We live in a very weird world, and that's not to mention anything to do with politics. Just this week I found myself defending the presentation of The Swan's pie on twitter to a "chef" who told me that the mash should have been quenilled [sic] with a little jus around the plate and some fresh watercress. I told him he was very wrong, and it's not the 90s anymore. Nobody puts watercress on top of food nowadays do they?
It's been a couple of years since I visited The Swan and lots has changed in that time. Most importantly it has been taken over by Sam and Georgie Pearman, the original founders of The Lucky Onion, with pubs like the brilliant Chequers at Churchill which they still own and the delightful Wheatsheaf at Northleach which they don't.
The pub has changed a bit too. Thinking back it was slightly disjointed but certainly not unpleasant. There was an odd little room if you entered the pub through the door on the road. That has gone has become an extension to the bar area with a few nice tables. The dining room which once had outlandish green walls, green wallpaper, and lots of flowers (the former owner was an interior and floral stylist) now boasts more subtle blues and looks more like a restaurant than someone's living room. There was a roaring fire in the other bar surrounded by the best seats in the house and a lovely room, perfect for celebrations and shoot parties leading out onto the courtyard garden which I imagine would be a nice spot in the summer. The pub has a warmer feel throughout.
It's very rare I order bread, or ever bother to talk about it when I do. However, the Chipping Norton sourdough came with horseradish and dripping butter which is very much worth shouting about.
I'm always torn between dishes and usually leave up to the waiter or waitress to decide for me. It was between the BBQ native prawns, English peas, Chipping Norton nduja and mussels. Without any hesitation, the prawns won. They were huge, messy (the water bowl and napkin both turned the colour your fingers go after eating a packet of Wotsits) and brilliant. I've never had peas with prawns before but it worked, and the nduja-fueled juice at the bottom of the copper bowl was incredibly good to for dipping the spelt toast in.
I wasn't torn for my main. It was 3 degrees outside and I wanted a pie. Chicken and leek or ox cheek and smoked bacon, and choosing the latter wasn't a difficult choice. It arrived standing wonderfully unpretentious on a bed of mash and gravy. It was a thing of beauty and yes Mr Angry Twitter Chef stuck in a different decade, there was no need for spooned mash or watercress. If anything, it could have done with an extra small jug of gravy as the mashed soaked it up like a sponge. The side of squash and cavolo nero, curly kale to you and me, was a decent addition.
This was some of the best pub food I have eaten in quite a while. I have a lot of time for places who have a one main menu fits all for lunch and dinner too.
The Swan will lure locals (there's a special menu in the bar with a £10 dish on every day ) and Londeners alike (there's a station in Ascott where one train a day stops from The Big Smoke). There are also 8 rooms at the pub for anyone wanting to make a couple of days of it which we would obviously highly recommend.
Food pictured is;
Ox Cheek and Smoked Bacon Pie
Crispy Cacklebean Egg
Triple ‘Ham’ Burger, Savoy Slaw, Toffee Apple Sauce, Blue Affine, Tabacco Onions, Alabama Fries
With The November Meeting at Cheltenham just 10 days away, we have found the best places to go after you leave Prestbury Park.
See the full guide HERE.
After an extensive four-year-long renovation, The Harcourt Arms in in the charming Oxfordshire village of Stanton Harcourt has reopened its doors to the public.
Headed up by Olivier Bonte, former GM of No.131 and Alan Gleeson, previously Head Chef of The Lucky Onion’s No.131 and No.38 The Park, The Harcourt Arms will offer exceptional pub food using the finest produce, ingredients sourced through long-standing relationships with ethical suppliers.
The drinks menu will feature beer and wine from small but talented producers across the world with amazing brands such as Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc, William Chase Rose and Chateau Musar alongside Hook Norton Beers, Butcombe and Timothy Taylors Landlord. They will also be serving up delicious cocktails such as Negroni with a twist, proper Espresso Martini and their very own Bloody Mary, allowing guests to order an old favourite or try something new.
Since the renovation, there are an additional 10 individually style en-suite bedrooms, making this 17th-century pub with rooms ideal for both leisure and business needs.
