This was a family meal out that started well and then got even better. In fact, we hadn’t even made it into the restaurant before we were planning our next visit. You see, one of the stunning features of Homewood country park hotel in Freshford is the amazing dining domes in the garden, elegant wood framed glass globes perfectly sized to seat six diners in comfort and warmth on even the coldest evenings. These are just so cool and such fun – perhaps that’s why we hadn’t been able to book one for our visit – they are in real demand and bagsied weeks in advance…
Mind you, it’s not like we were really missing out. The setting for our meal was in the stylish Olio restaurant within the more traditional surrounds of the hotel itself, our early arrival meaning that the spacious dining area was still pretty quiet as we were shown to our table by the faultlessly polite and attentive waiters.
A family meal out is always a real treat, including the chance to try new dishes without the worry about whose turn it is to stack the dishwasher. Our children have also now got to a stage when they’re – occasionally at least – keen to try something new, even if it does require their mum and me to translate the menu and offer a guiding hand. The Olio menu was a perfect case in point – an ideal combination of something new along some familiar favourites, meaning that there really was something for everyone.
We started by ordering the artisan sourdough and pumpkin bread, split balsamic, rosemary and chilli oil just to keep us going, while perusing the rest of the menu. This was a great sampler of what was to come – the bread was fresh and adorable, with the oil an ideal complement. The challenge was just not to fill up at the first part of the meal.
As the bread was consumed, we settled on our starters and mains. My oldest son and I went for the griddled prawns, lemon and garlic butter starter (£9), while everyone decided to save themselves for the mains. Wow, the prawns were amazing, beautifully cooked and full of flavour, with my son getting a hands on lesson how to de-shell a perfectly cooked crustacean. And – most importantly – the waitress was happy to bring extra fresh sourdough to mop up the unctuous sauce.
As we waited for our mains, we took the chance to check out the funky decor, including moody giant photos on one wall that were certainly to my teenage daughter’s liking, numerous dazzling chandeliers and an impressive collection of plates on another wall, with our youngest even finding the copy of an old plate at home gifted to us by an ageing aunt. The atmosphere was easy going and relaxed throughout, making it an ideal place for a family to be able to enjoy a special night out without having to speak in hushed tones or worrying about which spoon to use.
When it came to those mains, we were all very happy indeed. The boys had agreed on the Stokes Marsh Farm beef burger, smoked bacon, Montgomery Cheese, unami relish and fries (£18), with my youngest’s request for a side order of cucumber (his favourite food of the moment) proving no problem for the waiter.
My wife, meanwhile, preferred the Golden Malay Creedy Carver chicken, rice, chilli, coriander and coconut (£20), my daughter the Marsh Farm fillet of beef, woodland mushrooms and burnt shallot (£29) and I went for the Dorset game pie, bacon, shallot, bone marrow sauce, Somerset greens (£22).
“How’s your burger?” I asked my youngest. The wide eyes and frantic nodding gave the answer away, along with a score of nine out of ten. OK, the comment that it was better than McDonalds might not have impressed the chef, but believe me, this was fine praise indeed.
My daughter’s fillet steak looked absolutely perfectly cooked – certainly one of those moments when I wondered if I should have ordered that instead. Mind you, the Dorset game piece was an treat, with the sauce and Somerset greens the perfect accompaniments.
Could the deserts match the quality of the mains? Absolutely, with my daughter and wife loving their Somerset cider poached pear, gold leaf, run and raisin ice cream (£9), the boys making short work of the honeycomb ice cream and chocolate sauce (£7) and my chocolate fondant, mint ganache and white chocolate ice cream (£8) completing a pretty faultless round of puds.
A meal out together is one of those family treats that might not happen too often, but when it does, you want it to be a success. Our evening meal at Homewood was certainly that, combing a wonderful setting, excellent service and really tasty food. Now if next time we could just book one of those dining domes…
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