Escape to the Country in a Wolsey Lodge B&B
- Travel Guide
The longest day approaches so this is the time to head out to the countryside and explore the varied landscapes of the…Read More
These days many B&B guests prefer to dine where they sleep rather than heading out to eat in the evening. Many Wolsey Lodges have risen to this challenge, with more than half our members offering evening meals on request. Invariably the lodges that offer evening meals are skilled and qualified cooks.
The meals to expect are as diverse as our lodges themselves. Read on for a snapshot of three different lodges – and the very different approaches they have to making sure their guests are perfectly fed.
In the Upper Clyde Valley, Caroline Wilson at Braefield B&B offers locally-sourced food that concentrates on provenance and flavour. “It’s amazing the number of people who do want dinners these days”. Well, perhaps not so amazing when you hear what’s on offer – and the price of £20pp for two courses, £25 for three. There are only two guest bedrooms here and guests are sure to be impressed by the skills she brings to her cuisine.
Caroline trained as a Cordon Bleu cook and honed her skills over the next 30 years, doing outside catering, the occasional wedding, and heading north into Scotland to cook for stalking and fishing parties. “For me it’s all about flavours and provenance rather than all the fancy stuff.
“We have an eight-acre smallholding, so a certain amount comes from our land. But there’s a grower up the road who has polytunnels and he grows better and more interesting vegetables than I can. Same with eggs: the fox got our chickens but there are free-range, organic eggs we get locally.
“Our menus vary enormously, depending on what is in season and the tastes of our guests. Starters might be puff pastry gallettes, perhaps Parma ham with a nectarine salad or locally sourced smoked mackerel or salmon pate. This year is being great for field mushrooms which make a great soup, served with sourdough.
“For the mains I steer away from curries and creamy sauces. It depends what people want. When we get cyclists they’re just happy with enormous bowls of pasta – which is great – but otherwise we get plenty of locally butchered lamb and pork. Chicken Florentine served with spinach, stock and parmesan is a favourite, but I try to be imaginative with the combinations, serving chicken with globe artichokes, for instance, or venison with rainbow chard.
“When it comes to dessert it’s not been a good year for plums this year, but the local berries and rhubarb have been excellent . Sometimes it’s the simplest things that get the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ – a dollop of quality vanilla ice-cream with an espresso poured over, for instance, is very easy to make and can be a great dessert. Alternatively a selection of local berries with shortbread biscuits can be a perfectly satisfying way to bring a meal to a close. ”
All diets can be catered for and guests are welcome to bring their own wine.
At Marston House Kim Mahon says “this year more people are eating in than normal. They’re just wary, I think there’s a sense that it’s better to meet as few people as possible so they dine here.
“As a Cordon Bleu cook I’m quite comfortable cooking for groups. We’ve just had family over and that meant feeding 12 in the house, including vegetarians, vegans and all, for six days.
I just do exactly what people want for dinner. One course or three – any type of meal is fine. Ingredients are local where possible. Now the garden is producing plenty of blackberries and apricots, but we use a local butcher and – as long as we have enough notice – keep our food miles low on all the meals we serve. An exception is seafood. We’re not near the coast so we have a fish man from Grimsby who comes weekly to the door. My fish pies are frequently singled out for praise on Tripadvisor.
“I cook the same thing for everyone. If one guest is a vegetarian the whole meal will be vegetarian, and the same goes for vegan. I have vegan and vegetarian grandchildren so am well used to ensuring you don’t miss variety whatever your diet.
” Generally I just go with the flow. We’re not a restaurant; guests are welcome to bring their own wine but when you dine at Marston House you dine in the kitchen with John and me. It seems to work. People keep coming back.”
At Warwick Hall Val Marriner has nine guest bedrooms, and apart from a few fishing parties staying a week at a time most of her guests are overnighting on journeys north or south. “A lot of our guests have just spent six hours on the M6 from London and what they want is a good dinner, a good bed and maybe somewhere to walk the dog. We’ve got the beds, we’ve got the space to walk any number of dogs, and although I know what good food is – I spent most of my working life living and dining out around Holland Park in London – I can’t cook for that many people. I’m just too old.
“In a way Covid did us a favour as the best restaurant in Carlisle – Foxborough – lost their premises. I said don’t re-open in town, open here. So I run the upstairs and all the bedrooms and I’ve given Warwick Hall’s ground floor over to chefs Ben Parker and Alex Peart, helped by restaurant manager Stuart Turnbull. This means guests have a choice of six starters, six mains and six desserts, every day. And they’re all good.”
Stuart Turnbull says “Up until two weeks ago we had only catered for residents, but as of the last two weeks we have started to admit non-residents as well. We could probably seat 60 in total – Warwick Hall is a big country house – but aim to cater for 35-40 at a time. This keeps the atmosphere animated but gives everyone space.”
And as Val puts it: “they also do tremendous breakfasts. It’s all worked out very well.”
So it’s clear that dining at a Wolsey Lodge can be an integrated part of the B&B experience, and that varies just as much as the lodges themselves. These are just three. And you can see all the Wolsey Lodges that offer evening meals by using our search engine by clicking here. The next time you book a Wolsey Lodge B&B ask about dining in. It may very well be just to your taste.