Just 30 minutes drive away towards the north of Bristol, you will find Thornbury Castle and not only is it the only Tudor castle in England to be run as a hotel but it also has a restaurant which is worth a visit.
Thornbury Castle has a rich history spanning 500 years and for history buffs, Henry VIII stayed there for ten day with his Queen Anne Boleyn and also Mary I lived there for many years. Although the castle did fall into a state of ruin for over two centuries, the current castle and grounds had been renovated since 1824 and well maintained to the standards of a luxury country hotel. The Privy Garden and Goodly Garden at the castle grounds are impressive samples of Tudor gardens and should be not be missed if you visit during daytime. There is even a vineyard within the castle walls and has been producing its own wine for over 500 years.
You will discover some wonderful interiors and furnishings including log fires, oak panelled walls, suits of armour and tapestries which is everything you would expect from a Tudor castle. The staffs are polite and courteous upon your arrival; you are escorted to The Baron’s Sitting Room where you can enjoy an aperitif whilst taking in the fine details of historic and period features in admiration. The dining room is situated in the tower part of the castle where its uniqueness is in the hexagonal room with large, imposing arrow-slit windows and open fireplace.
The choice of menus available included a Tasting Menu, Seasonal and A La Carte. All of whom had many traditional fine dining dishes and some with a creative twist. The focus of the food is based on locally sourced ingredients and produce. With a abundance in the selection of enticing dishes to choose from, we ordered from the A La Carte menu. To start, the Creedy Carver chicken consommé served with dumplings, Girolles and black truffle was a particularly pleasant surprise, offering a definitive flavour and intensity. The subtle taste of Girolle mushrooms was well balanced with the other ingredients which elevated this simple dish to provide an exciting taste sensation.
We also had the seared Orkney hand dived scallops with ham hock, celery and apple; which offered fantastically fresh ingredients to astonish your taste but it did make me think how everything had worked together to bring about an outstanding flavour like the Chicken consommé. The scallops on its own were fresh and brilliant, but did not work well with the full flavoured ham hock and its accompaniments which in truth had overpowered the delicate seafood taste.
For main course, we ordered a medium rare ribeye of aged English beef with Cocottes potatoes, wild mushrooms, roast garlic, heritage carrots, baby spinach and red wine jus. Exactly as in its description, this is one for the traditionalists who will find this difficult to turn down. Although it might not be the most creative item on the menu selection to choose from, it is one of those special dishes that would rarely let you down. When it is well executed and it becomes the perfect celebratory dinner which makes the special occasion remarkable whilst leaving you with satisfaction and gratitude.
Overall, what you get is an outstanding and intimate venue with consistent and excellent food, brought together with attentive and sincere service. There are areas which can be improved on such as food refinement and service efficiency. Value for money by comparison with the quality of food offered may divide opinions but I believe there is hardly another dining venue available which ticks all the right boxes for a special celebration dinner. Even as a sightseeing trip with a place for a good meal is worth the trip alone.
The Restaurant at Thornbury Castle
Castle Street, Thornbury, BS35 1HH
Tel: 01454 281182