I have never been a "new year, new me" kind of person but I have been trying to eat less and get fitter in the last month or so. It's not nice, nor is it fun, it's more cutting down on any snacks so I can eat all the things I love without feeling any remorse. A Sunday roast is one of the things I love.
My previous two roasts out have both been in hotel restaurants. This isn't my usual style. I usually go in search of a cosy pub with with a log fire and all the other clichés associated with them. Turning down invites is also not my style and last week saw us head over Cleeve Hill to the beautiful Ellenborough Park.
The drive up to the hotel has the feel of entering a private country estate. The building is very grand as you would expect and a wire horse stands on the front lawn gazing out towards Cheltenham Racecourse which is just yards away. Inside is a cosy maze of stone, wood and soft furnishings and beautiful rooms at every turn. We were shown to our table in the corner of the lovely oak panelled dining room. It's the kind of room where my grandparents would have donned their Sunday best and visited on a special occasion and why the hell not?
It's customary before I go anywhere that I look at the menu online, and to my surprise the Sunday Lunch was £25 for two courses, the same price, if not cheaper, than some pubs in the northern reaches of the Cotswolds. I was expecting it to be more.
David, the Sommelier, introduced himself (The Ellenborough is well-known for the quality of its wine) and offered to pair our wine for each course. How could we possibly refuse? I'm used to a glass of house red to wash down my roast beef.
Our Rabbit and Duck starters arrived, beautifully presented along with a wonderfully fruity and light Domaine Harmand-Geoffroy Gevrey-Chambertin En Jouise and a New Zealand Dry River Gewürztraminer that got both thumbs up from the non white drinker the other side of the table.
In good time a man appeared holding a tray with two plates full of perfectly rare sirloin, roast potatoes, Jenga-style carrots and parsnips and a Yorkshire Pudding, along with two small pots of veg, a jug of extra gravy and incredible horseradish to knock your socks off. David paired a 2011 Clos du Val Merlot from Napa Valley which was a lot heavier than the first red but went down just as well.
We usually share a pudding but were torn between the Sticky Toffee Pudding and Apple Tarte Tatin so we ended up ordering both. I think David was pleased as he could pour us a glass of Patricius Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos from his native Hungary. I rarely eat pudding so rarely have dessert wine but this was heavenly sweet honey-finished golden nectar and the perfect way to end a meal.
Ellenborough Park is lovely in every way and although it may not be your usual setting for a Sunday Roast, it's the perfect place for a special occasion where the service is impeccable and everything is done brilliantly well.
Price: 2 courses £25. 3 courses £32
The Dormy House Hotel launched their brand new restaurant, The Back Garden, today.
The Back Garden celebrates the finest ingredients from the Cotswolds including high-welfare rare-breed meats, veg grown in our own gardens and responsibly cultivated grains, all sourced and served in tune with the rhythms of nature.
This week saw the AA name the latest 19 restaurants that have achieved its higher-level three and four rosette ratings including two from the Cotswolds.
The Dining Room at Whatley Manor in Malmesbury has been awarded four rosettes with Lords of the Manor in Upper Slaughter awarded three.
The AA says "Establishments with three AA Rosettes are all outstanding restaurants achieving standards that demand national recognition well beyond their local area. Those awarded four AA Rosettes are among the top restaurants in the country."
The Dormy House Hotel will be launching two new restaurant concepts opening in February.
The Garden Room will become The Back Garden, a celebration of the finest ingredients from the Cotswolds including high-welfare rare-breed meats, veg grown in our own gardens and responsibly cultivated grains, all sourced and served in tune with the rhythms of nature.
On top of that they are building a brand new restaurant, MO. that will offer a unique, interactive 7-course tasting-menu experience to just 12 guests at a time. They will showcase creative cooking, unexpected ingredients, forward-thinking culinary techniques, and just a hint of food theatre, again with sustainability and seasonality at centre-stage. At MO you’ll never eat the same menu twice.
