, closeted away just a couple of miles away from the beautiful tourist town of Bradford on Avon is exactly what’s meant by a hidden gem. It’s a gorgeously pretty Georgian manor house but with a uniquely Tom and Barbara feel. Turn off the main road into the grounds of Moonraker and you find yourself in a homestead with chickens and Gloucester Old Spot pigs and an enormous vegetable garden.
One of the main reasons to come here – apart from the hotel’s close proximity to Bath, Bradford on Avon and Longleat – is for the food which is exceptional. Chef Matthew Briddon (ex River Café and Heathcotes) is fanatical about sourcing and prefers to grow as much as possible himself. Moonraker has its own smokery where Matthew uses hay to smoke the most unbelievably delicious salmon I’ve ever tasted.
We tried the tasting menu and it was unfailingly good. My children were wild for an amuse bouche of garden soup, a tomato base, spiked with herbs and topped with a tiny slab of cheese on toast. Pickled beetroot came with whipped goat’s cheese, nuts and garden herb crumb – it was outrageous. Then there was that melt in the mouth salmon and a crowd pleasing pudding of lemon sorbet with shortbread.
You’d expect to feel almost comatose with a blow out like that but the ingredients at Moonraker are so fresh and the cooking so wholesome, that instead the end of the meal feels like a disappointment.
Breakfasts are equally good – the full works with sausages and bacon from their own pigs, that hay cured salmon with perfectly scrambled eggs, boiled egg and soliders or yoghurt and compote for the fainter hearted.
There’s a very cute bar at the hotel, more like a miniature old fashioned pub and crucially it has the wonderful Bath ales and local ciders on tap as well as Sipmith gin and Greygoose vodka.
The owners Tudor and Lucy set out to create a hotel that was more of a home from home, down to the roving animals and Radio 4 playing in a sitting room stuffed with books and boardgames.
Just down the road you'll find Bradford on Avon, a kind of budget Bath, with lots of Georgian buildings in that famous cream stone and a canal running through its heart. This is the place for a long bike ride along the towpath with plenty of perfectly placed pubs for a pitstop. It's also home to the volunteer run Bradford on Avon museum. We had one of those shall we, shan’t we moments when we stumbled upon it and I’m so glad we did. It's full of extraordinary things like a gigantic Roman brooch and orginal small wheeled Moulton bikes from the 60s. But the real draw is Christopher's an exact replication of an old 1900s chemist that stood unchanged in Bradford on Avon until the 1980s. Huge glass flasks filled with various tinctures, salmon pink wartime packaging holding potions such as Middle Age Tonic, a home-made Indian perfume called Siva from the 1920s alongside advertising featuring a demure maiden in a high necked blouse - the place is incredible, a time machine of nostalgia. We loved it.
Two hidden gems, then, just a few minutes from each other and both within striking distance of Bath. It's what we love best about the West Country.