LITTLE OAK VINEYARD SIEGERREDE 2016
A surprisingly dry wine produced from grapes on Siegerrebe vines that are most suited to the climate in England.
Little Oak Vineyard, located near Chipping Campden, was started by Steve Wilson and first planted in 2006 with 400 Siegerrebe vines. 2016 was their best year to date with fantastic quality grapes, a great yield and almost perfect sugar and acidity readings on the days the grapes were harvested.
THE EBRINGTON ARMS
For over a decade, The Ebrington Arms has been one of the most highly regarded pubs in the Cotswolds. In July 2017, the pub was crowned as the UK's number one village pub by The Times in 2017, as well as featuring their Top 30 UK Pubs for 2019. They have held 2 AA Rosettes for 8 consecutive years and were awarded the County's Dining Pub of the Year 2019 in The Good Pub Guide.
As well as being a great place to eat it is also a wonderful place to stay with five luxury ensuite rooms.
They are also home to the Yubbington Brewing Company that produces some wonderful home-brewed craft ales.
Kuba Winkowski, head chef at the Feathered Nest in Nether Westcote, has been crowned the Craft Guild’s National Chef of the Year at The Restaurant Show at Olympia in London.
Following in the footsteps of some of the industry's biggest names such as Gordon Ramsay, Winkowski wowed the judges with his Lobster starter, Yorkshire grouse main and sticky toffee with lemon, clotted cream dessert.
The award, judged by many of the UK's top chefs including Tom Kerridge and Clare Smyth, was based on theirindividual performance on the day, as they create their three-course menu in two hours in front of a live audience.
The final 25 restaurants in The Times' Critics Top 100 have been announced this morning and three more from the Cotswolds have made the list.
The list sees critics Marina O’Loughlin and Giles Coren choosing their favourites from all over the UK.
The Bell at Sapperton
Cracking pub in a proper quiet little Gloucestershire village. Been going on and off for years. Used to love picnics on a rug in the front garden, but they have tables now (posh!). Most recently thrilled by a burrata and heritage-tomato salad, flat-iron chimichurri chicken, top-flight kids’ burgers and pints of Pliny the Elderflower. Get it? Pliny the . . . oh, go away.
Simpsons Fish and Chips, Cheltenham
This former Chippy of the Year squats on a corner off the main road looking more than anything like a bicycle shop or carwash. There’s a large, airy takeaway section on the right-hand side and, on the left, a big, bright, wonderfully fresh-smelling eat-in restaurant, which had a Union Jack-themed refurb recently but kept a bit of an American diner feel along with its wooden floorboards and black and white tiles, and retained just enough nautical tat (mermaids, anchors) to remind us exactly where we are. The incredibly helpful and smiley service staff wear 1950s-style waitress outfits, but black for a bit of chic, with red hairbands — all of which is comforting to the relatively elderly clientele I found at noon on a Saturday taking advantage of the £8.50 “senior meal” deal. Which shows the place feels just as strong a sense of responsibility for the local human community as it does for the maritime one, everything here being not just accredited but warmly endorsed and indeed positively frothed over by the Marine Stewardship Council. The food is good and cheap (for fish). Between us, my wife and two small children put away a half portion of battered scampi (£4), langoustine (£5) and king prawns (£5) in which the scampi and langoustine were kept admirably pink and translucent by the batter, but the prawns could have done with removal of the pooey digestive tract. Then also two slices of battered halloumi (£3 — fluffy, salty), a £2 bowl of frickles (fried, battered pickles — very modern), a haddock (£9) and, from the kids’ menu, some fish bites and a sausage.
The Old Butcher’s, Stow on the Wold
Well-established fish restaurant on the high street of this beautiful, friendly, much-maligned-by-urban-snobs Cotswold market town with young staff, great produce and a very modern shabby chic vibe. I like to sit outside at the front scoffing lobster and chips or scallops with seaweed butter or a truncheon of char-grilled monkfish with a bottle of picpoul, gazing at the view down the hill. They give you blankets when the weather turns cold. It’s the best.
You can see all of the final 25 restaurants by following the link below and the rest of the list on our previous blog post.
You might have seen in this weekend's edition of The Times where critics Giles Coren and Marina O’Loughlin chose their top 100 eating spots in the UK.
Four of Giles' choices are right here in the Cotswolds and we have listed them below with the extract from The Times.
The Hare, Milton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire
Lovely pub where the star is the daily changing fish board, from which I’ve had excellent gravlax of Scottish salmon with roasted beetroot and horseradish crème fraîche, brilliantly crisp and clean monkfish cheeks breaded and deep-fried with a marvellous tartare sauce, and a stunningly good fillet of black bream, huge, crisped on the skin side, perfectly sweet and moist, on top of a big tangle of crab linguine. It could easily have fed two and at £16.50 puts London portions to shame.