For more information and to book, click HERE.
If you haven't already heard, No.38 The Park is the new home of Prithvi - Cheltenham's No.1 restaurant.
No 38. The Park has always offered a boutique experience that combines the services of a hotel with a luxurious home from home feel, and now guests will be able to enjoy the fine dining and South Asian flavours that have made Prithvi hugely popular on the Cheltenham restaurant scene.
Prithvi at No.38 will be open for dinner 7 days a week as well as for lunch on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The restaurant will seat 56 in the main dining room as well 8 in a private dining space.
Woodkraft, the latest venture from 2015 MasterChef champion Simon Wood, opened today on Regent Street in Cheltenham today.
Offering the best seasonal and local produce, Woodkraft will be serving brunch, lunch and Sunday sharing roasts in a relaxed and informal setting.
Their basement and first floor dining areas can be available for private hire and for exclusive use for larger groups. For exclusive hire and private events, their normal opening times do not apply.
Check them out - woodkraftcheltenham.com
Six pubs in the Cotswolds have been named in the Top 100 cosiest in Britain in a list compiled by the Daily Mail food and drink critics, Tom Parker Bowles and Olly Smith.
Here are the pubs and what the pair had to say about them.
The Bell Inn, Selsey
A classic 16th-century Cotswold boozer with local ales and nearly 100 different kinds of gin. The food ranges from pub classics right through to a decent Sunday roast. If you’re staying, the breakfast is pretty splendid too.
The Red Lion, Cricklade
A 16th-century pub with a flower-strewn façade that brews its own beer. You can’t get much more local than that. And they’re good beers too, served up in the sort of pub made to linger in all afternoon. Snack on homemade Scotch eggs and pasties, or get stuck into Wiltshire ham and free-range fried eggs.
The Woolpack, Slad
This pub has one of the prettiest views in Britain, looking over the luscious Gloucestershire valley made famous by Laurie Lee in Cider With Rosie. This was his boozer too, and it’s a classic. There’s a piano that springs into action most nights, as well as a small bar, a fire and really excellent food.
The Ebrington Arms, Ebrington
With its own Yubby beer, snug luxuriant rooms to stay in and dishes that deliver endless satisfaction, it’s hard to leave this country gem once you step through the door. Beams, firelight, food that celebrates local glory and brilliantly brewed beer – this is among the very best of British pubs.
Old Green Tree, Bath
Get to this tiny beer paradise early to grab a seat by the fire – it’s small but perfectly formed. Expect wood panelling and a beer selection to thrill. Try the roast beef sandwich and enjoy conversing with whoever you sit nearest. Blissfully free of distractions, this place is magic in miniature.
The Royal Oak, Whatcote
Very much a local pub, albeit a rather smart one. But chef owner Richard Craven is one hell of a chef. Expect game in season, from roe deer tartare to pheasant with snails. Home-made bread comes with dripping butter, and there’s excellent fish too.
For the full list, visit www.dailymail.co.uk
L'anatra Italian Kitchen in Bourton on the Water has launched Tapas Tuesdays.
Enjoy 2 courses and 1 drink for £15, 4 courses and 2 drinks for £25 or choose from the menu.
The feasting night takes place all day (12pm - 9pm) every Tuesday.
Christmas has come early to Cheltenham with two new arrivals.
The Botanist, a "secret garden" of food, drink, live music, botanical cocktails, craft beers and ales, Champagne and wine and food inspired by the deli, rotisserie and BBQ, will be opening in The Brewery on December 3rd.
Meanwhile, Masterchef champion Simon Wood is launching a brand new Artisan Eatery on Regent Street. A year on from launching his first fine dining restaurant WOOD Manchester, Woodkraft will be a more casual with a menu that will include brunch and breakfast dishes, Sunday roasts to share.
