Aynhoe Park, a magnificent 73-acre Cotswolds estate, has an illustrious history. Originally built by the Cartwright family in 1615, it remained in their ownership into the middle of the 20th century. The original building was largely destroyed by Royalists during the English Civil War, following their defeat at the battle of Naseby in 1645 but was later rebuilt. The extensive gardens were landscaped in the 1760s by iconic designer Capability Brown.
After being taken over in 2006 by music industry entrepreneur James Perkins, Aynhoe Park gained a reputation as a rock’n’roll party house; Mick Jagger’s daughter Jade was married there while Noel Gallagher hosted his star-studded 50th birthday bash at the estate in 2017.
The latest chapter began in 2020, when luxury American home-furnishing brand RH (formerly Restoration Hardware) bought the Grade I-listed house to establish their first retail and hospitality outpost in the UK. Some might say it was a gamble for RH to combine a retail showroom alongside luxury hospitality, however the tumbling dice appear to have landed on double six. Spear’s samples lunch at The Orangery at RH England.
The estate lies just southeast of Banbury, on the border between Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire. It is about an hour and a half drive from London with easy access to the M40 and M1.
Design & interiors
The Orangery is an impressive room, with a towering 22-foot ceiling and large arched windows that allow for an abundance of natural light and give enchanting views across the deer park.
The furnishings are elegant, with Italian merino wool velvet seating and marble tables. An eye-catching light installation by acclaimed American glass designer, Alison Berger, hangs from the ceiling, cleverly imitating hundreds of falling raindrops.
Food & drink
The lunch menu offers plentiful options for a range of dietary needs. For starters, Spear’s opted for the fresh burrata with cherry tomatoes, and grilled avocado with Petrossian imperial Kaluga caviar. They were exceptionally well presented, perfectly seasoned and full of flavour. The pesto that accompanied the burrata was subtle enough and the crème fraîche complemented the salted taste of the caviar.
For the main courses, it was whole wood grilled Branzino and the Maitake mushroom. The Branzino, lightly drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice, was cooked to perfection and accompanied by a side of thin truffle fries covered with parmesan shavings. The option of some greenery, a little samphire perhaps, would have added have added some extra crunch and nutritional punch.
The Maitake mushroom was well presented and served with a good-sized portion of crispy rosemary potatoes. The flavours did not quite live up to the exceedingly high standard set by the other dishes but any mild regret was soon abated by the first-class white wine recommendation, a Bourgogne Aligoté, which was light, fruity and easy on the palate. This was followed by two exceptional desserts, a butterscotch brulé and a banana split that both tasted even better than they looked.
Warm, knowledgeable, and attentive without being overbearing. RH staff were also friendly and well informed about the history of the estate.
There was a cordial mix on a Saturday afternoon of refined mature diners, smartly dressed middle-aged couples, and younger families. The background lounge music was set at just the right volume and helped to create an atmosphere that was both inviting and relaxing.
Valet parking is complementary and there is also a juice bar available for diners and retail guests. The West Wing of the house is now home to the Loggia, an outdoor restaurant that serves wood-fired pizzas and other Italian dishes in the summer months.
The Orangery at RH England: the verdict
The Orangery at RH England, The Gallery at Aynhoe Park is certainly worth visiting. RH has done well to successfully fuse history and modernity together and in doing so, they have created a very welcome addition to the Cotswolds dining landscape.
Aynhoe Park, Banbury, Oxfordshire, OX17 3BQ