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!
When you are meeting eco-warriors for lunch… you have to pick the right venue. We have chosen the organic farm shop & cafe at Abbey Home Farm and arrive unusually early. We can use the time to wander round the shop & replenish our stocks. Cali & Bug arrive fashionably late but, as I’ve now started drinking and enjoying a Tom Long amber bitter craft ale from the Stroud Brewery, I don’t care.
The menu at the organic cafe is entirely vegetarian during the week – they only serve meat on a Sunday. Rock picks her favourite dish – a small mixed salad (it is still huge by normal standards) served with home-made hummus. Cali fancies the french onion tart served with the full selection of salads. Bug and I both go for the Tamale pie with salads. The Tamale Pie is made up of vegetables covered in a Mexican spiced tomato sauce and cheese.
We haven’t seen Cali & Bug for nearly a year and it is great to catch up with them. I’m excited to talk about my time at the Green Man festival but my stories pale next to Bug’s – he had a truly mind-blowing experience at Burning Man last summer in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.
Rock & I do environmentalism in an amateur way – we make our own compost & leaf mould and use ecologically friendly materials in our home like bamboo & cork. Cali & Bug are on a different ecological plane to us – their latest moves include installing four sets of solar panels and placing an order for an electric car!
They don’t really do dessert here but they really do cake. Cali has a chocolate brownie with her coffee, Bug has an enormous slice of carrot cake – but leaves no food waste. Rock and I share a piece of ginger, date & treacle cake, which is rich, moist and indulgent.
Great food, great beer, great company – this is an experience that I would like to recycle over and over again!
An old favourite of ours, Made By Bob in Cirencester, has recently re-opened after refurbishment – so today is a good time to see how the place looks and to have some lunch. The most obvious change is that the deli section has moved to a separate building thereby creating more room for diners.
I order a bottle of the very local Corinium Gold from Corinium Ales. It is a bright golden ale packed with flavour – an excellent start to lunch. Rock chooses the salt cod & Gruyere beignets with parsley and an arrabiata dipping sauce. The beignets are beautiful and they work fantastically well with the arrabiata – made from garlic, tomatoes, chilli & olive oil.
I have been drawn to an unusual belly pork dish. The belly pork is grilled, served warm with a salad of french beans, cornichons, capers, grated egg and a mustard dressing. It is extraordinary and very different from the way that belly pork is traditionally served. The piquancy of the capers and the mustard dressing elevate the flavours of the whole dish.
We are so impressed by the quality so far that we consider dessert. Rock decides to save herself for afternoon tea but I am unable to leave without trying the bread & butter pudding with fresh cream. The first spoonful confirms that I have made an excellent choice. Pain au chocolat has been used as the base and the whole pudding dissolves in the mouth releasing a burst of sweet, almost certainly sinful, flavours. Wow!
I think that the process of refurbishment has somehow strayed onto the menu in a really positive way… no wonder they need more room for diners.
Wild Garlic has been on our long list of restaurants to visit for a while now and today we are finally arriving there for lunch. It is one of two restaurants in Nailsworth under chef patron Matthew Beardsall – who has a history of working with two of our food heroes Simon Rogan & Marcus Wareing.
I’m glad to find that they have a decent range of bottled beers and I choose the Muddy Wellies Golden Ale – originally launched by the Royal Agricultural University, it is bright, zesty and full of flavour.
Rock is having the whole grilled Brixham plaice with tomatoes and capers. After some internal debate and a discussion with Faye, who is looking after us, I choose the Old Spot pork, duck & Toulouse sausage cassoulet with white beans, tomato and pieces of garlic bread. The plaice is very good indeed and my cassoulet is an ideal dish for a cold winter day.
We don’t need dessert but I can rarely resist an affogato when one is available and today I don’t bother trying to resist. Here it is served with raisins soaked in Pedro Ximenez and warm, slighty moist biscotti – fabulous.
Overall, really good quality food and great service from Faye. Now we both understand why we had put Wild Garlic on the list in the first place!
Awards part 1 focused on our top restaurants, part 2 focused on our favourite pubs and now part 3 focuses on four small independent food providers that gave us something special during 2016.
Eastward House, Orkney – best breakfast
You choose in advance from a range of three course gourmet breakfasts with each course designed to deliver either vitamins, fibre or protein. It is a breakfast experience like no other! East review
Jolly Nice, Frampton Mansell – best burger & beer
To create the fabulous Jolly Nice burger they use rare breed shorthorn beef and other high quality local produce. It can be enjoyed with any one of a range of bottled craft ales. Jolly review
Eastward House haddock poached in Sancerre with French tarragon
Jolly Nice burger of rare shorthorn beef, Somerset cheddar, applewood smoked bacon, Bertinet soft brioche bun
Toast House apple & almond cake
Severn & Wye’s oven baked monkfish with chorizo, green beans and saute potatoes
Toast House, Ilkley – best coffee & cake
Great place to relax with fabulous coffee. But it is the cake that puts Toast House at the top of the pile! Every cake has been home-made with skill and love. Toast review
Severn & Wye Smokery, Chaxhill – best fish
Suppliers to some of the finest chefs and foodstores in the UK. Their small restaurant has a menu of fresh fish, smoked fish and shellfish which they cook beautifully. A must for fish lovers! Severn review – Jan 16Severn review – Jul 16
Here’s hoping that 2017 gives us as much food joy as 2016!