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
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."
I'm not going to lie, a Sunday roast is one of my favourite things in the world and it annoys me when people start meddling with it. But, and it's a big but, this was until we experienced 'Wellington Sunday' at the Lygon Arms in Broadway.
I'm usually a roast beef kind of person when I'm out and a pork or chicken person when at home. I would be a beef person at home if I were more organised to go to the butchers and always struggle to find a nice joint at the supermarkets so chicken and pork it is. Although we were there for the Wellington, the Waghorne’s (a local butcher, not a type of cow) 30 day aged sirloin, beef dripping roast potatoes was still very tempting.
The dining room at The Lygon is beautiful not matter where you sit and at 2.30pm it was still relatively busy with people trickling in. I started forming a "most beautiful dining rooms in the Cotswolds" list in my head but could only think of another three as good.
Not knowing the size of the Beef Wellington we decided to share a twice baked cheese soufflé. I'm not sure there is a better starter when it's done well, and this one was pretty good.
With just a gravy jug as company, the showpiece arrived as red as the 1st Duke of Wellington's uniform and just how we imagine Arthur Wellesley would have wanted it two centuries ago. The beef dripping roast potatoes were very good too. In a world where everyone compares a restaurant or pub roast spud to ones they have at home, these were definitely better than mine and I could have easily had another one, or two... or three.
After another wine and anther gin it was time to leave. I'm not used to this lunchtime feeding but could definitely get used to it if it's as good as this.
I might just book again next Sunday.
Price: Twice baked cheese soufflé, garden salad, £11. Scottish beef Wellington, £27
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!
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
One of Cheltenham's finest Indian restaurants is relocating.
Prithvi, ranked #1 restaurant in Cheltenham, is moving to No.38 The Park from December 4th 2018 from their current Bath Road residence.
Their new address is 38 Evesham Rd, GL52 2AH.
Today saw the soft launch of The Ox Barn at Thyme, a 56-seater destination restaurant under the direction of Head Chef, Charlie Hibbert.
Rooted in a passion for the local land, food and entertaining, the carefully curated menus are farm-based
and plant-inspired. His team and the gardeners at Thyme will work together to select and grow the fruits,
vegetables and herbs used to create his Modern British Countryside fare. Signature dishes include: Leeks
with Fried Wiltshire Truffled Egg, Roast Southrop Lamb with Braised Beans and Salsa Verde and Hazelnut
Cake with Poached Pears and Cream – all sourced within just metres of the kitchens. As well as a traditional
à la carte menu, the evenings will also play host to a set menu with optional wine-pairing.
The nineteenth century former oxen house is the newest addition to the family of meticulously restored
farm buildings. A state-of-the-art piece of agricultural architecture at its conception, Caryn Hibbert
worked meticulously to preserve the soaring archways and original Cotswold stone rubble walls, to now
house a modern, dining destination - including a contemporary bar and seven and a half metre Charvet
open kitchen - to allow for an authentic, heritage-rich dining experience, enabled by today’s best culinary
The Ox Barn will open on Wednesday evenings for dinner from 6pm – 10.30pm and open all day Thursday
to Saturday serving lunch from 12pm – 3pm and dinner from 6pm – 10.30pm. Brunch will also be served
from 8am – 4pm on Sundays.
The soft launch runs from 16th November - 9th December
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.
The Akashi Tai sake brewery has been in existence since 1856, based in the fishing town of Akashi in Hyogo Prefecture in western Japan. They have taken the sea bream (‘Tai’) as their symbol because they admire the strength, drive, curiosity and tenacity of this fish that fights for survival in the strong currents of Osaka Bay. Further inland they are blessed with fertile lands and fresh springs that produce good rice.
