Review: Cotswold Water Park Hotel Brasserie
The Cotswold Water Park Hotel is nestled just inside the Cotswolds and offers stunning lakeside dining, picture perfect for all seasons. We at Total had been hoping to delve into the delights of the restaurant for some time, and were delighted to be invited along to review their menu. Here is how we got on...
We arrived on a crisp autumn evening, to be greeted by warm welcomes from the waiting staff. As darkness had already fallen outside, the well-lit restaurant was bathed in an ambient glow, the beech-laden interior creating a cosy retreat.
It was just the two of us dining for the evening, myself and a colleague from Total Swindon. We were seated at a table overlooking the lake by the exceptionally charming assistant manager, Andrew Graham.
No sooner had we warmed the seats, a sharing platter of bread appeared with a balsamic dip. A great appetite setter, the bread had the perfect crunchy composition, offset nicely by the sharp tang of the dip.
Brushing away crumbs, we began scouring the list of mouth-watering starters. For matters of comparison, we both opted to begin with the same dish – smoked and poached salmon, served with crispy capers, pickled cucumbers, vanilla mayonnaise and a lemon oil.
As the food arrived, the presentation was instantly notable. The pink of the salmon, accompanied by an assortment of greens and a vibrant dash of yellow in the drizzled lemon sauce made for a very aesthetically pleasing plate.
If looks were one thing, the starter had personality to match. The two different textures of the salmon complemented each other nicely, presenting a prominent flavour which carefully kept in check both the vanilla mayonnaise and lemon sauce. If there was a Ying-Yang of culinary harmony, this was it.
Turning our attention to the main course, selection dilemmas began to arise. Sometimes it is easier when a menu bottlenecks you into making certain choices, but the generously wide ranging and appealing set listing of the Four Pillars makes this impossible – a very nice problem to have, indeed!
After much pondering, I decided upon chargrilled swordfish steak with fat-cut chips, accompanied with African spiced tomato, cucumber and onion salad, café de Paris butter and roast tomato.
My colleague, also opting to select from the grill, ordered chargrilled 10oz rib-eye steak with a garlic and parsley butter sauce, again served with fat-cut chips and accompanied with watercress, roast tomato and grilled mushroom.
Moments later, the waitress was carting out the sizzling dishes, fresh from the grill. The timeliness of the food order was highly commendable, and certainly aided the flow of taste buds.
The swordfish steak sat centrally on the platter, with a crispy, grilled exterior and a soft meaty body. Its rich flavour cut a delicious compromise between the zing of fresh fish along with the taste of full-bodied meat. The roast tomato, cucumber and onion maintained the very organic feel of the meal, with the dish of African spiced tomato offering an added variety, to keep things interesting.
Over on the other plate the rib-eye steak was sitting cooked to perfection, sporting a fine cross-hatching of expert grillsmanship. Square and succulent, the steak looked visibly packed with flavour, a sure-fire sign it had been left to rest by a culinary pro.
The accompanying sauce was a measured consistency, not too runny yet refraining from overpowering the meat. The fat-cut chips, served alongside in a quaint metallic bucket had been prepared with just as much affection. It is perhaps commonplace in some restaurants for the chips to be given lesser treatment, of sorts – but not here.
Finishing the mains, it became apparent that the chef was quite the master of judging portion sizes. On arrival of the food, perhaps beckoned on by a grumbling stomach, the thought crossed my mind that I would be left hungry. This was certainly not the case.
There is a skill in not only proportioning the correct amount of food, but ensuring the flavours collide pleasantly to please the palate and also leave the customer ready for that little bit more. Four Pillars ticked all these boxes and, with a smidgeon of stomach capacity to spare, we reached for the dessert menu.
A delight for anyone with a sweet tooth, the restaurant’s dessert listings leaves even Willy Wonka making notes. After much deliberation my colleague ordered – first up a dark chocolate cheesecake, which came with toffee ice cream, a dashing of dark chocolate sauce and a miniature banana milkshake.
The dish arrived like a piece of minimalist art, with high attention to detail. The cheesecake itself was a gentle infusion of creamy chocolate and a firm biscuit base, with a well-rehearsed recipe so as not to make the dessert taste too sickly-sweet. The vanilla ice cream was a welcome addition, offering respite from cheesecake consistency while still complementing the rich taste of the centre piece.
Wanting something a little bit different, a pudding at the top of the list caught my eye; Baileys flaming Crème brûlée with home-made biscotti. Nestled within a small pot in the middle of a large, white dish, the dessert caught the eyes of nearby diners as its orange flame danced its way to our table.
It may be perhaps an overused cliché, but the Crème brûlée really did look too good to eat. As the flame petered out, the sugared lid of the dessert began to sizzle and crackle, just ready to eat. The caramel crust pierced with a delectable ‘pop’ as the creamy custard contents below spilled onto the silver of the spoon.
The biscotti was nicely pliable and worked well with the tactically mild flavour of the Baileys dessert. Again, portion size here was key. The small porcelain pot is much deeper than you think, delivering just enough of the creamy dessert so as not to be overbearing.
After a small cup of filtered house coffee, we were sufficiently well fed and extremely content. The staff, who dropped by frequently to offer assistance or explain any food queries, were incredibly attentive and a credit to the restaurant. The Cotswold Water Park Hotel Brasserie unquestionably receives Total’s seal of approval – we’re already counting down the days until our return.