory, we pondered a short menu that nevertheless seemed to lack the hearty, traditional option we craved. I asked the nervy waitress and she pointed tremblingly to the bottom: “Eggs on Toast with…” followed by a list of extras, in five-point type. “We thought no one will want everything, will they?” she quavered. I shrugged and asked for, yes, everything. Times two.
Slowly the table filled up with teapots, plates, cups and saucers, all made of china that felt like scratching a blackboard. Too-little red and brown came in fussy ramekins on serviette-lined plates with their own tiny spoons, as did communal, lukewarm beans. The food was generous enough in quantity but bafflingly variable in quality. Tomatoes were pink and raw, but fried eggs were perfection, simultaneously crispy-edged and golden-gooey-centred, and mushrooms wonderfully woodsy and rich, as though prepared by the gentle hand of Carluccio himself. Hard bacon tasted of sad-faced piggies in confined spaces but knobbly, herby sausages suggested a fine local source. Blinded by heaps of white china and too-bright lights, we prodded in silence. Then suddenly the toast made its red carpet-worthy appearance – piping-hot doorstop wedges both white and brown, enough to feed an army and swathed magnificently in metres of white linen. The butter was revealed to be unsalted and the atmosphere became nearly festive. We relaxed, poured some more tea and read snippets aloud from the complimentary Telegraph, laughing with a crisp, clear morning jollity that so often eludes one back in London.