With the local community at its heart, The Harcourt Arms have created The Harcourt Stores, which will offer luxury, artisan produce alongside healthy everyday essentials. A one-stop-shop for locals, there will be fresh coffee, cured and smoked produce,sweet treats and everyday essentials.
The ultimate village pub with a home away from home feel makes it the perfect place to visit.
One of Bristol’s brightest star chef’s is coming to take over the kitchen at Tetbury’s The Priory Inn.
New head chef Tom Bannister has worked at some of Bristol’s best eateries including a head chef role at The Souk Kitchen.He is planning to introduce a new, more casual approach to dinning focusing on the social side of eating, using the charming dining space at The Priory.
The Arkell’s Brewery hotel has undergone a management makeover since Greg Heath took over the reins of the hotel in July.
The Royal Oak in Whatcote has been awarded a Michelin Star.
The menu showcases high quality local, organic, wild ingredients and game often 'shot to order' by gamekeepers on local estates, while keeping the local pub ethos throughout.
Chef Richard Craven has been a well-know name in the culinary world in the Cotswolds after the success of The Chef's Dozen in Chipping Campden and said on twitter "We’re still reeling from last night but we would like to sincerely thank our little team and incredible part timers for all their hard work. Thank you Michelin for taking the time to visit us and for awarding us this absolute honour."
The Hollow Bottom in Guiting Power opened its doors again after its shock closure in July.
The famous 17th century Cotswolds racing pub has been taken over by The Lucky Onion Group, which is owned by Julian Dunkerton.
Obviously we went to have a look. The pub's interior looks and feels warmer, and there is still a racing theme throughout. There is, of course, Dunkertons Cider of draft as well as other local ales and lagers.
We also had a bite too. The Ham, Egg and Chips is immense with an orange glazed whole ham hock on the plate.
It has been announced that The Hollow Bottom will officially reopen on Monday 7th October.
The popular horse racing pub in Guiting Power closed suddenly in July before being bought buy The Lucky Onion Group, owned by clothing brand Superdry's co-founder Julian Dunkerton.
Check out the new menu below.
The King's Head Inn in Bledington has been named 'Inn of the Year' for 2020 in the latest Good Pub Guide awards.
They were one of 14 pubs awarded and follows up being named Good Pub Guide 'Pub of the Year' in 2017.
Other winners from around the UK include;
Pub of the Year 2020
The Inn at Whitewell, near Clitheroe, Lancashire
Dining Pub of the Year 2020
The Assheton Arms in Downham, Lancashire
Licensee of the Year 2020
The Wyvill Arms in Constable Burton, Yorkshire
New Pub of the Year 2020
The Swan in Marbury, Cheshire
Value Pub of the Year 2020
The Dipton Mill Inn, Diptonmill, Northumbria
Unspoilt Pub of the Year 2020
The Kings Head, Laxfield, Suffolk
Country Pub of the Year 2020
The Harp , Old Radnor, Wales
Town Pub of the Year 2020
Babbity Bowster, Glasgow, Scotland
Inn of the Year 2020
The Kings Head, Bledington, Oxfordshire
Beer Pub of the Year 2020
The Fat Cat, Norwich, Norfolk
Own Brew Pub of the Year 2020
The Beer Hall, Hawkshead Brewery, Cumbria
Wine Pub of the Year 2020
The Woods, Dulverton, Somerset
Whisky Pub of the Year 2020
The Bon Accord, Glasgow, Scotland
Gin Pub of the Year 2020
The Cholmondeley Arms, Cholmondeley, Cheshire
The Hollow Bottom in Guiting Power is the latest addition to The Lucky Onion portfolio and will reopen its doors in October 2019.
The pub has always been a huge favourite of the horse racing community and was the scene of celebrations both after Bindaree won the Grand National and when Imperial Commander landed the Cheltenham Gold Cup for nearby trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
Away from racing, the pub's charming rural setting is perfect for a quiet lunch and supper, with The Lucky Onion's lovingly-cooked good food, and the finest ingredients from the around the UK, at the heart of the menus. There's an extensive beer and wine list too.
