Abbey Home Farm has an organic shop and cafe near Cirencester and it is one of our favourite places for lunch. I was not planning another blog about this place…so there are no photos of Rock’s lunch. But my meal is so extraordinary that, while I would not be prepared to share the food with you, I’m very happy to share some pictures and commentary.
As usual I begin with a Tom Long – an amber bitter from the Stroud Brewery. Always good.
I have chosen the summer vegetable and cheddar pasty with a selection of salads and a homemade chutney. The pasty contains courgette, carrot, potato, onion and cheddar all wrapped in beautiful pastry. The salads include: green bean, broccoli and sesame seeds in a peanut satay sauce; rice with parsley and tamari soy sauce; apple, strawberry, orange and nectarine; salad leaves, tomato, beetroot and fennel; an edible nasturtium; and there’s mung beans, radish and sprouts in the coleslaw. I may have missed a few ingredients but it feels like I have a bit of every home grown organic vegetable or fruit that is currently available. And, is it possible to have your five a day in one meal?
Fabulous relaxed dining, good beer and great food…
Tierra & Mar is a relatively new tapas restaurant in Cirencester. It is owned by Brett and Silvia who met while working in a variety of Michelin starred restaurants across England, Australia and Spain. They have brought their skills to the Cotswolds and today is our chance to see what they can do.
It all starts very well. Rock has sparkling elderflower, while I try a Spanish beer. Inet Damm is described as an award winning malt & wheat beer brewed with spice – it is extraordinary. Created by the El Bulli chef, Ferran Adria, and the Damm brewers – it manages to incorporate the flavours of coriander, liquorice and orange peel in a way that is completely harmonious. More importantly, it seems to work with a very wide variety of food and thus perfect for tapas.
Rosemary & brown rolls
Excellent canapés of empanada with mediterranean vegetables and crackers topped with marinated sardine & yoghurt arrive next. These are followed by freshly baked bread rolls in two varieties, rosemary and brown, and served with extra virgin olive oil. This is so good and we haven’t even started our tapas yet!
The first dish is a smoked duck breast & confit duck leg terrine served with pistachio, poached plums and red onion marmalade. But it’s not that simple – there are also small cubes of jelly, dashes of cream and herb sprigs (see featured image). The combination of flavours is just outstanding.
Next is monkfish wrapped in Serrano ham with pea and mint puree, chorizo jam, sauteed potatoes and an almond & garlic sauce. The monkfish is soft and almost melts against the crispy ham wrapping, again the complexity of flavours and textures is amazing.
The tuna tartare follows – raw marinated tuna served with avocado, grated horseradish, slivers of radish and tiny pieces of finely toasted bread. It is very clever – the use of marination and the highly skilled balancing of quality ingredients creates a refreshing and vibrant dish.
Then patatas bravas and marinated fried chicken wings with pickled carrot, carrot puree, parsnip, basil and a honey & orange chicken sauce. The patatas bravas are simple but you need some simple to go with the complexity of the other dishes. The chicken wings are part of another fabulous balance of flavour combinations.
You would think after canapes, bread, duck, monkfish, tuna, patatas bravas and chicken that those with modest appetites, like us, would not even contemplate dessert. However, the food here has been so exceptional…we have to try one. We go for the poached rhubarb with pistachio, ginger and cream cheese icing. It is yet another beautifully presented dish – soft rhubarb, crunchy pistachio both enhanced by expertly flavoured jellies and creams. Sensational!
We don’t have time to stop for coffee but Paco, who has looked after us fabulously throughout lunch, gives us some beautiful petit fours anyway. There have been a few contenders this year….. but so far this has been our best meal of 2018!
After a fabulous few days in Wales we are travelling back home. Now in Gloucestershire, we are aiming for one of our favourite food places – the Severn & Wye Smokery. Late last year the Severn & Wye opened a new restaurant, cafe and foodshop on their existing site and this will be our first visit since the new premises have been open. We loved the old Severn & Wye – we expect to love the new version even more.
The food store here is so good we usually come away with plenty of goodies once we’ve had our lunch. We’ve already had lunch elsewhere today, so we are stopping for coffee, cake and then food shopping. The cafe here is very relaxed and we order an americano and a cappuccino. Plus, after several days sampling bara brith in Wales, I’m now keen to try the Irish version that is available here… barmbrack.
I’m glad we are sharing because the slice of barmbrack is huge. Very fruity, very moist and packing loads of mixed spice flavour. The coffee is excellent too.
I normally hate shopping but not here. The fresh fish is the star of the shopping experience. They seem to have every type of fish available from the UK coastline….fresh off the boat. You can also buy cakes, pies, fresh vegetables, beer – we end up spending far more time shopping than we did enjoying our coffee and cake.
We didn’t blog about The Close last time we came here because we weren’t expecting anything other than standard hotel food. However, we had a wonderful lunch on that occasion, so we are back with friends to try it again – this time I’ve got my camera and my notepad!
We are meeting our good friends Cali & Bug – who we haven’t seen for a while. We arrive first and sit in the restaurant studying our menus. Soon, we see Cali and Bug heading from the hotel car park, through the gardens, toward the restaurant.
I have a pint of Butcombe Original – a really good malty, slightly peppery session ale – and Cali has half of lager. Rock & Bug are on driving duty. Cali and I both have the crispy hen’s egg served on a nest of leaves and surrounded by a moat of mushroom velouté and small peaks of burnt apple purée. It is beautiful. Rock has the beetroot cannelloni filled with goat’s cheese and accompanied by black cherries and a sprinkle of herbs and horseradish. Beetroot & goat’s cheese seem to be staples of the modern menu but this dish is far better than most – strikingly individual. Bug has some of Cali’s crispy egg and some of Rock’s beetroot cannelloni.
Conversation runs across politics, the environment, careers, house moves, education and then more fun stuff like living in California, live music and mutual friends.
Next Rock has the pan fried stone bass fillet served with Asian greens, Thai curry sauce and crispy shallots. Crispy skin on the fish and great flavours – Rock is happy. Cali has the spinach gnocchi with cherry tomatoes, basil, olives and parmesan. The pieces of gnocchi are huge and served on an enormous number of mixed olives. Too many olives, too little imagination….disappointing. It is clumsy dish and a great shame – last time we were here Rock has an amazing vegetarian dish, full of interesting textures and flavours.
Bug has the Cep risotto with spring onions, truffle oil and parmesan. Nicely cooked and generous with the truffle oil. I have the stuffed pork fillet with savoy cabbage, bacon and a black pudding bon bon. It is really good – plenty of flavour and I do love a black pudding bon bon!
Overall, we’ve enjoyed a good lunch with only the gnocchi being unimaginative. Great to catch up with Cali & Bug – it is hard not to have a good time when you are with them!
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!