Cheltenham was once flooded with burger restaurants. They were literally popping up on every corner. However, within a year, most of them have disappeared. Real Burger has gone. Moody's lasted about two months, sadly it was far too big and in the wrong place and has returned to being The Bierkeller. The Tavern changed their menu for the umpteenth time and moved away from a full American diner menu to a more grown up offering which is really good. Five Guys arrived and will do alright as it's in The Brewery, but it's massively overrated which leaves us just two places, The Bottle of Sauce and Holee Cow.
The latter opened in 2017 and like most new places, I usually give them a few weeks to settle in before trying them. I never intended to leave it a year. It's in quite a good spot right next to Superdry and near the highly controversial Boots Corner and the incredibly new tacky artificial grass outside Starbucks. What's that about?
The interior is stripped back industrial with exposed brick and wood walls. There's a mix of tables, chairs stools and a long sofa down one f the walls. Hanging bulbs light the place nicely but very much like the menu, it isn't over complicated.
On the back of your paper place mat you will find six burgers, eight sides with a couple of monthly specials on a board on the wall. You can double up on each burger if you're that way inclined. The Holee Cow is the house burger, then you have Smokey Bacon & Cheese which is self explanatory, P.I.T.M (Piggy in the Middle) with smoked pulled pork, The Lamburghini, yep you've got it, a lamb kofte patty, The Spicy Clucker, a buttermilk marinated & dredged chicken breast with buffalo hot sauce and their vegetarian option The Bean Bag. All (as singles) are £9 or under and all the ones with a beef patty contains locally sourced West Gloucestershire beef.
We both chose the Smokey Bacon and cheese (one single and one double) with a side of both Truffle Cheese fries and Loaded Pulled Pork and Jalapeño sweet potato fries. Bacon Cheese Fries, Macaroni Cheese Bites and Chicken Wings are also available.
The brioche buns were lightly toasted, cheese was dripping out over the pattys and the bacon was properly crispy and as smokey as described. The fries were both superb with generous amounts of toppings. I can't remember lunch ever tasting so good.
It's like survival of the fittest for burger restaurants in Cheltenham and these guys are in fine physical shape. Find me a better burger in town... I'll wait.
Look out for their new Holee Clucker restaurant launching in November!
Today marks the start of Seafood Week and where better to spend at the brilliant Hook at The Fish Hotel.
To mark the event, they have created the Ultimate Seafood Platter to share as well as eight awesome daily specials.
Check out how they're celebrating below or visit www.thefishhotel.co.uk/eat/hook-by-martin-burge. If you are yet to visit Hook then we highly recommend booking!
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
With summer now leaving us for another year, some of you are probably already craving a bit of après-ski. Well guess what?, you can now enjoy a little bit of Courchevel in the Cotswolds!
From 12th November to 21st December, The Dormy House in Broadway have created 'Piste at The Potting Shed", a new pop-up Alpine dining cabin.
Within its wooden walls, groups of up to 30 can feast on three courses of authentic Swiss flavours – including a classic cheese fondue and roast pork loin with rösti and a hot G&T on arrival, as well as their own dedicated bar and a music system.
Check out www.dormyhouse.co.uk/occasions/piste-at-the-potting-shed for more information and to book!
‘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.
The Ebrington Arms near Chipping Campden has scooped yet another award to add to their collection.
They have been awarded ‘County Dining Pub of the Year 2019’ by The Good Pub Guide beating off strong competition from over a thousand pubs across the whole of Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds, one of the UK’s favourite foodie areas.
The pub has held two AA rosettes for 9 consecutive years and was voted Number 1 Village Inn by The Times in 2017
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.
Cheltenham based seafood restaurant Puslane has made the UK semi-finalist shortlist for Seafood Restaurant of the Year that comprises of twelve restaurants.
The award, presented by Seafish and The Caterer, is designed to find the best restaurants cooking and serving delicious seafood dishes.
The competition was created to find restaurants demonstrating both excellent examples of the cooking and serving of fish and shellfish, as well as evidence of fish and shellfish knowledge among their staff both front and back of house.
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