Lunch@The Bell, Ramsbury

The Bell at Ramsbury is another favourite haunt that we haven’t visited for a while.  It has been a good quality gastropub for some time now so, we are heading there for lunch with high expectations of great food and decent beer.

The bar area is very busy when we arrive and, as we are not wanting the more formal atmosphere of the restaurant, we squeeze round a small table until something bigger becomes available.  This gives us an opportunity to examine the menu and order some drinks.

Rock has an apple juice with soda while I have the Ramsbury Bitter.  The Bell is part of the Ramsbury Estate which has its own brewery, distillery and smokehouse.  The Ramsbury Brewery produces a range of real ales and I’m starting with the bitter.  It is an amber ale made with barley and Golding hops and carries a decent amount of flavour.



Even though we were planning to have a relatively light lunch – I’m sufficiently excited about the starter menu to order the pan seared scallops with peas, parsley root purée, black pudding & ham crisp.  Three beautifully cooked scallops duly arrive with a small peak of crushed peas, the interesting pale purée, scattered crumbs of black pudding and two crispy pieces of ham.  Delightful.


I order a second beer – this time Ramsbury Gold – which I enjoy a lot more than the bitter. We then wait for quite a while, watching as other tables that ordered after us are served and wondering if our order has somehow fallen between the cracks.  Eventually, Rock’s desire for some food has become unnerving and I go to the bar to find out what has happened.  We receive apologies and, not too long after, our main courses.


Rock has chosen the small size Ramsbury Gold battered haddock with triple cooked chips, crushed peas and tartare sauce.  The batter is fantastically light and flavoursome and the chunky chips are top quality. I’m having the Ramsbury smokehouse venison sausages with creamed mash, kale and a red wine gravy.  The sausages are rich and meaty, the venison much more highly flavoured than pork or beef.  It’s a glorious version of sausage and mash.


We order coffee and homemade salted caramel truffles which, because of the wait for our main courses, are taken off the bill.  The truffles are excellent. Great food, lovely atmosphere and, as far as we are concerned, they rescued the tiny glitch in service.



Lunch@The Swan, Southrop

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!

Matt’s Scotch egg
Heritage beetroot risotto with mascarpone and parmesan reggiano

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.

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.

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.


2017 Food Awards – Part 2, Pubs

WadeandRockandFood Awards 2017

The WadeandRockandFood Awards 2017 follow another year of dining out in hundreds of restaurants, pubs and cafes. The awards aim to celebrate the very best eating experiences we have had over the last 12 months. Awards 2017 part 1 focused on restaurants, part 2 focuses on pubs and part 3 will focus on small independent food providers.

In 2015 we found several sensational pubs. In both 2016 and 2017 we have not been quite so fortunate – with many places falling short on imagination and quality. However each of our top 3 pubs, shown below in alphabetical order, are definitely worthy of their place.

King William, Bath

Not in the most fashionable part of Bath but well worth the short walk from the town centre.  Fabulous beers on tap and interesting food that is beautifully prepared.  Informal, friendly atmosphere and great service. King Review

Spiced beef brisket, red cabbage jam and shallot
Pan roasted hake, crushed turnips and Bromham carrots
Cinnamon and pumpkin creme diplomat with golden syrup ice cream and candied pecan nuts

Punch Bowl, Crossthwaite

Cumbrian hospitality at its very best.  Warm, welcoming and beautifully prepared food presented with style and good humour. Should be near the top of the list for any foodie visiting the lake district. Punch review

Stornaway black pudding with bubble & squeak and a crispy hen’s egg
Braised beef cheek with horseradish, wild mushrooms, creamed potatoes & borderlaise sauce
Lemon tart with damson sorbet

 Red Lion, East Chisenbury

Our favourite gastropub was in peak form when we visited a few weeks ago.  Guy & Brittany Manning deliver dishes that are always good but often exceptional.  We’ve been dining here since before they earned their first Michelin star …and that was back in 2013.  Lion review 

Scallop & black pudding tortellono with swede purée, pickled pears and chicken jus
Pan-fried halibut with celeriac purée, poached Cox’s apples, Burbage shiitakes and a Noilly Prat beurre blanc
Chocolate bark, poached pear with a hazelnut praline ice cream, home-made granola with a rum punch sorbet, chocolate creméux and a citrus Genoese sponge with apple & créme fraîche

Food Awards – Part 3, on small independent food providers, will follow in the next few days.

Lunch@The Red Lion, East Chisenbury 2017

Last time we were at the Red Lion, earlier this year, Rock had a migraine and we had to leave before we had even started our lunch…just one of those things.  The time before that we left disappointed because, after having so many fabulous meals here, we had a lunch that fell short of our very high expectations.  Now we are back wanting to have our faith in this great place fully restored!

