The Miller of Mansfield, Goring-on-Thames – Hotel Review
By @Roger Crow
The sky has been the colour of white noise all day. Rain and more rain. After a 70-mile drive from Bristol, I’m glad of a well earned rest, and The Miller of Mansfield in Goring-on-Thames is just the ticket for recharging exhausted batteries.
My partner and I are at the tail-end of a four-day holiday, all because of Take That. Their gig in Bristol the night before attracted 31,000 folks, and following a crazy few days, all I want is a quiet, cosy hostelry with a good meal.
Although there’s no immediate on-site parking, you can drop off luggage before parking in the public car park that’s signposted down the lane opposite The Miller’s front entrance. It’s surprisingly cheap too for such a well-off area.
Check-in is quick, friendly and efficient. “It’s really quirky and old fashioned, but in a nice way,” remarks an impressed Rachel, as she explores our room, The Goring Suite. I have to agree. We’re lucky enough to have a main bedroom and secondary bedroom with a glorious bathroom.
The main room boasts a hugely comfortable bed which looks like a prop from Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The coffee maker, as endorsed by George Clooney, ensures hardcore java lovers like myself will be very satisfied. There’s a travel kettle as standard, and every variation of boutique tea, except good old fashioned English Breakfast. (I’m sure a quick word with reception would amend that issue).
The second bedroom, which contains a single bed, also has that idyllic charm. As for the bathroom, it’s a delight. Heated towel rail; old school tub; exquisite tiling and a great shower. Everything the weary traveller needs to feel human again.
After a cuppa, with the moreish golden syrup biscuits provided, we fiddle with the temperature controls. It’s late May so should be warm, but a little chilly and the radiators don’t seem to be playing ball. A good time to pop down for dinner.
Access to our suite is a bit of a climb, and thank heavens for the ’Mind Your head’ sign as two flights of steps could take out tall guys like me on at least three occasions, so take care if you’ve had a pint or three.
The ground floor consists of cosy bar area and restaurant. There’s no shortage of goodies on the menu as we sit by a window and hope some sign of blue or sun will pierce the sky.
“Good as I’d hoped for”
The Miller of Mansfield is an 18th-century coaching inn run by Nick and Mary Galer. They both worked for The Fat Duck Group, so any link to Heston Blumenthal has my attention having been fascinated by his work for years.
The atmosphere is as relaxed as the advertised blurb promises, and another tick for the fact “the food is refined but unpretentious, and occasionally experimental”. I fancy a local tipple, so opt for Good Old Boy beer. And it’s a great choice which goes down rather well, while Rachel’s rhubarb gin with lemonade also proves hugely popular.
The food is as good as I hoped for on every level, from the sourdough bread with bacon butter, (which tastes like bonfires, in a good way thanks to its smoky quality) to the delicious pea mousse, a delicate amuse bouche which is a fine taste of delights to come.
“A lot for your money”
I enjoy a wild garlic and ricotta tortellini for starters, which is tasty without being overpowering. A soft pillow of pasta combined with beautiful veg makes it very welcome.
Rachel’s poached pheasant egg is also a triumph.
For mains, her nettle gnocchi is a bold choice, and though it doesn’t go down as well as the mousse, it’s a fascinating experience. Nettle purée, toasted hazelnuts, morel mushrooms and goats’ cheese is a fine combination of flavours.
I opt for the 35-day aged salt chamber beef, with beer cabbage, white onion purée, beef fat chips and bearnaise tuile. You get a lot for your money, and it’s as delicious as it sounds. I’d have been happy with less meat, but no complaints. (Impossible to write this without my mouth watering).
Dessert is a triumph. My cherry soup (creme freche, panna cotta and pistachios) is one of those stunning creations, beautifully prepared and flawless. However, Rachel’s steals the show – an audacious rhubarb and custard with ginger granola, rhubarb sorbet and… drum roll please – Marmite meringue. Yes, that’s the daring sort of experiment which makes the difference between a good meal and an outstanding one. The fact it tastes terrific is obviously crucial.
We retire to the bar area and over cappuccinos and macarons, we soak up the ambience before retiring to our now cosy, warm room.
Having slept like proverbial logs (that wild garlic creating the sort of dreams David Lynch would find bizarre), we enjoy another terrific dining experience. My Miller English breakfast (triple smoked bacon, sausage, egg, mushrooms, black pudding and toast tick all the boxes. You get tomato too, but due to personal taste, I never bother). Rachel opts for poached eggs on seeded toast, and together with tea and coffee, it makes an ideal start to the day. By the way, the waiting staff are excellent.
It’s not hard to see why the place has attracted a lot of attention, including Best Restaurant at the 2018 Thames Valley Hospitality Awards, and Best Independent Restaurant at the same bash for 2019. There’s plenty of local amenities, including a convenience shop and cash machines a short walk away.
On the subject of walks, the local area is a delight. The sort of picture-postcard views you see in TV dramas or brochures advertising quintessential English villages.
We wouldn’t need much persuading to stay again, or enjoy that amazing food and drink. It’s a Goring hostelry that’s far from boring, and genuinely outstanding in its (Mans)field.
The Miller of Mansfield, High Street, Goring-on-Thames, RG8 9AW
Pub, restaurants & 13 individually styled rooms in an 18th-century coaching inn. Patrons Mary & Nick Galer since 2014 both bring Fat Duck Group pedigree to the Oxfordshire-Berkshire border close to the Thames Path, Ridgeway, South Downs and Chiltern Hills. Doubles from £119/B&B
Light lunches served daily 12-2pm. A la carte & tasting menus available daily 6-9pm (5-7pm Sunday)