The Old Stocks has gone through some huge changes in the last few years - none greater than transforming a 17th-century coaching inn into an incredibly charming and unique venue to eat, sleep and drink. However, the most recent change has taken place in the kitchen with the arrival of Ian Percival as head chef and as a food loving local, this is probably the most important of all.
Stow on the Wold was recently recognised as a top food destination by users of a well known booking website, indeed there are a lot of places that serve food but not many that you would return to or actually recommend. There are a couple of pubs that serve decent grub, the Indian is pretty consistent with its hearty non-extravagant dishes and there's one other restaurant which is very good but apart from that, it is hard to find anywhere that offers an exceptional dining experience. That is until now of course.
Our table was next to the window in the far corner of the beautifully designed dining room, one seat on the sofa-seating that runs all the way along the exposed Cotswold stone wall and the one a stylish blue upholstered arm chairs that add a touch of colour against the wood and checked flooring.
After studying the menus (there are 6 starters, 6 mains and 4 options on the grill including local longhorn steaks) and ordering our first drinks, a Cotswolds Distillery Gin and tonic, we ordered our food. Scallop and Smoked Ham Hock to start and Duck and the Pork Loin from the grill (recommended by the waiter as I was torn between that and the Plaice Risotto) for main. It wasn't long for the dishes to arrive. The perfectly tender scallops (£10) sat beneath a squid ink cracker surrounded by small balls of watermelon, citrus beads and a side of crab meat while the prism of Ham Hock (£8) was nestled against some beautifully sweet apricots, chutney and leaves. Both were fresh, light and presented beautifully.
The main courses soon followed with the perfectly pink (optional) Duck breast (£18) accompanied by chicory, greens, plum and confit leg croquettes that were a revelation and took the dish to another level.
There are two Pork Lion options. One on the main menu served with cider apple, heritage carrots, rosti and radish (£17) and one on the grill menu served with creamed potato, wholegrain mustard and pork crunch (£15). I went for the latter as well as some parmesan truffle fries (£3) on the side. These two dishes alone show the diversity of the menu with a nod to fine dining as well as hearty food at the same time.
We couldn't leave without trying a dessert (all £6.50) and opted for the strawberry mousse, elderflower granite and meringue with two spoons. If you haven't got a sweet tooth then there is a great selection of local cheeses to choose from. If that doesn't take your fancy either then you can always have and Espresso Martini or Fig and Chocolate Martini (both £8) on the after-dinner cocktails menu to turn to. We went for the Espresso Martini.. how else are you supposed to finish a meal?
There is often a perception about restaurants in hotels but this is completely different and should be recognised as a stand alone dining room. It simply offers outstanding cuisine without being pretentious or stuffy and is the best place to eat in Stow on the Wold.
Book a table today www.oldstocksinn.com
Ramblings from The Cotswolds Gentleman.