I get into the mood for lunch with a seasonal beer.  That Old Chestnut is a dark brown smooth bitter both malty and hoppy from the Ramsbury Brewery.  Perfect for the winter.   Rock has an organic apple juice from Luscombe with soda. Now we are ready for another Red Lion food adventure!


My adventure starts with the scallop & black pudding tortellono with swede purée, pickled pears and chicken jus.  The tortellono is made with wafer thin fresh pasta and deeply filled with a mixture of scallop and black pudding.  The swede purée is silky smooth, slices of piquant pear, herbs, baby onions, chicken jus plus additional cubes of black pudding and balls of pear all combine to make this heaven on a plate.  Wow!

Scallop & black pudding tortellono with swede purée, pickled pears and chicken jus

No starter for Rock – she is saving plenty of space for dessert.  Her main course is pan-fried halibut with celeriac purée, poached Cox’s apples, Burbage shiitakes and a Noilly Prat beurre blanc.  The halibut is perfectly cooked, the purée and the beurre blanc bring a riot of flavours that beautifully complement the fish and the apple brings a tart, refreshing zing to the dish.  The combination of celeriac, celery, celery leaves, poached and fresh apple work incredibly well with the halibut.  She is loving it.

Pan-fried halibut with celeriac purée, poached Cox’s apples, Burbage shiitakes and a Noilly Prat beurre blanc

I have the roast partridge with cromesqui (a small savoury croquette), potato millefeuille, parsnips, prunes, quince and sauce poivrade ( a lightly peppered game sauce).  The partridge is succulent, the potato millefeuille is one of the best potato things I have ever tasted, parsnip purée and shavings of parsnip add different textures, the prunes add sweetness and the quince its own delicate flavour.  Plus the rich depth of savoury cromesqui is a delight. If we were not in a public place we would pick up our plates and lick them clean! Omg.

Roast partridge with cromesqui, potato millefeuille, parsnips, prunes, quince and sauce poivrade

The Red Lion has held a Michelin star since 2013 and this is due to the skill of Guy and Brittany Manning.  Guy runs the kitchen and Brittany moves effortlessly between front of house and dessert creation.  We have loved Guy’s starter and main courses, we have talked to Brittany as she dashes between tables, now we will find out if the Brittany inspired desserts live up to the exceptional standard that Guy’s dishes have set.

We decide to share the Red Lion Café Gourmand – a modest portion of five different desserts.  Served on a large piece of slate we have: a chocolate creméux; a citrus Genoese sponge with apple & créme fraîche; home-made granola with a rum punch sorbet; poached pear with a hazelnut praline ice cream; and a chocolate bark with salt, chilli, pumpkin & sunflower seeds. Rich, indulgent chocolate, incredible sorbet and flavours that are both surprising and wonderful.  Have I said wow enough times already….I don’t care.  Wow!

Chocolate bark, poached pear with a hazelnut praline ice cream, home-made granola with a rum punch sorbet, chocolate creméux and a citrus Genoese sponge with apple & créme fraîche

As ever, the service here has been wonderful.  We were mostly looked after by Ruth who was efficient, friendly and helpful.  On our way out we stopped at the entrance to the kitchen to thank Guy & Brittany for lunch and they happily took time to chat to us about some of our recent food adventures.

To summarise our experiences of the food at The Red lion….occasionally good, regularly great, often extraordinary.  This time round…absolutely extraordinary!










Lunch@The Star Inn, Sparsholt

The search for great pub food in 2017 continues and it’s time to return to another old favourite – The Star Inn at Sparsholt.  We are meeting Jem and Sassy, a couple of our regular dining chums, for lunch.  Sparsholt is a small Oxfordshire village just west of Wantage.

The menu here is always interesting with a mix of traditional pub dishes and then some that are clearly adventures into gastropub territory.  A pint of Prospect from the Shotover Brewing Company puts me in the right frame of mind for lunch, it is a pale bitter with decent body and a pleasing amount of flavour.

Sassy has the pumpkin soup served with almonds, coriander and curry oil.  Rock and Jem both have the smoked & curried chicken terrine with pickled raisins, salted cashews and a rosemary mayonnaise.  I have the Cornish mackerel with Vietnamese quinoa, pineapple chutney, coriander and sriracha (a type of chilli sauce) sorbet.  We all love our starters – a smooth and fully flavoured soup, a great chicken terrine and my mackerel is superb. The accompaniments are inventive and they work well.

