Manor house hotels are a lot of things, but ‘cool’ is rarely one of them. Grand, luxurious, beautiful – yes. Cool? A little less common. Bucking that trend, however, is Hampton Manor, a historic retreat on the outskirts of Birmingham, UK.
Run by husband-and-wife duo James and Fjona Hill, Hampton Manor still has all the trappings of a classic country hotel – lavish four-poster beds, dark wood-paneled reception rooms and a cocktail parlor – but layered with a sense of understated and unpretentious Key to its status as a cool country hotel, however, is its food and drink program which includes two restaurants (the informal Smoke and then the posher Grace & Savour), a bakery and deli, and a serious wine offering focusing on low-intervention labels.
It was Grace & Savour that I made the two-hour train journey from London to visit though. Set away from the main hotel overlooking a walled garden, the restaurant opened in February 2022 under the lead of David and Anette Taylor and was initially positioned as a replacement for Hampton Manor’s celebrated but now-closed Peel’s restaurant. Quickly though, Grace & Savour proved to be a dining destination in its own right, earning an impressive fistful of accolades including, most notably, a Michelin star in 2023.
Guided by sustainability at every stage, the Taylors have worked staggeringly hard to challenge the norms of the restaurant industry and become leaders in the movement toward progressive fine dining, in a part of the country where they are undeniable outliers.
Not satisfied with just offering a Michelin-worthy dinner though, the Grace & Savour experience also includes the option to stay at one of the five meticulously designed suites, each of which overlooks what was the original kitchen garden and now abounds with larger-than-life wildflowers. Pairing its show-stopping dinner offering with a night (or two) in its adjoining accommodation, Grace & Savour (and by extension Hampton Manor) is a key bidder for the best foodie staycation in the UK.
David Taylor’s career has taken him through some of the world’s finest kitchens. The British-born chef started his training under Glynn Purnell at his eponymous Birmingham restaurant before undergoing stints at several destinations in North America and across Scandinavia.
His most significant, however, was at Maaemo in Oslo, where he was proudly part of the team that saw the restaurant jump from two to three Michelin stars in 2016. Taylor has carried Maaemo’s principles of looking to local environments for ingredients and cooking in line with the seasons with him to Grace & Savour and added his own flair.
Alongside his wife Anette, who leads the restaurant’s slick front-of-house operations, Taylor has filled his team with young, enthusiastic cooks – many of whom are very local, judging by the friendly Brummie accents floating around the kitchen and each of which has clearly absorbed their head chef’s abundant passion for food.
Dinner at Grace & Savour starts way before your reservation time. Guests are asked to arrive at 3pm, when they are met with an arrival drink (go for the homemade vermouth and tonic) and a small taster of the menu (we got a warming, nourishing bowl of cheesy soup) before heading out on a garden tour with chef Taylor.
Said garden is as much a part of the restaurant as the kitchen itself. Led by head gardener Lou Nicholls, the harvest from the plot guides the menu throughout the year, with Taylor and his team calling on the availability of seasonal produce to produce each dish. What Taylor can’t grow onsite, he sources from trusted suppliers that share his commitment to environmentally conscious growing practices, biodynamic farming and flavor-forward, nutrient-rich produce.
When the actual dinner finally comes around – after an afternoon of either lounging in your earthy suite or exploring the estate – it’s a perfectly paced 15-course occasion, with each stage designed to tell a compelling story and enthusiastically presented by Taylor and his team.
While all the talk of conscious farming and broken food chains could become too serious for some diners (and completely fascinate others), the bottom line is that every dish is as delicious as it is unexpected.
Our group were unanimous fans of the intensely crispy deep-fried nugget of sourdough starter (borrowed from head baker and bread-maker extraordinaire, Min Go), topped with wild garlic capers and flash of crimson beetroot, as they were the delicate Isle of Wight tomato, so sweet it could have been a raspberry.
A delicate half-moon of kohlrabi, sourced from Newfields Organics farm up in North Yorkshire, cooked in brown butter and swimming in a sweet, creamy whey and elderflower sauce expertly proves that a vegetarian dish can pack as much punch as a meat-focused plate.
Fifteen courses means that by the time the last rolls around, eating anymore feels close to impossible – but save space for that final bite, which comes in the form of a perfectly shaped and impossibly golden brown-butter madeleine, to be used as a vessel for the accompanying bowl of crème diplomat and rum syrup. If you can manage it, there’s a very generous offer of a second madeleine before dinner is over.
Imagined by Hampton Manor’s creative director Fjona Hill, the restaurant’s interiors are minimal and modern with a muted color scheme, yet still warm and welcoming thanks to the abundance of natural textures. Huge windows look out to the abundant gardens beyond, while vaulted ceilings give the illusion of even more space. The restaurant is positioned around an open kitchen and while the main restaurant is pretty, try to snag a counter seat for a front-row view.
No detail has been left unthought of across the restaurant: Chairs were crafted by local artisan Nigel Briggs; much of the unique crockery was made by ceramicist Sarah Jerath using clay from the estate; and sustainable choices, such as plant oil resin flooring over standard petroleum, are plentiful.
The adjoining Grace & Savour suites, also by Fjona Hill, follow a similar vein. Each has its own design, but share a sense of calm earthiness, with a color palette inspired by clay and mud. The highlight of each, though, are the oversized soaking bathtubs, with encourage a spa-like bathing ritual – don’t miss the specially made bath salts by skincare brand Harvest.