Malt & Anchor has taken over the spot in Cirencester town centre that used to be the home of one of our favourite lunch haunts, Eat Wild. In the National Fish & Chips Awards 2018, Malt & Anchor won the Best Newcomer award. Eat Wild was one of the best places for a quality burger – let’s see if Malt & Anchor is able to take up the vacant position in our favourites list with their fish and chips!
The restaurant is modestly sized with more tables upstairs. We get a table downstairs because we booked but walk-ins are soon being shown upstairs. I’m slightly disappointed that the new owners don’t even try to match the excellent music playlist of Eat Wild… but, having said that, no music is a great deal better than bad music.
Can they match Eat Wild for beer? I try Hooked, a small batch blonde ale, created by the Bespoke Brewing Company from the Forest of Dean. It’s a clean, refreshing ale with a slight tang of citrus, it should work perfectly with fish and chips. Rock has the Frobishers apple juice and soda.
Cod comes in two sizes here – regular and lite bite. Rock, being petite and ladylike, decides that the beer battered lite bite will be enough for her. When it arrives, she is very happy with the portion size and even happier with the quality. Fantastic batter, beautiful fish, excellent twice-cooked chips. The home-made tartare sauce is fabulous and even the mushy peas – Rock is not a fan of mushy peas – disappear from her plate.
I’m having the full-sized haddock with a lighter batter. I am very happy – everything on my plate is just as good as on Rock’s. The beer does work perfectly and it is very evident that Malt & Anchor is easily going to claim the position as one of our favourite places to lunch!
It has been a while since we visited The Swan. It was a regular of ours until it changed hands a few years ago. Now part of Thyme, a local hotel and cookery school where I once spent a day learning to make and cook pasta – we are eager to see if The Swan is as good (or even better) than it used to be. We are meeting our friends Jem & Sassy there for lunch in order to find out.
Rock starts with a fizz – a blood orange and pomegranate fizz to be precise. Juice of blood orange, fleshy pomegranate seeds and lemon juice all brought to life by a healthy measure of champagne. I have a pint of the Swan’s own real ale – Village Tipple. We are already enjoying ourselves.
Jem and I both like the sound of Matt’s Scotch egg. Matt Wardman is the chef at The Swan and a chef-tutor at the Thyme cookery school – so our expectations are high. The Scotch eggs are presented already cut to reveal runny yolk centres beautifully encased in home-made sausagemeat and breadcrumbs. Fabulous. Sassy is having the heritage beetroot risotto with mascarpone and parmesan reggiano. The beetroot gives the dish a vibrant red appearance and Sassy tells us that it tastes as good as it looks. Rock does not have a starter…she’s too busy with her fizz!
Jem moves on to the salmon fishcakes for his main course, served with garden leaves and aioli. The fishcakes are good size balls and well filled. The garden leaves are enhanced by the addition of apple and pomegranate. Both Rock and Sassy are having the squash and ricotta ravioli with crispy sage, pine nuts and parmesan. The ravioli is beautifully presented and tastes really good – though Rock feels that the pasta would be even better if it had been rolled a little thinner. I have the Southrop mutton shoulder shepherd’s pie served with kale. It tastes fantastic.
Salmon fishcakes, alioli, garden leaves
Southrop’s mutton shoulder shepherd’s pie
Squash and ricotta ravioli with crispy sage & pine nuts
Do we have room for dessert? Probably not, but when has that ever stopped us. Jem and Sassy go for the Monmouth pudding – baked breadcrumbs in cream, with jam, berries and topped with a soft meringue. Rock has a mix of raisin & Pedro Ximenez ice cream, pear sorbet and a shortbread biscuit. She tells me that the sorbet is just beautiful. I have the Limoncello & poppy seed semifreddo with macaroons. It is full of cream and sugar and probably many other things that potentially could lead to a heart attack – still, I’m having no difficulty in really enjoying it.
Pear sorbet, raisin & Pedro Ximenez ice cream
Limoncello & poppy seed semifreddo with macaroons
It has been great to spend time with Jem & Sassy and I think we are all in agreement about The Swan and its food. It is at least as good as it used to be and not much thyme will pass before we are back for more. We may have to wait a little while as The Swan is closing briefly for some reburbishment.
Daylesford Farm near Kingham is not only one of our favourite places for organic food shopping it is also a splendid place to eat. Today, after a night in Stratford-upon-Avon, we are heading there for breakfast.
Good quality coffee is important and it is superb here. Rock has a standard flat white and I have a large cappuccino. Now we are very much in the mood for food. I order the farmhouse breakfast – sausage, streaky bacon, fried eggs, tomato, mushrooms, toast & black pudding. Everything is really high quality, almost everything is organic – the bacon and black pudding are both excellent.
Rock is trying something different – one of the supercharged breakfast dishes created by the Daylesford nutritionist! Fennel, orange & ginger radiance tea poached pears, coconut yoghurt, mint and toasted walnuts. Rock is really enjoying the mix of delicate flavours that all combine beautifully together.
