Olivia Williams visits a grand 18th century farmhouse in Herefordshire that offers luxurious rooms and hearty cuisine.
Owned by William and Kate Chase of the hugely successful Chase Distillery, Verzon House is a very special restaurant with rooms. With only eight bedrooms, it’s a cosy, characterful retreat in the Herefordshire countryside. A soporific fire in the bar, witty artwork in the corridors, and fragrant Noble Isle products in the bathroom make for a luxurious welcome.
Although positioned in the rolling hills, the farmhouse is still within easy reach of historic Hereford and pretty Ledbury, and other nearby attractions include Eastnor Castle, Dore Abbey and Hay on Wye. Rooms are modern, stylish and individual, but still sensitive to their Georgian heritage. In one of the Ultimate rooms (number three), there is a bath in the bedroom with a charming view of the rolling Malvern Hills through the sash window.
Fellow guests are generally a mix of couples down from London, locals using the restaurant, and spirits devotees from abroad who have come to see the Chase distillery in action. As if The Chase family were not busy enough with Verzon, they make their own ambrosial gin and vodka from start to finish – growing to distilling to bottling – on their farm down the road. It would be a great shame not to pay the distillery a visit, so enjoy an in-depth tour and meet the master distiller, followed by lunch or afternoon tea back at Verzon House on Fridays and Saturdays. They will even arrange for a 1940s Rolls Royce to ferry you there and back so that you can get really stuck into sampling the spirits.
The wonderful food at Verzon is firmly rooted in the lovely local area, and nobody could quibble with the deliciousness of the porterhouse cut from their own pedigree Herefordshire herd. Their ingredients (other than the fish) are generally found within a thirty-mile radius – whether that’s the smooth Netherend Farm salted butter churned in Gloucestershire, ciabattas by Worcester baker Peter Cooks Bread, or Madgett’s Farm duck from Monmouthshire. The starters are excellent and moreish, including smoked haddock scotch eggs, beetroot-cured Var salmon, and Shropshire Blue soufflé. Just as much care goes into the rich puddings, of course, whether it’s the rhubarb and chocolate cheesecake or baked tonka bean tart. Eating all these treats by the dining room fire – what could be better?
Adjourning to the bar afterwards is a delight thanks to the thoughtful seasonal drinks. For something sweet try the delectable Sloe Gin Sour made with rhubarb liqueur and their Sloe and Mulberry Gin, and the Mary Jane made with their Smoked Vodka, dry sherry and celery bitters for something savoury. There are plenty of local beers and ciders to choose from if the cocktails aren’t for you and a great selection of their vodkas and gins, not to mention wine from their vineyard in the South of France.The bar feels just as a bar should – snug and hedonistic, with deep sofas and dim corners.
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In miserable weather, this is just the kind of place where you want to hunker down and break any remaining new year’s resolutions. Between the food and the cocktails, a recipe book should surely follow.
Single rooms start at £80, going up to £150 for the Ultimate rooms. Well-behaved dogs and children are welcome.
For further information, please contact Verzon House, Hereford Road, Trumpet, Ledbury, HR8 2PZ; www.verzonhouse.com; 01531 670381
If you haven't had time to make your own, a great sloe gin is worth hunting for. We round up