24 March 2000

THERE is a long and winding lane to Upper Brompton Farm, Cross Houses and just when we begin to think that perhaps we had missed our way in the dark, a sign points out the driveway. Ahead, radiating warmth and light is a handsome Georgian house. We have reached The Brompton where we have been invited to partake in "Country House Dining" a new venture at this 127ha (315-acre) mixed farm.

George Roberts and his wife Christine already offer award winning b&b accommodation at their beautiful home and guests have the option of delicious evening meals too. But Christine wanted to take things a step further by offering gourmet dinners tailored to individual parties of people – resident or non-resident – who wanted a special ambience that cant really be found in impersonal hotels or restaurants. To do this she needed to find a creative chef who would share the couples passion for food and who would source the very best of British produce wherever possible. She found him in Gareth Morgan and a symbiotic business arrangement was agreed.

"Gareth gets the chance to make his name by cooking beautiful food for appreciative people – we provide a professional standard kitchen and an excellent venue and any profits we make will be split down the middle," says Christine.

"We want to offer the best in dining but in a relaxed unpretentious way. This is not a restaurant, this is our home and we will do things our way and not worry how other people might do it. The meals will be a set menu usually of five courses – previously agreed with the client – at £35/person. We can offer a selection of specimen menus to choose from or provide a themed evening – the Best of British, Italian, Moroccan, Spanish etc. Or in the summer we could arrange garden parties, jazz evenings, even barbecues, and tailor a whole weekend around them and tie in to some of the local attractions such as hot-air ballooning."

Every evening arranged will be different but Christine and George invited Farmlife and several couples associated with Shropshire county magazines and the local chamber of commerce to an inaugural dinner to get a taste of what "Country House Dining" is all about. We gathered for drinks at 7.30 in the comfortable lounge with its roaring fire – mostly strangers or at best, acquaintances

Half an hour later we crossed the hallway to the dining room where candle light reflections danced on the polished wood tables, gleaming cutlery and wine glasses. For this night only Christine and George dined with us, in future they will be welcoming guests and waiting at table. Five wonderful courses and some fine wines and a few good yarns later we were all friends and only when Gareth came in to meet the people he had been cooking for all night for, did we realise the time. Midnight had come and gone unnoticed and it was 2am when we reluctantly bid our goodnights.

The food and the ambience had been superb, the fine old house had worked its magic, it had been a wonderful evening and those of us staying the night would need no rocking to sleep in our four-poster beds.

If "Country House Dining" at the Brompton can be so enjoyable for a group of strangers, just imagine what it would be like for a group of friends.

Inquiries: 01743 761629

Gourmet food, ambience

& dinner with a difference

Dinner with a difference is on the menu in a Shropshire farmhouse where guests can

dine on five gourmet courses in true country house style. Tessa Gates and

photographer Keith Huggett joined the inaugural dinner party