Let’s talk food and drink with Jonathan Ellson
February 11, 2022
What’s your best-loved dish?
The caviar tart at our main restaurant, created by our executive chef Adam Smith. It’s a simple dish consisting of only five ingredients, showing off the finest produce and epitomising Adam’s harmonious use of flavours. Enjoy this less-is-more starter with an English sparkling wine, such as Nytimber Blanc de Blancs.
What’s your ultimate wine and food pairing?
I have many favourites but my ultimate is a classic roast chicken dinner with crispy roast potatoes and plenty of gravy, served with a chilled glass of Meursault or Californian Chardonnay. If you haven’t tried it, I heartily recommend it.
What’s your favourite cocktail?
Our Marmalade Martini. It was inspired by HM The Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations and has been a firm favourite ever since. Made with tangy notes of pink grapefruit, a splash of gin and vermouth, and a spoonful of orange marmalade, it’s truly remarkable.
Tell us your must-experience foodie destinations
I find Tuscany a great source of inspiration. The locals take a couple of ingredients, like amazing tomatoes and well-bred meat, and transform them into something that so much more than just the sum of their individual parts. Another favourite place is San Sebastian, where the whole culture seems to revolve around food. Even the bars have incredible displays of food and offer wonderfully sociable experiences that are hard to beat.
What makes Coworth Park so special?
Its homely and welcoming feel. That was my first impression of the hotel and it’s what many of our guests say too. There’s a charming nod to the glorious English countryside in everything we do. From the comfort of muddy boots in The Barn restaurant, to a simple salad at The Spatisserie looking out at a scenic view, you’re always invited to make yourself at home.
Tell us about your interesting career path
At the age of 13, my first job was in a fish & chip shop and from that moment on, every job I’ve had since has been related to food or drink. I gained my degree in neuroscience but went down a different path and started in the wine trade, before ending up back in hospitality at Coworth Park.
How did you get your first job at Coworth Park?
My family live nearby and one day my grandmother saw an advert in a local newspaper announcing an open-day at the hotel and said I should go along. I hadn’t worked in a hotel at that point but after a series of interviews I got the job of head sommelier, and nearly seven years later became director of food and beverage.
Tell us about your wine dinners
We work with some wonderful partners who really ignite our creativity. For most wine dinners, the wines are chosen to match what’s already on a chef’s menu. At Coworth Park, we ask our selected producers which wines they would like to highlight. Adam Smith then creates an entire menu to complement their wines for a special one-night-only event. It’s rewarding when diners comment on what a superb opportunity these evenings are to socialise, learn something new and try completely different dishes.
What do you admire about Adam Smith?
He’s someone who’s done every role from kitchen porter and sandwich maker to Michelin-starred executive chef, which gives him great knowledge and true appreciation of the work that everyone does at the hotel. He’s also an exceptional advocate when it comes to celebrating British produce.
Tell us about the beers at The Barn
We’ve recently introduced two of our own beers, which are served at The Barn. One’s an easy-drinking IPA made from American and Kentish hops with delicious citrus notes. It goes really well with fish & chip and we use it for our crispy beer batter. We also serve our own lager, which is really dry and refreshing with a slight nuttiness to it.
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