Need to know
This privately owned 19th-century hotel has a massive space to room ratio - with just 23 rooms but two restaurants, a bar, multiple lounges, a spa and 12 acres of beautiful gardens. It's long been a destination for foodies - the former chef Martin Burges won it two Michelin stars.
His successor, Niall Keating (ex-Sat Bains followed by Benu in San Franciso) is already gunning to get those back having won his first star less than a year after arriving here at the beginning of last year. Having won the Michelin Young Chef of the Year this year, those two stars look to be incoming.
A few miles outside Malmesbury, the drive up to Whatley through its extensive private grounds is pretty impressive. Even better still is the bit when you approach the gates to the courtyard and have them swing open automatically to reveal the manor house within.
Grab a map from reception and give yourself time to have a walk through the gardens. We were here at the height of summer and they were quite spectacular. Fans of deep borders and blowsy roses will be in heaven here.
There are six categories of room here ranging from classic all the way up to the grand suite which takes over the second floor of the hotel. Our suite was two down from that but it was still massive with the bathroom, bedroom and separate lounge.
Handy tip - even when you check out the next day you still have access to the hotel's spa for the full day.
Talking of the spa, the one here is pretty impressive with a indoor/ outdoor hydrotherapy pool, all manner of steam, sauce and salt scrubdown options.
But when we browsed through the treatments brochure there was really no competition which one we were going to have - the Natura Bissé facials and massages take place in a giant bubble where the air you breathe is 99.99% pure oxygen. Apparently, it's quite the thing in LA. And given the fact Sadiq Khan is always complaining about the air quality in London, we figured this could only be a good thing.
Facials start at £90 (I know!! But the bliss of it) and when my therapist finished and woke me up I glided back to the room feeling and looking at least a few years younger.
One of the nicest things about Whatley are that it looks like the kind of place you could actually imagine living in (if you came into some serious money). There are loads of nice seating areas to perch in and pretend you're just here as part of some posh weekend house party.
Before dinner, we could have picked the lovely looking bar but we actually opted for the drawing room with its view over the lawn and - this was the clincher - baby bunnies bouncing around outside.
Where to eat
Whatley has two restaurants. The main dining room features Niall Keating's tasting menu for which he's won the hotel a Michelin star. Then there's the more casual Grey's Brasserie serving up sharing boards, steak and chips and other refined brasserie dishes. So it's pretty handy if you fancy staying here for a full weekend but don't want to do the tasting menu twice - you'll have a chance to try the two restaurants.
There's also The Green Room in an outbuilding. That's a chef's table area, all with counter dining and looking like a close cousin of The Kitchen Table in Fitzrovia. Here is where they hold special dinners with wine houses or distillers and the occasional joint event with fellow Michelin chefs.
As we were only here for the night, we were in the main dining room which - and to be fair this was as much a surprise to the hotel as us - was absolutely packed to the gills on a Wednesday night. And it's a pretty big restaurant, so it was lovely to see that the weekday dinner services were going so well. When we visited, it was a 13-course tasting menu (although some of those are snacks - so it's not as intimidating as it might sound).
It's been a while since we've gone for such a big undertaking, but it's well worth it here with some really excellent dishes being paraded out all night. Here's a selection of what was on offer:
The next morning
After a quick dip in the hydrotherapy pool to clear our heads, we were back in the main restaurant for breakfast. It was a bit of a shame that it wasn't the brasserie, as it would have been nice to try both spaces. But it was still great hotel breakfast, particularly the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, with a pitch-perfect scrambled eggs (and the eggs benedict was pretty damned good too).
Niall Keating's food at Whatley Manor is 100% travel across the country worthy. Hell, if you're not in the UK we'd say it was worth your giving it a go too. And that's before you consider the lovely surroundings. An amazing food experience in the most bucolic of settings.
More about Whatley Manor
Where is it? Easton Grey, Malmesbury SN16 0RB
How to get there: It's just over a couple of hours drive from London, or if you're taking the train it's 1hrs 15mins from Paddington to either Chippenham or Kemble, and a 25 minute taxi to the hotel.
Booking info: Rooms at Whatley Manor start at £260 (including breakfast and use of their Aquarius Spa). The tasting menu at The Dining Room is £125.
How to book: Book online
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