Cornish mackerel with Vietnamese quinoa, pineapple chutney, coriander and sriracha sorbet

Jem and I both move on to the roast partridge breasts served with a leg and apple sausage (presumably a partridge leg), salt baked celeriac, braised red cabbage & cider gravy.  The partridge is tender and is complemented by the perfectly cooked vegetables and the rich cider gravy. Sassy has the roasted walnut gnocchi with wild mushrooms, celeriac, turnip, cauliflower and spinach cream.  She likes the taste and the vibrant yellow of the cauliflower and the bright green spinach cream make the dish look amazing.

Roasted walnut gnocchi with wild mushrooms, celeriac, turnip, cauliflower and spinach cream

Rock has the Kentucky fried cod cheek burger with hand cut chips, pickled cucumber and roasted garlic coleslaw.  It is well presented but she find’s the cod cheek quite firm – almost like monkfish. Also, she can’t taste any of the promised Kentucky spices. Disappointing.

Jem has the dark chocolate financier with praline mousse and mint chocolate chip ice cream for dessert.  I have the orange tart with dark chocolate sorbet and candied almonds.  Sassy has a selection of home-made vanilla ice cream and orange and autumn fruit sorbets. Rock simply has a coffee served with home made fudge.

Apart from Rock’s cod dish, the quality of the food has been really good.  The service from Toby has been helpful and efficient throughout.  This is certainly one of the better pub meals we’ve had during 2017.

Lunch@King William, Bath

Our search for high quality pub food is taking us to King William in Bath.  In the latest Good Food Guide, King William is described as a local gem that serves seasonal, robust modern British cooking – let’s see how bright this gem can shine!

The beers on tap look suitably interesting.  Rock tries the Funky Monkey – a fruity English pale ale with hints of citrus from the Milk St Brewery of Frome.  I’m in the mood for something dark and the Plotline dry stout fits the bill perfectly.  Brewed by Kettlesmith in Bradford-on-Avon it successfully manages to combine chocolate and fruit flavours but it is not as full-bodied as I normally like in a stout.

Knowing that she has the appetite of a small child, Rock asks for two dishes from the children’s menu.  The first is a version of the King William tasting board.  Chicken popcorn, croquette of Bath chaps, spiced beef brisket, juniper cured salmon, basil pesto and Bertinet bread.

King William tasting board

I have the spiced beef brisket with red cabbage jam and shallot.  The beef is beautiful and the rich red cabbage jam brings the whole dish alive.  Time for another beer and I move on to pub’s own King William ale – not sure who brews this for them but it is a good malty bitter.

Spiced beef brisket, red cabbage jam and shallot

Rock’s next dish is battered fish with crushed peas and chips.  It is a suitably modest portion but the best things often come in small packages.  The fish is fresh, perfectly cooked and wrapped in a crisp batter.  The crushed peas and the chips are of the highest quality! Although a staple dish on many pub menus, most pubs deliver a very average fish and chips – but here it is fantastic. I have the pan roasted hake with crushed turnips and Bromham carrots.  Another perfectly cooked fish with firm flaky white flesh and crispy skin.

Battered fish, crushed peas and chips
Pan roasted hake

Finally, we  share a cinnamon and pumpkin creme diplomat with golden syrup ice cream and candied pecan nuts.  The diplomat is very creamy, the ice cream is not too sweet and the whole dessert is enhanced by the textures of the biscuit and the pecans.  Excellent.

Cinnamon and pumpkin creme diplomat with golden syrup ice cream and candied pecan nuts

We’ve had fabulous food and great, friendly and helpful service.  The pub has not been too busy, which is a shame because this really is a local gem… some of the people of Bath and some of the visitors to Bath are clearly missing out!

Lunch@The Queens, Belbroughton

For us, with a few notable exceptions, 2017 has not been a good year for dining in pubs.  So, we are heading to The Queens at Belbroughton, which has had some rave reviews on social media, with high hopes rather than high expectations.

I have a very pleasant pint of Forty Niner from the Ringwood Brewery.  It is a full-bodied, malty golden brown ale.  I order the Queens Curry – marinated lamb, tomato, sweet pepper & onion sauce served with poppadums, onion bhaji and homemade naan bread.  It is perfectly ok but in no way exciting.  The bhaji and the naan bread are actually very ordinary.


Rock orders the confit leg of Gressingham duck  with bean cassoulet, creamy mash & red cabbage.  When it is served there is no bean cassoulet – the duck leg and mash are served with green beans and carrots.  When queried, the staff member checks with the kitchen and comes back with an apology but no explanation or any other form of compensation.  Moreover, the skin of a confit duck leg should be crisp – this skin is best described as soggy.


Our high hopes have been dashed.  Really standard pub grub and sometimes you don’t even receive what the menu promises!