A beautiful 17th-century Cotswold stone building with excellent country views, The Hollow Bottom will feature The Lucky Onion’s signature design touches around its already existing deep recessed windows, low ceilings and exposed stone walls and timbers.
In the winter, expect a roaring wood-burning fire in the bar. In summer months, you can soak up the sunshine with drinks and food on the terrace.
The Lucky Onion took over ownership after the property closed in July 2019.
Below is the new Hollow Bottom logo.
The former Hare and Hounds pub at Fosse Cross between Northleach and Cirencester is reopening with a new name this August.
The Stump, the locals' nickname for the Hare and Hounds, will open on August 19th after a complete renovation and will offer a wonderful Italian inspired menu with pizza legends Baz and Fred at the helm.
A huge bar spans the length of the pub, three open fires keep the pub cosy in the winter and there is the sunny garden for the summer months. Oak beams and stone floors are juxtaposed with the modern tiled open kitchen and the huge wood fired pizza oven.
Pizza aficionados Baz & Fred have created a simple yet delectable menu of wood fired pizzas, classic pastas, as well as salads and small plates. All of the food will be served freshly prepared from the new open kitchen.
Local beers line the bar including DEYA Steady Rolling Man Pale Ale and there is a good selection of local gin for The Stump G&Ts. You can also enjoy an aged negroni, the signature cocktail at The Stump.
The pub also boasts ten simple ensuite rooms for anyone wanting to make a weekend of it.
Enjoy 25% off all food during opening week from 19th -23rd August 2019.
Check them out at thestump.co.uk
After a sudden closure 3 months ago, The New Inn at Coln St Aldwyns has been reopened by experience chef Dominic Hewitt, formerly of The Wild Duck and The Bull Inn at Charlbury.
With a weekly changing menu full fresh seasonal food and the 15 en-suite bedroomrooms all all enjoying a refresh to include more modern comforts, the new owners hope to create a relaxed environment for customers new and old.
We wish them all the luck and will be visiting soon to take a proper look!
We live in a weird world nowadays. Everyone with an Instagram account seems to be a blogger of some sort and feel entitled to free things everywhere they go. They bully businesses into believing that their 32 likes on a post and hyped up figures will get people flocking to their establishment. Believe me, they really don't. For businesses, this might be some cheap content to post on social media. A meal doesn't really cost that much and nobody will write anything bad if it's free so it's a win win.
Sadly for me the tide has turned. I am someone who loves eating out. A piece of me dies inside when I'm referred to as a "blogger" as that is the last thing I am. The Cotswolds Gentleman has taken 3 years to grow into what it is today and to gain the trust from my loyal readers. I now won't attend "launch events" who invite every Tom, Dick and Harry just to fill the place, most of whom will never return. I will no longer eat at restaurants that just throw free meals to "blaggers" (a term I stole from Koj). Why would you gift someone an event invite or meal who has no influence or following whatsoever? For me it dilutes your brand. I may be wrong.
Obviously in my line of work I am always offered complimentary meals, and yes I sometimes accept. However, I always pay for my meal with a tip of the value of my meal so the staff who worked so hard to produce my meal get something back.
Last weekend we returned to The Plough at Cold Aston for a roast purely for the fact that it was so good when we visited 3 weeks before.
"Please tell me you have the Truffle Cauliflower Cheese" was my only request. They did.
Cold Aston is one of those villages that you would never have any real reason to drive through unless you are going to the pub or to see the mechanic. It's about 3 miles from Bourton on the Water and the same from Northleach. But not really in the middle if that makes sense? Google it.
The pub is back to its best since Tom and Josie Hughes took it on (Tom was former manager at The Wheatsheaf in Northleach) and is quickly growing a big reputation. The busier the pub is, the more cars are dotted around the grass triangle out on the road forming a makeshift car park. Sunday was very busy. The sun obviously helped to with people eating outside. They are a lot braver than me.
Our table ordered Red Ruby roast beefs. It arrived under a Yorkshire and on top of orange and cinnamon carrots, a parsnip that could have done with another 5 minutes and 3 roast potatoes, along with the truffle cauliflower cheese, greens, extra gravy and horseradish cream on the side.
