High Street, Goring, Reading. RG8 9AW millerofmansfield.com/
Tom escapes the city and finds a haven of quiet countryside, fantastic food and the best bath he’s ever seenÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
When writing reviews I think it’s important to be balanced. To objectively present both sides and ensure the tone never approaches’sales-y’ or mirrors a press release no matter how good the restaurant, bar or hotel has been.
It appears, however, I’ve lost my balance.
Whatever you’re doing this weekend cancel it. Birthday? Wedding? Funeral? Forget it. It’s time you prioritised and if I was you I’d make my priority a visit to the hotel I was lucky enough to find myself at last weekend.
I’d have never thought of heading towards Reading for a weekend away, perhaps a conference on roundabouts, but never a weekend away. Yet, as we stepped off the train in Goring-on-Thames, 10 miles north-west of the city, and strolled through the quiet village streets with the odd thatched roof and a couple of Brakspear pubs, I quickly realised I’d been wrong about this part of the country. It was calming, beautiful and had only taken 55 minutes from London Paddington on the train.
Our destination was an 18th century coaching inn called The Miller of Mansfield. A pub with rooms and an extremely good reputation for its food.
The Miller‘s owners, Mary and Nick Galer, are clearly no’have-a-go-hoteliers’ and between them have a hospitality CV that only raises expectations with time spent in Heston’s Fat Duck Group and numerous other well-respected pubs and restaurants.
This solid professional background, and genuine passion for the industry, was evident from the minute we checked in.
The Miller is a beautiful, beamed building with the kind of bar entrance that hugs you when you enter. Chairs next to the open fire scream, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Forget your plans. Sit in me. Get a pint and sit in meÃ¢â‚¬Â and the furniture and finishes have been invested in wisely.
Check-in is friendly and smooth and before I know it we’re stood in the bathroom staring at the bath.
It’s effectively on a stage, and of all the baths I’ve ever seen it deserves the spotlight. Ridiculously deep, actually just huge by all dimensions, we pause and give it the attention it demands before checking out the rest of the room. The bed is sizeable, the floor beautiful, there’s a Nespresso coffee machine (which obviously we have to play with) and a small Miller-branded bag containing a couple of homemade biscuits.
It’s small details like this that I believe true hospitality professionals know make the difference.
A couple of minutes down the road from The Miller, the Thames snakes past providing the perfect’weekend away from London wander’. The leaves have just started to fall, there’s conkers on the ground, people say hello as they walk past.
We walk for a mile or so, head back into the village and then fall into The John Barleycorn Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a proper Brakspear pub with great beer and dogs play fighting in the garden.
I’d been looking forward to dinner at The Miller since booking our stay and the menu that night didn’t disappoint. A tempting selection of snacks backed up with five solid starters and another five mains Ã¢â‚¬â€œ even the veggie option of Crispy Wigmore Cheese sounds good.
We start with snacks. Beef croquettes are generously filled and meaty with a smoked onion relish, crispy cod skin with a cod mousse is superbly salty and light. The kitchen send out two thin, crispy slices of mushroom brioche topped with a blood orange puree and a cheese mousse Ã¢â‚¬â€œ every table it appears receive these. It’s the little details!
A small sack arrives containing three different homemade breads. They’re warmed through and after sharing all three my accomplice and I struggle to decide the best of the three, eventually settling upon the onion bread.
The dining room is informal and pubby. Just how I like them. Randomly placed sacks of flour play on the pub’s history and the atmosphere is buzzy without being shouty.
My’Chicken On Toast’ starter fuses the familiar with the unforgettable. A thin slice of toasted brioche is topped with chicken parfait, crispy chicken skin, a crumble of black pudding and cock’s comb. It’s rounded, thoroughly chickeny and punches with character.
My accomplice’s crab with avocado and sorrel granita is fresh and light. I’m not a huge fan of savoury granitas but here I get it and the precision with which the dish has been plated is enjoyable just to look at.
A roasted guinea fowl breast with cylinders of herby gnocchi and lovage is the kind of dish I could eat forever. Not only does it look beautiful but it delivers. Quietly, confidently delivers.
A sirloin steak with bone marrow is simple and serious, the accompanying steak sauce bursting with flavour and the side of chips rustling and crispy. They’re the kind of chips you imagine have been put through vigorous taste tests Ã¢â‚¬â€œ I imagine Mary and Nick up all night striving for the perfect chips, slaying potatoes for the sake of perfection. I get carried away.
Service throughout dinner reflects everything else about The Miller. It’s professional, unfaltering, and yet carries it off in an informal, relaxed manor. Staff don’t just serve the food, they understand it, which for any operation is a triumph.
A cheeseboard selection is well curated and comes with the right amount of crackers and bread, and my accomplices’peaches and cream’ dessert, featuring roasted peaches, ice cream, crumbled gingerbread and other cleverly added elements hits the mark.
We’re full, too full, but The Miller aren’t finished with us yet and send out two mini-macarons Ã¢â‚¬â€œ one grapefruit and the other, I’m afraid, I can’t recall. They’re like a final pat on the back, a last congratulation on choosing to dine with them that evening.
Our room is right above the restaurant and yet noise is no issue. Whether it’s the bottle of point noir, the sheer quantity of food or the MASSIVE bed we sleep well and the only negative when waking is the thought of checking out.
Breakfast is an unfussy, uncomplicated affair with the highlight being the black pudding that arrives with my poached eggs. It’s outstanding and is apparently made by one of their butchers, Darragh O’Shea, to a secret family recipe. I am jealous of his family.
Many of the best restaurants and hotels I’ve visited have been so good because of the passion and determination of those who own and run them. It’s no coincidence that everything at The Miller works, it’s no coincidence that the service style, dÃƒÂ©cor and food are all singing from the same song sheet and it’s no coincidence that little details, from biscuits in the room to macarons after dinner, appear.
All these things are down to owners who, it appears, have managed to find the sweet spot between good business and genuine passion.
Rooms start from £100 a night, £120 at weekends, and main courses in the restaurant average £20.