Words by Sue Heady
For 30 years or so, Feldon Valley used to be a run-of-the-mill golf club, nice enough but nothing special. No longer. Following substantial investment in the last couple of years, it has been transformed. The (now) contemporary and stylish clubhouse, with airy, predominantly wood interiors, has been extended to include luxurious overnight accommodation, with an additional 12 rooms in lodges scattered among woodland edging the fairway of the first hole.
But it is the 43-seater restaurant known as The Kitchen that is, in my eyes as a non-golfer, the main attraction. Darren Brown joined the team at Feldon Valley as Executive Head Chef in February 2019 and has considerable pedigree having won a Michelin star when Head Chef at West Stoke House early on in his career; more recently, he has held key roles with Cotswold establishments such as The Lucky Onion Group, The Plough at Kingham and The Bower House in Shipston on Stour.
On a Saturday evening, The Kitchen is only about a third full, but the laid-back atmosphere and great playlist, plus the friendly welcome of the staff, lay the groundwork for a great meal for two. Sitting at a table by the window, with floor to ceiling windows providing vistas over the rolling fairways, we browse the menu consisting of three courses, each with four options, while devouring the freshly-made bread served with & (Ampersand), a handmade cultured butter, and whipped lardo, a Darren signature touch.
Saving room for dessert, we share a Salcombe Crab, fennel puree and apple puree (£11); it’s fresh and light with crisp green apple disks providing a great foil to the crab meat. For mains, we opt for Cornish Plaice (£18) and the Paddock Farm Tamworth Pork Belly & Head (19), both of which were beautifully cooked and delicious, even if the fish dish turned out to be a little more filling than the light option I was seeking.
The Kitchen’s menus are crafted with a strong focus on local ingredients, both from the region’s supply chain and seasonal herbs, fruits and vegetables that are grown on site at Ecology Island, considered not just a kitchen garden but also a pocket of natural space where guests can enjoy the wild flowers, sounds and views of this picture-perfect part of the country. The use of Paddock Farm pig fits perfectly with Feldon Valley’s ethos of ‘Nature, Community, Cotswolds’, being located less than a mile away in Lower Brailes.
Local suppliers showed up again in the dessert options, with cheeses including Rollright, Gloucester, Oxford Blue and BIX (supplied by the Cotswold Cheese Company), served with celery salt crackers, (sublime handmade) Eccles cake and mustard fruit (£12) and a Lower Brailes Honey Parfait ‘Sandwich’ (£7). The Raspberry Tart (£7) was the perfect combination of crisp pastry filled with a raspberry mousse that was bursting with flavour but not too sweet.
There’s a local flavour to the drinks menus, too, with Hook Norton and North Cotswold ales on tap (£4 for a pint, £2 for a half), while the short but well-chosen wine list restricts itself to mainly French and Spanish producers (£19-£33 per bottle), perhaps not surprisingly as there aren’t too many vineyards in the Cotswolds! However, the multi-award-winning Cotswolds Distillery is just over a mile away and there is a close working relationship with Feldon, including “Ginner” nights when gin-based drinks are served to complement a five-course meal.
Living nearby, there is no need to stay overnight, but the Feldon Valley’s new rooms with their light and airy Scandi-inspired interiors, and expansive views over the golf course and surrounding area, have received some excellent reviews on TripAdvisor and would make a tranquil place to rest your head, should you feel so inclined.
There is certainly enough to warrant an overnight stay whether to enjoy drinks with dinner, play an early round of golf on the charming 6,230 yard Par 71 course or hit the inhouse high spec gym. Or to explore the many attractions of the North Cotswolds, such as Whichford Pottery, Daylesford Organic Farm (there are Bamford toiletries in the washrooms at Feldon, emphasising their commitment to supporting local businesses), Batsford Arboretum, Compton Verney (a Georgian Grade I listed house with Capability Brown gardens and an impressive art space) and the various delights of Stratford-upon-Avon to name but a few.
But being a fan of Darren’s cooking, I would say the food itself is worthy of a visit. Everything else, frankly, would be a bonus.
To book a table at The Kitchen, call 01608 685 633 or visit feldonvalley.co.uk.
The House Menu is available (in the bar) daily between 11:30 and 20:30, while the restaurant is open Wednesday to Saturday evenings from 18:30 and for Sunday lunches between 12:00 and 15:00.
Food images courtesy of Paul Winch-Furness