The grounds at Tortworth Court are spectacular, beautifully manicured and laid out, sweeping away from the grand building of the hotel; it’s a pleasure to take a seat at one of the umbrella-shaded outside tables for an early evening tipple, and just for fun pretend it’s all yours for that moment. The aptly named Tipi is a new addition to the gardens, tucked in the corner and rather larger than your average tipi tent, it’s a cracking idea for something different in the realms of outdoor eating; and as you dine under canvas somebody at Tortworth obviously presaged the current long wave of wet summer weather. Inside, it’s dressed with fancy twinkling lights twirled around the upright poles, light wooden furniture and gives a sense that you’ve been on safari and someone has obligingly pitched a commodious tent for you to have your supper in.
We were charmed, and the menu is great too. Based on small plates to share tapas-style, the Tipi is the epitome of casual dining with all the upmarket trimmings; our choice of a South African rosé arrived stylishly served in an ice-bucket full to the brim of crackling ice – toasted by us both as the perfect summer aperitif. We decided to have our tapas Spanish-style and order two dishes to start, and then as the mood took us, reorder as and when. This wasn’t a problem, and we began with teriyaki glazed chicken skewer and pan-fried chilli garlic prawns. The dishes are quite substantial, and I had a short worry that perhaps something delicious might have to go untasted later but for the moment the chicken skewer was excellent, tender and spicy and the chilli garlic prawns packed a punch (we made an error here by not ordering flatbread to mop up the sauce of these but corrected it on the next round).
Next, we ordered sauté chorizo glazed with red wine and honey, ham hock bon-bons with tarragon crème fraiche, and that good old-fashioned tapas staple – patata bravas with spicy tomato sauce. This selection fairly filled our table for two and we had to jettison the bottle of water thoughtfully provided to make room. The ham hock bon-bons were fat, round cheeky little blighters, crisped on the outside and at three mouthfuls each, were rich and satisfying, as was the sautéed chorizo and thankfully this time we did have the flatbread to mop up the sauce.
As everything else had proved so good, we ordered desserts: pistachio chocolate opera – pistachio sponge with chocolate mousse and pistachio crumb and vanilla ice-cream, and vanilla pannacotta with pineapple, mango and mint salsa infused with Malibu. Scrumptious! Apparently, you can rent the Tipi for entertaining friends which sounds like a great idea even if the weather suggests otherwise.