Our new series on the perfect places in the UK to take a long, relaxing weekend break. First up, a foodie trip to Paris house in nearby Woburn.
THE PITCH: A molecular gastronomy masterclass by a Michelin-starred chef surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside in the UK. You will rustle up a feast before enjoying a tasting menu at the chef’s table, followed by a night in a nearby hotel including a three-course meal.
WHERE? The restaurant is called Paris House in Woburn, Bedfordshire, a short taxi-ride from Milton Keynes (25 mins from Euston station). The Woburn Hotel is a brisk stroll through a deer-filled estate away – perfect for burning off post-lunch calories.
THE MASTERCLASS: Phil Fanning, Paris House’s executive chef who won the restaurant its Michelin star, will teach you a host of kitchen skills. Classes include butchery, pasta, chocolate, and the one I attended, modernist cooking. In my class I learned how to freeze things with liquid nitrogen and use the latest high-tech methods to thicken, aerate and reduce ingredients to create the kind of dishes that will make dinner party guests think you’re a first-class culinary mage. The masterclass starts at 9.30am and lasts for 2.5 hours, in which time you’ll watch Fanning at work and put the skills you have learned to use making your own dish. And remember: you’ll be getting lots of face-time with one of the top young chefs in the country, so put it to good use and ask him lots of questions.
THE LUNCH: After you’ve worked up an appetite creating your dish (mine was a mojito-inspired dessert featuring mint and lime puree, coriander chlorophyl crisps, mango pearls and mini doughnuts), you’ll take a seat at the chef’s table and watch as the kitchen prepares you a five-course meal made using ingredients from the neighbouring garden. Highlights included moroccan lamb and a dessert based around cep mushrooms.
ASK ABOUT: Fanning is a mushroom enthusiast, often foraging his own fungus (for personal use; safety concerns means he can’t serve them in the restaurant itself). Ask him about the best local spots to go in search of mushrooms.
AND AFTER THAT: The Woburn estate, home to Woburn Abbey, is a gigantic tract of manicured countryside. It is home to seven varieties of deer, a maze, an ornamental garden and a safari park. You could easily while away a day here, and if you get bored of all the open space, there are loads of decent pubs in the nearby town.
SLEEPING: The Woburn Hotel is within easy walking distance of Paris House. It includes a number of two-storey “cottages” with original features like exposed wooden beams. The hotel restaurant is a good bet for your evening meal.
NEED TO KNOW: The cookery masterclass, including a glass of champagne, a hands-on demonstration and a five course meal at the chef’s table is £149 per person. To book go to parishouse.co.uk or call 01525 290 692. The Woburn Hotel cottages cost from £105 a night – visit thewoburnhotel.co.uk or call 01525 290441.