TINA ROBINS visits chef Marco Pierre White at his latest venture — and finds some unusual inhabitants at the gothic pile

The Gothic splendour of Marco Pierre White’s latest project hides a charming secret – it is home to a whole herd of vintage rocking horses.

But while the Rudloe Arms is set in 14 acres of countryside with dramatic views, surrounded by his farm animals, the exquisitely carved equines are stabled in the bedrooms.

“We’re building a rocking horse sanctuary,” the chef joked as he showed off one of his favourites, discovered in a Bristol junk shop and carefully given the distressed-look treatment.

Built in around 1800 near Corsham for entrepreneur Judd Pictor, the house is currently undergoing a revamp.

“It needed it. It was looking like a '70s care home,” said Marco.

“I think when you take on the responsibility of somewhere like Rudloe you become a caretaker and so you have a duty to preserve it and protect it to the best of your ability. It is a beautiful house and I enjoy doing it.”

One of the most impressive rooms is the Toti and Nell Gifford circus-themed bedroom. But all of the rooms in the main house are filled with talking points, be it quirky artworks, antiques or taxidermy, while the generous-sized bathrooms with their roll top baths and huge mirrors exude grandeur.

Our party of three started the evening meal with an amuse bouche of classic fish soup à la Rochelaise with Rouille, croutons and Gruyere followed by Croustade of quail eggs Maintenon, Ravioli of snails à la Bourguignonne and Tagliatelle of Calamari.

Each dish was a delight as far as taste goes, but the ravioli in its sauce persillade was a colourful feast for the eyes.

A rich and velvety sauce grand veneur surrounded the roast haunch of venison au poivre main course while the roast partridge à la Forestier with its champagne-braised cabbage and fricassee of wild mushrooms was bursting with flavours.

Meltingly smooth panna cotta with champagne-poached strawberries, a generous sherry trifle Wally Ladd and wonderfully moist sherry fruit cake with mature cheddar – a nod to Marco’s Yorkshire roots – rounded off the meal.

We were still swapping spoons to taste the desserts as head chef Phil Bayliss joined us for a chat.

At only 26 he has already spent four years working with Pierre Koffmann in London but was lured away from the bright lights to rural Wiltshire by Marco, who was once a pupil of the famed chef.

His appetite for the job bubbles up as he talks about the dishes produced by his small team of chefs, including Royal Wootton Bassett local Danny Broom.

And although Marco is deeply involved in the revamp of the hotel as well as his new project in Singapore, The English House, he still has a foot in the kitchen.

“Marco thinks differently to everyone else. He and I talk every day. We bounce ideas. My training and his knowledge work well together,” said Phil.

And the former three-starred Michelin chef is not above helping out. Phil even sent a shopping list to the boss when he was in Bath looking for antiques.

In fact he often joins the chefs in the kitchen to demonstrate new recipes, or at least his way of cooking them.

“I enjoy teaching,” said Marco.

“I think it is my favourite pastime. It is really important. As a chef you’re always learning.”

Like Phil he has little time for the trend of primping and pushing food around on a plate to make it look arty.

“The secret of presentation is cooking ingredients perfectly and being generous with them,” he explained.

“I’m just not into small portions. It’s all about feeding people. It’s not about trying to impress people.”

Rudloe Arms,

Leafy Lane,


SN13 0PA

Parking – yes

Our review ratings:

Food: 10/10

Choice: 9.5/10

Décor: 9.5/10

Customer service: 10/10

Main courses £13.50 to £26.50

Trip Advisor rating: 3.5/5