The Bell Inn, Langford, Oxfordshire
Best little food pub in the world? Probably. They put a pizza oven in mostly for the pizza, but blackened, crackling flatbread running with melty marrowfat and scattered with parsley fair blew me away — and when I rolled it up around some slices of the exquisite aged roasted sirloin and drizzled over it some dark, sticky gravy, I was in actual heaven. Walk it off in the graveyard next door — there’s an 8th-century rood relief on which the Christ appears to have enjoyed his lunch so much, his head has fallen off
The King’s Head, Bledington, Oxfordshire
Beautiful pub in a beautiful village with exceptional cooking and terrific staff. The best thing about it for me is the playground outside on the village green which also has acres of grass, a stream and bridges so that you can eat and drink all afternoon with the kids having a riot in plain sight. In summer an old-fashioned ice cream hut does roaring trade and if you’re lucky you can eat one while laughing at, sorry, intently watching a bit of morris dancing. The whole experience is rightfully one of legend in this part of Oxfordshire.
Russell’s Fish and Chips, Broadway, Worcestershire
Call it twee, gentrified, whatever words you feel the need to use when denigrating a rural market town that has decided not to be depressing and horrid, but I like Broadway. And this excellent modern chip shop is one of the best things in it. There are restrained quantities of jolly nautical tat, blackboards revealing daily specials and a separate board that announced, “The potatoes we are chipping are marfona” — not a variety I know, but I am quite certain that anywhere offering to name your chip potato variety will probably feed you very nicely. And it did. This is absolutely top-quality fish and chips, with haddock and cod offered, as well as plaice either breaded or grilled, whole tail scampi, fish cakes or fish finger sandwich with fantastic chips (dry, firm, nutty), a paper pot of good tartare, smashed peas and a lemon wedge. A big old-school prawn cocktail for £4.95 was also beautifully done.
The list is in two installments on the Times website. Luckily if you sign up, you get 2 articles free. You can find them below.
First Installment - www.thetimes.co.uk/article/best-places-to-eat-in-the-uk-8gzjdb9f9
Second Installment - www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/times2/best-places-to-eat-in-the-uk-our-critics-reveal-their-favourite-restaurants-rv8dgvczs
‘On the final day of 2017, I had not just the best mouthful of the year, but the best mouthful of my life’ claimed Giles Coren of a pub that had only been back open for five weeks after a couple of years in the wilderness. It was high praise indeed and something that appears on flyers on each table, but was also a lot of pressure for the new bosses Tom Noest and Peter Creed who's covers grew from twenty a night to over sixty with visitors looking for their 'mouthful of a lifetime'.
The pub is small and snug with painted walls, exposed beams and stone, mismatched art and furniture and flagstones throughout. We headed to the bar for a pre-dinner drink and discovered Wood Brothers Gin for the first time, created by brothers Ed and Charlie on a farm just down the road. We sat at a barrel that doubles as a table and enjoyed some Padron Peppers and Rock Salt before moving into the dining room.
The menu mixes modern and classic with simple and seasonal and includes an abundance of dishes large and small. The beautifully blistered garlic, parsley and bone marrow flat bread is delivered straight from the pizza oven, that you catch a glimpse of every time the kitchen door opens, is a must and is perfect for sharing. This was followed by Salt Cod Fritters and Buttermilk Fried Chicken to officially start although we had definitely started two courses ago. Both were served with aioli, the latter with a choice of garlic or chilli. We opted for chilli which generated a kick of heat in every bite.
The mains soon followed (Lamb Neck Fillet and Rainbow Chard and the Cheese Burger and fries) along with the extensive wine list that was heavily French and European with the addition of a few from the New World, a red, two whites and a sparkling from the Poulton Hill Estate that's just 20 minutes away and one from Lebanon. While she opted for a large glass of red which arrived in a carafe, I went for Bobby's Beer that was on tap behind the bar.
I had had my eye on the Lamb Neck Fillet while looking at the sample menu a few days in advance of our visit. It didn't disappoint, in fact, it was possibly the best dish I have eaten this year. The pink tender meat with an incredible salty crumb exploding with garlic and anchovy and the beautifully cooked chard blew me away. A dish you would expect to find at over £20 in most other places was just £14. The side of mash I ordered worked very well too. The Cheese Burger was recommended by Pete. A meal once looked upon as dull and pointless is now a mainstay on every good menu. The meat in this one perfectly cooked, the sauce was similar to what you might find in a Big Mac (completely intentional as Pete's favourite burger) yet nicer and it arrived under an avalanche of fries.