That has well and truly set us up for the morning ahead. Now for some serious food shopping!
A great cheese counter filled with carefully selected cheeses and staffed by people who really know a lot about the goods they are selling. You can taste before you buy and you are unlikely to be disappointed. Introduced us to Black Cheddar! Beadlam Review
Mannion & Co, Helmsley – best coffee and cake
Beautiful coffee and fabulous, freshly baked artisan made cakes. The cakes are often decorated with fresh fruit and interesting herbs that put them on a level above the competition. Mannion & Co also gave us the best pasta dish of 2017! Mannion Review
Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House – best attached tea room
Usually when we visit an historic house and/or gardens the cafe or tea room seems to be only there to provide basic sustenance. However at Blackwell they have an Arts & Crafts approach to food with a focus on quality, freshly prepared dishes. We loved it! Blackwell Review
Here’s hoping that 2018 gives us as much food joy as 2017!
This cafe in Lechlade has a relaxed friendly atmosphere. It is owned by Australian, Rob Broadbent, who makes an extraordinary flat white for Rock and an equally beautiful cappucino for me. Great coffee makes a great start to any breakfast. Can the food match the coffee?
We don’t have to wait long to find out – even though every item is freshly cooked. I have scrambled eggs on sourdough toast with smoked salmon. It is sensational but, at first, I can’t exactly work out why. Then, I taste the bacon sandwich that Rock has ordered and is raving about between mouthfuls. Now I understand – it is the bread!
The bread is made by Max Abbott of Sourdough Revolution. His bread is the lightest sourdough I have ever tasted and it is full of flavour. Max is in the cafe while we are there and takes the time to chat to us about his baking process. Indeed, it’s all about time with Max – his starter goes through stages of fermentation and then his dough is fermented before being put in the fridge for several hours. In effect, each loaf takes days from starter to baking!
While chatting I try a pot of the tea. Only because I’m aiming to linger here for as long as possible. The tea is very good but it does not reach the standard set by the coffee.
Just in case I have not made myself clear – the bacon on Rock’s sandwich is fantastic and the smoked salmon on my plate is equally fabulous. In any normal breakfast – these would be the stars of the show. But this is not normal, here the coffee and the bread outshine all the other stars – Lynwood & Co is simply on another level!
Nick Deverell-Smith, the head chef and owner of The Churchill Arms in Paxford has recently appeared on two culinary TV shows – the Great British Menu and Saturday Kitchen. Although this is not the usual way we choose where we are going to eat, it has led Sebastien & Rebecca, to suggest The Churchill Arms as the place to meet for Sunday lunch. Sunday lunch menus tend to be traditional & boring so, we are hopeful that with Nick’s pedigree, there will be some more interesting options.
Sebastien & Rebecca are already there when we arrive. In terms of interesting options, I am immediately pleased to find an ale that I’ve not tried before. Shagweaver is an award winning pale bitter from the local North Cotswold Brewery. This is a refreshing ale – perfect for a warm summer’s day.
Before any starters arrive we are presented with a very pleasant amuse-bouche of artichoke and bacon arancini – light, crisp coated and well flavoured risotto rice balls.
Rock starts with the pea &spinach soup. Sebastien and I both go for the smoked haddock soufflé with a chive velouté. It is very well flavoured but I’m not sure that I like the consistency. The soufflé, originally quite light & fluffy, has become thick and heavy after the velouté has been poured over it. Rebecca chooses the most interesting dish in terms of presentation – heritage tomato with avocado & quinoa.
The main course selection is not as interesting as I had hoped. Rock has the leg of Cotswold lamb with roast potatoes, local greens & gravy. Sebastien & Rebecca have the pork T-bone with apple, crackling, sage & roast potatoes. All good quality but very traditional, the roast potatoes were excellent. I have the only non-traditional dish – whole roasted mackerel with bobby beans, peas and broad beans. It is very good.
Sebastien and I both examine the dessert menu and there is one that really appeals – the gooseberry tart. Sorry, we are told, we have just sold out! If Churchill was here, he would have settled for a Havana cigar and a cognac – but he would have to sit in the garden…
This was a typically British menu but I think we may have been better to visit Nick’s kitchen on a Saturday!
After wandering around the farmers’ market in Stroud and buying loads of interesting goodies for the next few days… it’s time for coffee and cake. Woodruff’s is a favourite stop for us when we are in Stroud. It is an organic cafe that was established almost 20 years ago and it now has a reputation for great food and friendly service.
The atmosphere in the cafe is buzzing and convivial. Rock has an americano and I have a cappucino – as always the coffee is excellent. There are always a range of freshly made cakes to choose from and, as ever, I want to be adventurous. Beetroot & salted caramel cake – that should do it. It is very moist, the beetroot and salted caramel icing is fascinating in colour and tastes good too.
As usual, this has been a great place to chill before heading back out for more food shopping!