On a cold, grey, rainy autumn evening, I went to The Willow Tree in Bourn to dine in a dome with my bubble.
I admit I was worried. I’d checked out the website, and the pictures of diners on a balmy summer’s evening looked enchanting. Tonight, however, I anticipated rain thundering on the roof, water dripping through onto the table, and cold feet.
Because of the 10 pm closing rules, they’d moved our booking forward, and we arrived at five o’clock. The six domes are in the gardens with views across the Secret Meadow to the countryside beyond. Even though it wasn’t dark, the fairy lights draped on the eponymous willow tree and the glow of the domes promised a magical evening.
My first pleasant surprise was that the structure of the domes is polycarbonate, not glass. So although it was raining, this created more of a gentle pitter-patter sound than a conversation-drowning roar. At times during the evening we experienced bouts of heavy rain, but the dome remained watertight. It did steam up slightly, but this added to the feeling of privacy. Best of all, there was a very efficient Dyson heater, so no cold feet.
Each dome can seat up to a maximum of six people (due to current restrictions), and they are surprisingly roomy inside. The quirky decor of mismatched chairs and unusual table decorations adds to the captivating atmosphere. Although we could see the outlines of other diners in their domes, we couldn’t hear their conversations. This made for an intimate dining experience.
The menu at The Willow Tree is extensive and updated regularly. There is something for everyone, including a children’s menu. The food was terrific, particularly their vegetables. Seasonal produce is always on the menu. The staff work together to create unusual dishes from what they find around them. This evening they’d made a dessert from blackberries foraged in the Secret Meadow.
As the night drew in, the spell was cast, and the domes came to life with gold and purple fairy lights reflected in the raindrops. It was a fabulous experience, and without a doubt I will be going back to The Willow Tree to dine in a dome again. I’m already anticipating how beautiful they will look in the snow.
WORDS Jaqui Fairfax
Information about Dining in the Dome
‘The Willow Tree dining domes allow guests to feel safe in their space as well, as offering a unique dining experience for two to six people. By night, it feels like a Winter Wonderland with fairy lights all around, certainly a perfect choice for a special celebration or the festive season ahead.’
The domes each cost £30 to hire for lunch or afternoon tea, and £45 for early or late evening sessions. (Each session lasts approximately two and a half hours lunch and afternoon, and two hours and fifteen minutes in the evening).
Guests are required to order a minimum of two courses each from the regular menu.
Guests do not need to wear masks in the domes, but they are required to wear masks when entering the restaurant, i.e. to check-in, visit the bathrooms, or when heading to the cocktail bar before or after dome dining.
The Willow Tree, 29 High Street, Bourn, CB23 2SQ