There wasn't enough room for pudding but it was hard to resist the Chocolate Nemesis. There were Maldon Salt flakes sprinkled on top and crème fraîche on the side. It was as rich as its name suggests and however much you will try not finish it, the saltiness and sweetness will make sure you do.
The pub has only been open for 10 months but you would never know it. They have just finished eight stylish newly renovated rooms, all with king size double beds and en-suite walk in showers and again you will be shocked at the prices that start from just over £70 a night B&B. Their ethos is all about offering people good food, good wine, good beer and a good experience and they do it in droves. The manner in which they cater for everyone; young and old, local and further afield and deliver it with such quality, ease and value is simply outstanding.
There are a few things in life that I'm very sceptical about and chain pubs are pretty high up on my list.
The Frogmill, which is now owned by Brakspear, has recently undergone a huge renovation which has transformed what was a tired country inn into a beautiful looking pub with 28 boutique rooms. The patio is one of the best places to sink a drink in the sunshine, I for one enjoyed a few afternoons on the sun loungers during the recent heatwave.
My only other experiences of Brakspear establishments have been The Porch House and The Sheep, both in Stow on the Wold. The food is always pretty good but the service in both can be a little trying to say the least so I was intrigued (slightly concerned) to see what it would be like at The Frogmill.
We were greeted three times by three different members of staff, the third of which showed us to our table in the restaurant that was full to the brim which is very good for a Thursday. We shouldn't ignore the fact that it took nearly an hour for our food order to be taken, however, I would hazard a guess that it was delaying tactics enabling the kitchen to cope. This doesn't really bother me as I'm out for the evening and would always much prefer to be sat in a restaurant that's buzzing than an empty one with no atmosphere.
Our starters arrived, Smoked King Scallops with summer pea velouté, pancetta and nasturtium oil (£11.95) and Summer Lobster Ceviche, BBQ’d watermelon, sweetcorn & jalapeño succotash (£14.50). Both were simply delicious and were generous in size. The scallops were the fattest juiciest we've had away from the coast and the freshness of the BBQ's fruit with the lobster was truly delightful.
All day leading up to the meal I was craving a good chunk of meat. Luckily there is an extensive grill menu that includes three steaks, whisky glazed pork belly ribs, tuna, lobster and the 16oz pork tomahawk (£16.50) that we ordered along with a medium-rare (it arrived with a stick in it telling us it was medium-rare too just in case we had forgotten what we ordered) 8oz ribeye steak (£20). None of the dishes from the grill menu come with any sides which, as I have mentioned before, is a pet hate of mine. The menu recommends three sides between two people but two was enough. There are heaps to choose from and we opted for Lobster Bisque Macaroni Cheese (£6.50) and some incredible Parmesan & Truffle fries (£5). The steak was perfectly cooked and you could tell that it was a real quality piece of meat, as was the pork. Both were seasoned well and the sides, and a pot of Béarnaise sauce, worked really well and again were generous in size.
Like with the meat craving, I really fancied some cheese too so followed this with The Frogmill Cheeseboard (£8) which included a blue, a creamy goats cheese, a cheddar, some wonderful crab apple jelly and crackers.
The food was faultless. The service was really good and the staff all extremely attentive and wonderfully friendly hosts. There were a few teething problems as you would expect but nothing major and certainly nothing that couldn't easily be ironed out quickly.
What Brakspear have done to The Frogmill is truly outstanding. They have created a country inn for all seasons that has the potential of becoming one of the most popular venues in the Cotswolds.
The Halfway House in Kineton near Guiting Power has created a range of Sunday Roast Burgers. However, these are no ordinary burgers. The usual bread bun has been replaced by Yorkshire Puddings and they are served with roast potatoes and a pot of thick gravy for dipping.
Which one would you choose?
To book a table at The Halfway House, please call 01451 850344
Oxfordshire-based pub operator and brewer Brakspear has today revealed details of the extensive transformation set to be unveiled when the much-loved The Frogmill reopens its doors with an entirely new look in July 2018, following the brewer’s acquisition of the site in December 2015.
The largest project in Brakspear’s 240-year history, the renovation is set to breathe new life into the 16th century inn, transforming it into a boutique destination in the heart of the Cotswolds with delicious all-day dining, stylish rooms and attractive wedding and event facilities.
