The Feathers in Woodstock is enjoying something of a renaissance after an extensive restaurant refurbishment, and the appointment of two, young, ambitious chefs, determined to put the historic hotel back on the culinary map.
The food certainly speaks for itself. We ate in the recently refurbished Churchill Room restaurant and, in terms of sophisticated dining, The Feathers once again has its feet firmly under Oxfordshire’s gastronomic table.
This is largely down to new general manager Mihaela Panayotova and its extraordinary young chefs Luke Rawicki (head chef) and Shannon Mulholland who cooked us such an epic meal.
We dined on milk buns with beurre noisette, amuse bouche of smoked potato mousse cigars with smoked soy ketchup, and tiny duxelles mushroom and artichoke parfait tarts.
Starters included a bright orange coddled duck egg with ratte potato, the delicate onion broth and chive then poured on top.
There was a lovely, gentle and nostalgic wild Cotswold hare with fermented barley, carrot and parsley, a flavourful piece of roast halibut with pancetta, salsify and cannelloni bean, and then a palate cleanser in the shape of a blood orange and roasted fennel cornetto.
The pear and frangipane sauternes with vanilla and honey were excellent but still somehow eclipsed by the forced rhubarb with puff pastry, buttermilk and caraway. The winner however was the 70% Guanaja chocolate delice with cherry and meadowsweet which was simply outstanding. Quite brilliant.
The price? £55 for three courses! And as Shannon is vegetarian, the plant based options are as imaginative and expert as the rest. There is no dumbing down here.
Luke and Shannon were recruited by the new owner (who prefers to remain anonymous,) who immediately recognised their promise and talent, and offered them free rein with the fine dining menu.
“We want to take The Feathers back to its heyday by cooking some amazing food that makes people happy. That’s the most important thing,” Luke says.
“We saw The Feathers potential straight away and just want to take the food at the hotel up a notch. We have a real passion for food, and how it looks on a plate. So yes we are excited, we want to make it happen,” Shannon adds.
Luke and Shannon have worked together all over the country, most recently at The Slaughters Manor House, and are keen to make a name for themselves.
Alongside new general manager Mihaela Panayotova, who designed the new Churchill Rooms with help from local interior designer Miranda Loveluck-Taplin, they are a dream team.
“We wanted to provide a special fine dining restaurant with a more relaxed atmosphere that would fit well into Woodstock and its gastro-pub culture, and that’s what Luke and Shannon are already achieving,” Mihaela explains.
Gone is the swirly carpet and teacup sculptures of yesteryear. Instead, a more comfortable and relaxing space has been created in the Churchill Room to enable diners to enjoy a more relaxed, comfortable and welcoming new look.
And, having closed for a few months after Christmas to undertake the work, The Feathers is now keen for visitors, tourists and locals to rediscover its new offering.
The next refurbishment phase includes the reception, bar area and bedrooms, but food wise, The Feathers is raring to go: “We want our food to be accessible and to put The Feathers back on the map. So while a Michelin star and three rosettes would be nice it’s more important that we get diners back here to enjoy it,” Luke adds.
The Feathers is at 16-20 Market St, Woodstock OX20 1SX. Go to https://www.feathers.co.uk for more details