Gastro-tourism / Good Eats / Travel

Veal in My Belly

Someone wake me up. I’m convinced I’m Kate Middleton, arriving to meet the Royal In-laws for the first time. Freshly pressed Top Shop yet shamefully underdressed. Or am I fresh meat on the first day of Hogwarts, scrambling to find my Potions 101 class? Wait… I’m me, arriving at The Manor House in Castle Combe. I was having a flight of fantasies upon entering the breathless estate. One of them included Prince Harry greeting me at my private cottage. Someone really needs to slap me at this point.

Ok back to reality. So here we are at The Manor House. I have been waiting for this moment. Months before arriving to Europe, The Manor House was the first hotel we booked. Nearing the end of our European tour, we were estatic about our final destination in Castle Combe. Just over 300 people, this beautiful neighborhood gives new meaning to small town. Who wouldn’t want to live in a town named ‘Castle Combe’? Cool facts: War Horse was filmed in Castle Combe, it took us only a few hours to drive to Wiltshire’s Stonehedge, I had the most expensive hot chocolate IN MY LIFE at Stonehedge, and sheep poop resembles delicious coco puffs (this I will explain more of).

The view of The Manor House as we drive into the estate.

After leaving London in a rental car and fearlessly driving on the left side of the road, we are finally here. What a jaw-dropping view. Above shows the main housing of The Manor House where the property’s restaurant and staff quarters are. Just a stroll around the corner, we find our adorable cottage named Stockbridge.  I could have just died when I found this ‘Do Not Disturb’ Teddy Bear.

Room key to enter our private cottage.

The view from our cottage.

Adorable ‘Do Not Disturb’ Bear.

The Manor House’s noisy wooden floors and ivy walls added touches to its existing regal presence. I’m doing an injustice to you. I wish I could capture how beautiful the outdated wallpaper or the acres of green grass or mile high trees were on that cold afternoon.

Lounge area once entering the Manor House

Colorful boots.

With only a few pubs in driving distance to our cottage aka castle aka Manor House, our local friends found Wadworth next door.  Look at those proper pint glasses. This cold pint paired with these scampi flavored fries could be better than bacon. I said could as in very close. Walk into Wadworth and you immediately feel the warmth or maybe that’s the beer talking? There’s a lovely biergarten (beer garden) that’s even great on chilly evenings for large parties. Locals, a few tourists, and a baby – that’s what I call a good time.

I can’t find these anywhere. My favorite pub snack.

Stopping by the local pub for a pint.

As the Germans would say… Willkommen im Biergarten!

One of the attractions bringing people to this small town of Castle Combe, besides the majestic scenery and historic decor, is Michelin star restaurant Bybrook. Nothing less than perfection. Bybrook celebrates seasonal produce with exceptional service and presentation.  Starting with an amuse-bouche, we indulged in a not so single bite-size serving of squash soup and fried truffle risotto. Beautiful.

The Manor House’s Bybrook Amuse to start.

Perhaps Bybrook never accommodated a rather youthful and loud party of six. This intimate and classy white linen style restaurant does not fall short on service. Everything was timed perfectly. I mean EVERYTHING down to marking the table with silverware and the arrival of entrees (I’m a server so I can’t help but notice). With a few bottles of Malbec and complimentary champagne, we are still here. Sharing a few appetizers, we dive into Winter truffle risotto, Salcombe bay crab with gazpacho, Tortellini of rainbow trout, and Seared scallops with cauliflower puree (see menu here). Do I even need to explain?

Sharing plenty of appetizers.

Bybrooks’ Scallops. I could lick the screen.

Beautiful plating and artistic skill in creating such a finger-licking selection. I kept reminding myself, DO NOT LICK YOUR PLATE. CLASSY CJ CLASSY. I’m very adventurous in my food selections especially when traveling and always ask what they would recommend/ eat themselves. About 100% they are honest with you and about 100% it is usually the most expensive item on the plate. I was in for the veal. Described as “slow cooked loin of English Rose veal with braised red cabbage, Jerusalem artichoke, veal sweetbreads, and Madeira jus,” the words just float off the page like Shakespeare’s sonnet. Never once in my mind did I say, “Poor veal.” Either I have no soul or it was THAT good. Don’t judge me.

The main course. Veal!

So back track to the beginning when I mentioned sheep sh$*!… With only a few hour drive to Stonehedge, we hoped in our rental and had to see this. Why? We’re avid Ancient Alien viewers and this is a must. Checking off my bucket list, we arrive with the usual tourists and starstruck locals. It’s something you have to see in real life. My excitement can be seen below. Dating back to 3000 BC, Stonehedge continues to amaze scientists and regulars like me. Archeologists developed theories on the design and purpose, but only the universe will know. Currently, Stonehedge is on a hill neighboring local sheep farmers and acres of grass. Sheep roam around in the guest parking and leave presents. I’d rather not show you so you’ll have to go see it for yourself: the sheep droppings and mysterious Stonehedge.

“No way! Stonehedge!”

Some quick snapshots at Veeraswamy Restaurant, the oldest Indian restaurant in London.

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