It has got to be nearly twenty years since my first visit to Michael's in Chipping Campden, shamelessly trying to impress my peers that my palate was familiar food from Greece and Cyprus although at that time I had never been to either.
Back then it was called Alexiou's and was one of, if not, the best restaurants in the Cotswolds. It was only ever open in the evenings and was mostly always full. To impress people even more, you would always book a second sitting on a Friday or Saturday as there was always a chance of smashing some plates in the restaurant.
Today it is much different, but still just as charming.
The large kitchen that used to serve the restaurant is now a delightful bedroom, part of the stunning Woolmarket House that Michael and Sarah own. The seating area at the back of the restaurant has also made way to an equally beautiful bedroom.
The front of the restaurant has had a makeover. It feels less "evening only" and more "daytime too" which it is with the recent addition of breakfast, brunch and lunch.
In these crazy and socially-distanced, curfew times, the restaurant now has only around 16 covers and waiting staff serving you in visors.
The menu is pretty much the same as it has always been; Stifado, Kleftico (which I think I have had every time I have been there) and their showstopper "Filleto Marathona", fillet steak served on a board with mushroom, tomato & French-fries, and it is always exceptionally good. After 35 years, Michael still goes and handpicks the hunks of meat that the restaurant serves.
Dinner is a race against time at the moment. I'm not sure how Chipping Campden would cope with 14 diners spilling out of Michael's and onto the streets.
I started with garlic mushrooms as I wanted something lighter as I always make the mistake of filling myself up on the pitta bread. Obviously I did so again as the oily, garlicky remains at the bottom of the cast iron dish couldn't be left.
Obviously I had the Kleftico for my main. It's the best way to eat lamb, especially when it falls off the bone like this has for the past two decades and is cooked in wine, washed down with a couple of Cotswolds Gins.
As if the pitta bread and half a lamb weren't enough, I also tried squeezing a chocolate brownie in too. I ultimately succeeded at tortoise speed but it was most definitely worth it.
Although the restaurant has over halved in size, it still has lots of its charm, a lovely relaxed atmosphere and two owners who are, after all this time, hugely passionate about the food they serve and experience they offer to their guests.
It's safe to say that it's still up there with the best restaurants in the Cotswolds.