It was again very good and with a carafe of wine, a Guinness, a Cotswold Lager, Cotswolds Gin & Tonic, pint of coke and two lemonades our bill was a tiny bit over £100 which we all paid and we all also chipped in with the tip.
The Ebrington Arms and Killingworth Castle have joined just 10 other pubs and restaurants throughout the whole of the UK to achieve 3 stars or above in the ‘Organic Served Here’ awards scheme, run by The Soil Association.
This means that both pubs are committed to offering between 50-75% organic produce on our menus.
A recent Soil Association poll revealed that 50% of people are more likely to choose a restaurant that highlights its ethical and sustainable credentials and 43% of people think that having organic on the menu makes a restaurant more appealing.
Check out both pubs on our Cotswold Pub Guide!
Emily Watkins has announced today that she and husband Miles Lampson will leave the Kingham Plough after 12 years.
Watkins' journey as a chef began in the kitchens of Ristorante Beccofino in Florence before moving to work for Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck in Bray in 2002 and then to the Kingham Plough in 2007.
In her time at the Kingham Plough, Emily has featured on The Hairy Bikers, Tom Kerridge's Proper Pub Food as well as winning BBC's Great British Menu in 2014 with her fish course, going onto cook for war veterans at St Paulâs Cathedral in a banquet commemorating the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
The Churchill Arms in Paxford have joined pub line-ups for Tom Kerridge's Pub in the Park at both Warwick and Bath.
Taking place across 8 locations between May and September, Pub in the Park describes itself as the "biggest celebration of the best food and music the country has to offer".
For all tickets and info, please visit www.pubintheparkuk.com
The Kingham Plough (22), The Bell at Lanford (25) and The Wild Rabbit (38) have all made it into the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs in England.
The Sportsman in Whitstable, Tom Kerridge's Coach at Marlow and Freemasons at Wiswell made up the Top 3.
This week saw us launch out Top 50 Pubs in the Cotswolds guide.
We are spoiled for choice when it comes to great pubs and this list was incredibly hard to complile. We hope you enjoy visiting many of these throughout the year!
What are you doing for New Year's? Here's your guide to the best NYE parties in Cheltenham this year.
For any Peaky Blinder fan, this is the NYE party for you. Enjoy a 3-course supper and live music from the brilliant Thrill Collins for just £60 while dressed in your best Peaky Blinders attire. Party only tickets are available at £20.
NO.131 & CRAZY EIGHTS
Whatever you fancy doing this year, No. 131 and Crazy Eights can help. Enjoy a NYE Tasting Menu at 131 (£85) or if you want to just party the night away then just by a Party Ticket (£20) for Crazy Eights including a drink on arrival and Live DJ.
CHELTENHAM TOWN HALL
If Motown is your thing then look no further than Cheltenham Town Hall. Enjoy canapés and a glass of bubbly on arrival before making your way up to the balconies for a delicious three-course dinner with wine, overlooking the magnificent Main Hall, dressed as the golden age of disco, above the dance floor and stage. A 2-course and dance only ticket are also available!
Welcome 2019 in style at Ellenborough Park. Enjoy champagne and canapés on arrival followed by a delicious 4-course dinner in the Horsebox Restaurant, then kick your shoes and dance the night away to a live jazz band in the De La Bere Court before the fireworks display at midnight. £150pp
THE BOTTLE OF SAUCE
Travel down the Rabbit Hole with The Bottle of Sauce this New Year's Eveand enjoy some crazy goings on including Flamingo Crazy Golf, Mad Hatters tea party and a Af'Tea party until 4am!
Celebrate the new year in style at Door 4 with live music from the incredible Camilla Lewington, bubbles, cocktails and a lot of dancing.
The self proclaimed "biggest party to end 2018" takes place at The Bierkeller with their Celebrity Masquerade Ball. There will be celebrity masks, props and a bubbly reception for all booked tables.
WILD BEER AT JESSOP HOUSE
If you're looking for a good old fashioned knees up to see in the New Year then Wild Beer is the place for you. There will be champagne inspired beers, Brut IPA's and some throwback tunes to get it the mood to shimmy and shake into 2019.
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
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.