Swinton Park

Food and Travel Review

Food and Travel Review

June 2013

Swinton Park is a stately home hotel, all faded grandeur and 19th-century charm. The ancestral seat of the Earl of Swinton, the hotel remains in family hands (it is run by the Baron) and is set in 200 acres of parkland, part of the 20,000 acre family estate which hosts all manner of country pursuits, from fishing to falconry.

For many years, its cookery school (set in an annex converted from Georgian stables) was led by a member of the food world’s own aristocracy, in the form of Rosemary Shrager. While the grand old dame remains involved, the school is now headed by Stephen Bulmer, who previously held the same role at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. Bulmer has a wealth of experience to draw on, not least his time with Raymond Blanc, along with entertaining anecdotes from working with Marco Pierre White, Giorgio Locatelli and others. His rapid-fire, bordering-on-eccentric style ensures a convivial, inclusive atmosphere for the session (though he can probably put his aspirations as a stand-up comic on hold for now…).

When it comes to the serious stuff, his expertise is consummate – as you’d expect from a man with skills honed at Le Manoir, Zafferano, Bibendum and Babington House. The only trouble with such experience, of course, is that he makes it all look so darned easy. For the rest of us, whisking the perfect cheese soufflé mixture remains a challenge (though at least I now know the secret to ensuring it doesn’t stick – a second lining of room temperature butter); quail eggs are still as delicate and difficult to decapitate as they look; and skinning a rabbit requires more than just brawn. On the plus side, an egg custard tart proved relatively straightforward once some basic timing was explained; while trout fritters and salsa verde is now well within my compass. Top tips? You can put cling film (or in Bulmer’s case, a shower cap, for extra adhesion) in the oven; and yes, foraged nettles (for the salsa verde) still sting after resting.

This was all part of the Modern British day course, one of a host of half-, one- and two-day courses offered year-round. The hotel hopes to further modernise the school later this year with the addition of individual work stations. For now, this is a fun, engaging environment in which to pick up plenty of tips and skills – and, of course, to sample the fruits of your endeavours, sat around the communal work table. If by any chance you’re still hungry, though, the hotel restaurant

is well worth an overnight stay. £160. GW

Our Specialities

What you can learn at our cookery school

  • Advanced Chef Skills
  • Canapés & Dinner Parties
  • Foraging
  • Game
  • Global Cuisines


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