Diglis House Hotel stands proudly on the River Severn in a quiet part of Worcester, a few minutes’ walk from the magnificent cathedral. Built in the 18th century, it was home to some famous Worcester families before becoming a pub and then a hotel in the 20th century.
Now you can sip drinks in the garden and watch the water as swans glide in to land on the river like a Concorde. Then, if you’re booked in for dinner, the friendly staff will lead you to the upper restaurant terrace, deliver menus and take drink orders.
That’s more or less where the good ends. What follows is a cascade of culinary disaster; an avalanche of incompetent, lazy, couldn’t give a damn cooking that makes you think Diglis is auditioning for a reality TV remake of Fawlty Towers.
The menu promises a glorious feast of British and European inspiration. So there’s artisan bread, soup of the day, chicken parfait, burrata with tomatoes, meat, fish or vegan plates, pork, steak, crispy duck salad, sea bream fillet, beer-battered haddock, a burger, plenty of puddings, a table of Worcestershire cheese and much more.
And there is a children’s menu: ‘Little Plates for Little People’. Such charm, such choice. So much promise. From there, our little ones go for a “mini” burger and fish and chips. Their arrival forced upon me the new experience of sending back plates because they are too hot: burning, little fingers – burning heat. The kitchen knew these were children’s dishes. Was it deliberate? Troublesome children. We will burn the little flames…
We adults began by sharing plates of “pulled-ham croquettes” – as devoid of flavor and spice as they were oversized, “salmon and grass bons bons” the scale of cricket balls and with no visible hint of fish or herbs, and “burrata” [with] heritage tomato’, where the burrata’s tears were dry and sad, and with absolutely no hint of ‘heritage’ in the cold tomato. These dishes were combined with the side of “summer vegetables” we had intended for the main course.
Oddly enough this was a plate of cold roasted carrot with a couple of strips of cabbage and about three peas on a plate of spring onions, radishes, lettuce and basil.
So far, so unusually sad. Then came the mussels. Here the kitchen delivered them overcooked in a heavy yellow sauce that had the spirit of those starters. It literally tasted like nothing; softened MDF in shells in murky water.
Not wanting to embarrass the lovely waiting staff, I put them inside to ask that they be removed. Can I have grilled sirloin? I asked. A simple, quick fix for the chef, I figured.
More trick me. Twenty-five minutes later, a dish arrived that puts the slaughter of animals to shame. Overcooked – a long way from medium-rare – and a sad, inedible specimen. Meanwhile, I noticed diners at a neighboring table similarly despairing over their mussels.
I ordered a chocolate brownie from the children’s menu – which was amazing, a gooey center with nice vanilla ice cream – and left.
We stayed at the hotel. Was the same person in the kitchen at breakfast? Cold, hard-poached eggs on soft bread, scrambled eggs that were gray and the texture of crushed peas and cuts of black pudding – or were they slices of charcoal?
But oh, the location, the yet unfulfilled promise of this place. It can be as historic, special and unique as the Waterside Inn at Bray. One day maybe. But not today.
Read last week’s column: William Sitwell reviews Maria G’s, London: ‘The Amalfi Coast – by way of residential Kensington’