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Tracy Park, Wick Hotel And Dinner Review

Tracy Park sets out to woo you firstly with some pretty heavy historical credentials not least of which is that Anna Sewell’s inspiration for Birtwick Park in her famous book ‘Black Beauty’ was drawn from it; apparently she lived nearby and was a frequent guest, and secondly the sheer beauty of its many acres of rolling parkland in which are set two championship golf courses. The house dates back to 1246 although it has undergone major changes throughout the centuries, lastly by Charles Raikes Davy who inherited the house from his father in 1856, extending the mansion and facing it in Bath stone. He was a committed Freemason hence the many Masonic influences and the name of the restaurant, Masons Restaurant, where dinner is served in the magnificently decorated room once dedicated to Masonic rituals and meetings.

Private ownership ceased in 1973 when it became a golf and country club and we lucky members of the public were allowed access to its grace and beauty for our own pleasure and amusement. Close to both Bath and Bristol, it has the best of both worlds and even if you are not a golfer it’s a wonderful place to take a weekend break of sightseeing and shopping, followed by a relaxing dinner in the calm of the countryside. We took advantage of one of the luxury rooms in the newly appointed Carriages block which forms part of an attractive courtyard opposite the main house; we felt like royalty as we drove through the large gates up the winding drive and swished to a halt outside the main house.

Obviously no expense has been spared in the design and finish of Carriages, the long hallway upon which the rooms are set either side is colonnaded in fine style and bright and airy. There are two storeys and our room was on the ground floor, overlooking the courtyard and main house. Traditionally furnished, it was a grand size swallowing the largest bed you could imagine, commodious sofa and writing table and chairs (for the sending of postcards home) with ease. Large walnut fitted cupboards and drawers completed the room, giving plenty of space to tuck away your luggage and housing a large flat screen TV at the optimum height for lying propped up in bed after an excellent dinner watching something pointless just because you can. With a happy smile we earmarked this for later.

We strolled out into the peaceful night across to Masons Restaurant in the main house which is every bit as interesting as billed. Two large stone fireplaces at each end, carved stonework and Masonic emblems abound but lit by many flickering candles lining the walls, tables dressed by red runners and crisp linen, with a red rose on each table, a warm and romantic atmosphere is created. I had wondered if those long past Masons would have minded their sanctuary being thus used but it seems they are giving their blessing and approval at our enjoyment.

The restaurant is made an extra special place to eat by the quiet and professional service; all the waiters and waitresses wear white gloves as well as a friendly smile and nothing is too much trouble for them. We chose to have the tasting menu of eight courses (yes, eight) created by the Chef, Scott Galloway, and whilst we chose our wine nibbled on some homemade sourdough bread with smoked butter which we tried not to eat too much of out of respect for the eight courses but failed as it was so good.
First up was basil, rocket and pine nut soup, served hot and delightfully herby in a glass, followed by a rather unique dish of mackerel, cucumber and elderflower; the cucumber had been cored and was very prettily arranged sprinkled with elderflowers.

We really enjoyed the third course of English asparagus and truffled duck egg, the egg being perfectly cooked with runny yoke for dipping the delicate asparagus spears into. I was looking forward to the halfway mark of venison bolognaise, served with homemade linguine which was indeed delicious, the venison flavour was not too strong and an inspired choice for the bolognaise sauce. We love to take a leisurely dinner and this is the ideal way; there was plenty of space between courses and they were a sensible size so at no time did we feel we couldn’t do them justice.

Next was a complete surprised, BBQ chicken wings, artichoke and crispy skin, not a description I would expect to find in a gourmet tasting menu. However, it was very cleverly done, served on a long plate, dinky triangles of crisp skin with small pieces of fanned chicken and tender artichoke. This was followed by a dish of plaice, brown shrimps and sea vegetables; it was presented in a lovely buttery sauce and my favourite ‘sea vegetable’ samphire with its salty taste was a perfect foil for the rich sauce.

Now it was time for dessert, rhubarb and strawberry with elderflower yoghurt, followed by ‘milk and honey’. We enjoyed them both very much and settled back with a heavy collective sigh which heralded the end of our tasting menu. Now here’s the thing; all this carefully prepared luxury food, served faultlessly in magnificent surroundings did not come at a price, the tasting menu is £45 per head, the wine list is reasonable and I think you could spend more in your local gourmet pub.

Everything about our stay was perfect, and couldn’t have been more agreeable. A good night’s sleep followed by breakfast with as many choices as you could wish for but unsurprisingly we were ‘done in’ as they say and could only manage scrambled eggs!

Jacquie Vowles

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