Tom Davies, Chief Executive of Brakspear, commented: “We’ve always been very mindful of the fact that this is a place with a rich history, close to the hearts of many in the local community. The renovation itself, although creating an entirely new look and feel to the inn’s restaurant, rooms, bar and beautiful outdoor space, will showcase many elements of its heritage alongside thoughtful modern twists; giving a distinctly stylish feel coupled with bags of old-world Cotswold charm. We invite all to come along in July to see it for themselves!”
With Brakspear’s in-house design team leading the renovations, The Frogmill will boast an entirely new bar and restaurant layout alongside 28 plush en-suite bedrooms. Design details revealed for the first time today include:
An entirely new, large bar area has been created at the heart of the inn through clever use of former cellar space, with the site’s former bar area transformed into a cosy snug complete with open fire. Designed to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere in keeping with the building’s longstanding history, the bar itself will have a distinctly traditional feel with timber-clad walls, reclaimed oak beams, flagstone flooring and mismatched vintage furniture, with a beautiful oak bar as its centrepiece.
Much like the bar, the Frogmill’s new-look restaurant area has been extended with a spacious open-plan layout, affording the space with plenty of light for a bright, relaxed dining experience. Classic Cotswold-country hues will give the restaurant a refined, elegant feel in keeping with the locality, with timber-clad walls, sandblasted oak dining furniture and eclectic artwork giving the space plenty of texture and personality.
28 en-suite bedrooms will offer a plush space for travellers to unwind, perfectly positioned to explore The Cotswolds’ numerous towns and villages. Distinctly boutique in feel, the bedrooms will house sink-in Feather & Black beds, statement wallpaper from William Morris and Zoffany, GP&J Baker fabrics and eye-catching light fixtures from Jim Lawrence; as well as vintage Ercol furnishings in several of the larger bedrooms. En-suite bathrooms will carry on the laid-back luxury feel of the rooms, with feature tiling, waterfall showers and beautiful baths in a selection of the rooms.
Wedding and Events Space
Decorated in an elegant, classic French style, The Frogmill’s new-look wedding and events space will feature a minstrel gallery complete with traditional imported French balustrading; ideal for picture-perfect wedding shots. With a capacity of 150, the space will offer generous provisions for weddings, celebrations and corporate events alike.
The Frogmill’s extensive grounds will offer a tranquil place for visitors to sit back, relax and drink in the stunning rolling Cotswold landscape surrounding the inn. Completely re-landscaped courtesy landscape designer Justin Spink, the dog-friendly garden will boast a dining terrace and boules court, as well as a large lawned area; perfect for younger guests wanting to stretch their legs.
Tom Davies continued: “We’re incredibly excited that the opening date for our new-look Frogmill is almost upon us and the site is really starting to take shape. It’s amazing to see the fruits of our labour come together after months of hard work and we can’t wait to reveal exactly what this much-loved inn has up its sleeves for locals and tourists alike.”
Let's face it, the weather is pretty crap at the moment and the only thing that cheers us up is food and alcohol, correct?
Last Wednesday was no different, rain in the morning, grey skies in the afternoon. The only thing keeping us sane was an evening with the Cotswolds Distillery taking place that night at The Churchill Arms in Paxford. If you are familiar with the pub then you will know that the food is always of the highest quality. If you have never been then we suggest you try it soon.
Chef and proprietor Nick Deverell-Smith had created a menu featuring some of the distillery's finest tipples. For starter there was Cornish Pollock cured in Cotswolds Dry Gin, grapefruit and black pepper salad and some grapefruit bitters. I really don't like grapefruit. I thought it was just it was just my immature palate as a child but I have tried and tried and still find it utterly repulsive. Luckily there were some orange segments on the plate whose sweetness worked perfectly with the slight sharpness of the fish. There was also a slug of the gin to wash it down with which again, if you have yet to try it you are really missing out. You can always tell a good gin when you can drink it on its own over some ice. This is one of those gins.
The fact I love beef meant that I was looking forward to the main course. Local Todenham Farm beef, local broccoli, broccoli puree, Cotswolds single malt whisky oat crumb. The beef was perfectly pink (unless you wanted it a little more well done) and the crumb was packed with whisky notes. This was "The Cotswolds" on a plate with all the ingredients being sourced within a 10 minute drive of the pub. The whisky is the first ever single malt made here in the Cotswolds and if you don't think you like whisky then give this one a go. With notes of butterscotch, apricot and a hint of treacle, it is a fabulous introductory dram and truly exceptional for a 3 year-old.
