It was with some trepidation that I stepped into The Feathers Hotel in Ludlow just a few weeks ago to meet friends for a drink. It was a place I had very fond memories of and also some rather disappointed ones.
Back in the day, this superb historic building was owned by the dapper Osmond Edwards and managed by the redoubtable (and what a great character) Peter Nash and his wife Gill.
It was THE place to go for a meal and have a drink with friends. What great times I had there with some of my dearest friends, including waltzing and even quick-stepping around the dance floor in the function room with the twinkled-toed and much-missed Maurice Bassett. As a non-dancer he made me feel like a Strictly star, as he did to most women at such functions. Husbands were only too keen to avoid the footwork and let wives into the arms of this man. And his wife Marion was only too hapy to share his skill!
Sadly Osmond Edwards sold the hotel and the manager retired. And from then on it lost its attraction and charm. My friends and I stopped frequenting the place and a couple of forays over the threshold over the years to see if it had improved, failed to entice me back.
I won’t go into great detail here, but the hotel was forced to close and lay empty for a time for various reasons. Then Crest Hotels stepped in and bought it – Hallelujah!
After a multi-million pound restoration and refurbishment, it is once again the place to go to in Ludlow. The magnificent black and white Tudor exterior is once more truly imposing and inside it has retained its historic roots but with contemporary touches.
Now for a little more history . . . The Feathers dates back to 1619 and was completed by Rees Jones, a lawyer from Wales who had come to Ludlow to pursue his profession at the “Council of the Marches”.
Listed as a Grade I building in 1954, the hotel is one of around 500 listed buildings in Ludlow, but is certainly one of its best known. Converted to an inn in 1670, the imposing half-timbered Feathers Hotel is noted for its Jacobean furnishings and its timber façade which features motifs of the Prince of Wales’ feathers, from where the name derives.
The top class restoration has seen quirky touches to its interior, with ornate ceilings and stunning floor to ceiling woodwork revealed. The studded plank front door is the original as well as bays that are moulded with curved mullions and transoms with cast diamond glazing.
Special care was taken working on the wooden carvings, originally restored back in 1970 by the renowned Robert Pancheri, for which he won the Civic Trust Award in that year.
Today there are comfortable lounge areas, a bar, restaurant, function room and luxury bedrooms.
It is hard to remember how it had fallen into such a downward spiral now.
So . . . after a very pleasant hour with friends, some from the ‘old’ days and some who never knew it in its heyday, it was time to return to try out the food.
A mid-week meal is often not a good time to eat out in a quiet place like Ludlow. You can be the only people eating in there which does nothing for the atmosphere.
And indeed we were the only people initially in the restaurant. However the meet and greet and genuine welcome from front of house staff could not be bettered and we immediately felt at home.
There was also the perfect background music for me, some gentle jazz and crooner recordings which filled in the rather quiet room – at that stage in the evening.
We were given the choice of tables and settled in a corner – from where we could properly check out the room and any other diners!
A delicious and light amuse bouche arrived – fish terrine with pea purée and a basket with a selection of homemade rolls and flavoured butters. So tempted to empty the bread basket but I didn’t want to blunt my appetite for what was to come.
I was initially very tempted by a vegetarian starter and main course, even though not of that church. But decided to have goat’s cheese bon bons with beetroot and chilli purée and balsamic roasted shallots. If you don’t want to eat that dish from the picture above right, you must be mad. The bon bons were very light and entriely melt-in-the-mouth. For those who are not keen on goat’s cheese, this dish was so gentle on the palate it would be difficult to reject.
Across the table was another vegetarian starter – a risotto of wild mushrooms with roasted chestnuts and tarragon oil. With the rice cooked just so, still resistant, and a heavenly selection of mushrooms, I had to be very pushy to get a taste.
Next I had a herb crusted hake steak with garlic and chilli spinach served on a seafood and potato stew. What a dish! Perfect white fleshed hake in a light crust and a stew that was a main meal in itself – all manner of delights for a fish lover like this Piscean.
Peppered loin of venison was my dining companion’s choice. Thick, juicy and tender pieces of local venison in a deep juniper and red wine jus arrived with braised tadicchio, potato terrine and butternut squash purée.
We had a little rest before dessert as I simply had to have a classic of traditional dining rooms – crêpe suzette. Some may say it’s a dated pudding, but with many things across all aspects of like, you simply can’t beat the classics.
I was in utter heaven as the paper thin crêpes arrived at the table covered with a rich orange sauce, cointreau and vanilla ice cream. I can’t remember ever having that in the old days at The Feathers but I do remember it from many similar establishments.
A committed crème brûlée man, Clive also had a classic – vanilla served with raspberries and delicate meringue. And I couldn’t get in quickly enough to sneak a spoonful off his plate.
One quick mention to drinks, there is an extremely well-priced and thought-out wine list and bar drinks won’t break the bank.
Now back to being the only two at the start of the evening. The restaurant gradually became busier as other couples came in and also a large table of friends. There were also several people enjoying drinks in the lounge areas. Not bad for a Thursday evening in winter.
It won’t be long before we return and we have already recommended plume@feathers to a number of people. It will also be the place we will take my foodie sister-in-law and her husband when they next make the great journey north to Shropshire.
Hallelujah, hallelujah for Crest Hotels and the excellent job it has done on The Feathers. And also for the faultess staff.
The Feathers Hotel,
24-25 Bull Ring,
Classic French onion soup, £6.50
Smoked haddock, chive and potato cakes, £6.95
Home cured gin salmon, £9.50
Roasted belly of pork, pan fried pork, pork tenderloin, £17.95
Pan fried medallion of beef fillet, slow cooked beef shin croquette, £22.95
Butternut squash ravioli, £14.50
Chocolate trio, £8.95
Classic tart au citron, £6.50
Peanut butter parfait, £7.50