This is the sake that the Akashi Tai brewmasters reach for at the end of a working day. To qualify as ‘Honjozu’, at least 30% of each rice grain must be milled away before fermentation to remove fats and proteins that can affect the flavour – but in this case, Akashi Tai remove 40%. Genshu means undiluted – brewers normally add water to temper the alcohol level of a sake – so this one is fuller in body, has a more concentrated flavour and is a bit stronger than most sake (and wine for that matter) at 19% ABV. It has a rich, woody aroma, a velvety texture, a lingering finish and hints of citrus fruits. It is dry and accompanies rich dishes or even cheese and can be served chilled or warm (our preference is chilled, especially in the hotter months).
BANDANA MONKEY BAR
Bandana Monkey Bar is a cocktail bar at award-winning restaurant with an award-winning bartender at the helm. Dan Morgan (Cheltenham Bartender of the Year 2018) joined Koj in Cheltenham (Cotswold Life’s Best Newcomer 2018 and Cheltenham BID’s Best Restaurant 2018). Although Dan is classically trained and can knock up a mean Martini, Daiquiri or Mai Tai, he now curates an innovative Japanese cocktail list using ingredients such as sake, mirin and shochu. With 15 Japanese whiskies, Bandana Monkey is the best stocked specialist bar in Cheltenham. Pop in for a cocktail and order from the famous buns menu.
Whether it’s food or drinks, we share Akashi Tai’s mantra that adhering to authenticity and tradition doesn’t mean being conservative or non-progressive. To truly respect tradition is to keep it alive, and to do that you sometimes need to be willing to question the status quo and challenge received wisdom. This requires insatiable curiosity and strength of character to follow your own path, but with a profound understanding of and respect for the centuries of tradition and craft that have led to where we are now. In the case of the sea bream, swim against the current because you never know what you might find.
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!
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!
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.
I visited The Churchill Arms in Paxford recently to try their new summer menu. Nick Deverell-Smith never disappoints and the sea bass was possibly the best I had ever had - butterflied, no bones and cooked to perfection.
Most definitely worth a visit.
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.”
The Cotswolds has been crying out for a decent fish restaurant for years. We have been relying on Purslane in Cheltenham for far too long for our seafood fix so when The Farncombe Estate announced that they were creating a seafood inspired restaurant by Culinary Director Martin Burge in the newly refurbished Fish Hotel, it was music to my ears.
First stop was the bar for a couple of pre-dinner drinks. This has been transformed into a stylish space with lots of fine spirits and a cocktail menu that included a Cotswolds Gin Martini... when in Rome! The bar has its own lunch and dinner menu and is also dog friendly. If you have your pooch in tow, you can also enjoy the Hook à la carte menu in the bar which is pretty cool.
The dining room follows the laid-back Scandinavian style with an open kitchen and plenty of soft furnishings. The menu offers, in their words, " the finest, freshest responsibly sourced fish, sustainable shellfish and a few timeless classics from the land" and I couldn't agree more so don't be put off if you're not the biggest seafood fan.
The Fowey Mussels with smoked bacon, garlic & Cotswold cider were absolute monsters and one of the best starters I have had for a while. If you love mussels then this is a must. They are also available with white wine and parsley, and as a main course which includes fries, but the bacon, garlic and cider is definitely the way forward and there are lots of them too!
I rarely order Lemon Sole due do the bones and my lack of patience when having to work for my meal but this was recommended to me and served with shrimp and capers, and it looked amazing on a picture I saw on Instagram (see below), so I couldn't really back out. The bones were a pain, they're always a pain, but it's worth it in the end. The extra side of fries is highly recommended too! Would I order it again when I go back?, probably not as I saw a picture of the Bouillabaisse on twitter this week which looked incredible and tells me that I probably need to spend less time on social media.
If you have a sweet tooth then the pudding menu offers some treats as well as some dessert cocktails. An espresso martini was enough for us but were were very tempted by Banana caramel cheesecake.
Farncombe Estate have a knack of getting things right. The Dormy House and Foxhill Manor both offer brilliant dining experiences and now The Fish Hotel, after failing to reach its full potential in its first few years, has now created a superb celebration of seafood and something the Cotswolds should really embrace.
À la carte
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!
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