For dessert there was The Churchill's take on an Affogato served with the distillery's Figgy Liquor. Now this stuff is the difference between remembering your night and not. It's made in small batches and sold exclusively at the distillery, apart from 4 bottles that are at The Churchill. It's 41% ABV and absolutely delicious. It literally is, as described, a "figgy fruitcake in a bottle". It should however have a warning on the bottle like you get when you go on long-haul flights to take a lap of the pub every now and again to make sure your legs still work. The dessert was light with one scoop of ice cream. We were recommended to pour our figgy liquor into it but that would have been a waste!
When you're passionate about supporting local, it is wonderful when two fantastic businesses come together to create something special. The Churchill Arms is the only pub to stock a full range of Cotswolds Distillery spirits and liquors. You can also try these on a tour of the distillery that you can book on their website. If you are thinking about doing either of these, we highly recommend getting somebody else to drive!
Two awesome Cotswolds businesses are coming together for a night of amazing food and drink.
The Churchill Arms in Paxford will host a 3-course dinner on Wednesday 4th April with a menu devised by top chef and Churchill Arms proprietor Nick Deverell-Smith featuring spirits and liquors from the Cotswolds Distillery.
This is going to be very good and spaces are limited so don't hesitate to call The Churchill Arms 01386 593 159 to book!
The Kingham Plough has been named in the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropub Awards. The list celebrates the very best gastro pubs and pub food in Great Britain.
Votes are cast in a poll of hundreds of industry experts, including top chefs, food writers, pubco chiefs, pub-guide editors and top suppliers to bring you this definitive list of the best gastropubs in the UK.
The Sportsman in Whitstable in Kent took top spot
You can see the full list by visiting www.top50gastropubs.com
Growing up, The Plough Inn at Ford used to be my local. I would walk in there as a teenager and the bar would be full of characters including "Bracer", "Dicky Sadler" and a load of other drinkers soaking up their stories as well as some Donnington Ales. It was also a popular spot for jockeys, people who thought they were jockeys, people who wanted to be jockeys and people who wanted to catch a glimpse of a jockey (and the Queen's Granddaughter). The pub had life. You would get "Ploughed in" - a term we'd use for being in there longer than you expected. Every night you were guaranteed a good crowd with Sunday nights being the most popular as there was no racing on a Monday. Some had their own drink - a "half 'n' half was half BB and half SBA (two ales) but the latter wasn't said as everyone knew what it was. Some would rely on "Cotswold Halves" - these people bought their first pint but would then drink 3 quarters of it and get it topped back up for the price of a half. They would also moan if it didn't reach the top. Some even had their own glass like a local farmer who would appear at midday and again at about 5pm everyday for his quota of cider. His wasn't actually a glass but more like a tankard that held more than a pint. He would drive his Landrover home every night at about 20mph and return the next day and the day after that. Even a drink driving ban couldn't stop his routine.
The pub dog didn't belong to the pub. It was a one-eyed Jack Russell that would sit at the bar with it's owner and everyone knew him like he was one of the crowd. It would get through about 2 litres of water with the amount of pork scratchings that were thrown in his direction. His owner would leave his car running in the car park all evening as it had a dodgy battery.
The landlord was a former duel cheese rolling champion who also walked across Australia for no apparent reason than to give himself a challenge. He also had a hair transplant which would become the talk of the pub and the wider community and locals would tell him to "keep his hair on" whenever he lost his temper.
Seasons would pass but nothing would change apart from a slight increase in the alcohol which would bring its inevitable moaning and groaning and threats of boycotts that were never carried out. The Cheltenham Festival would come and go with an invasion of Irish and other punters taking over the pub that never went down too well with the regulars. Summer would see the spacious garden full of families enjoying some food and drink watching their children having fun as well as the odd local football match that could have been brought to a halt after one regular broke his leg yet the others rolled him into the rose bed and carried on.
While all of this went on there were people who walked into the pub and turned left. These people had a completely different experience to those who went straight on or turned right. They would enjoy a delicious meal. The food has always been good and after visiting a couple of times recently for the first time in years, it still is. The menu hasn't changed too much in all of this time and neither have the prices. Most of the dishes are under £13 except steaks, duck and a couple of the specials. The portion sizes are ridiculously generous and all the award winning meat is locally sourced. The regular Friday Meat Raffle is just as popular as it once was with many eagerly awaiting every ticket drawn to try and win their Sunday lunch and get in their wife's good books. The chants of "MEAT, MEAT, MEAT" used to grace the arrival of the meat in a wooden wheelbarrow which parked next to the roaring fire. Winners would revel in their victory by smacking their prize in delight and carrying on the chant. This is the closest you will ever come to caveman in your life.
Some of these characters are either no longer around or no longer live locally but the pub still has lots of charm, a thriving restaurant and a new generation of jockeys, stable staff and groupies but those were golden days that can never, and will never ever be repeated.