The Farmer’s Boy Inn, Longhope

The Farmer's Boy Inn - bread and olivesI’d been keen to visit The Farmer’s Boy Inn in the Longhope, Forest of Dean, for a while after hearing amazing things about it.

When you approach the place, it looks like a lovely, country pub on the outside, probably somewhere that might serve a decent ploughman’s or Sunday lunch, with not much of a hint to the magic prepared in its kitchen. It seems that this place thrives off its impressive word of mouth – though the owner surely does understand the value of marketing, with the many award wins and a past appearance on C4’s Four in a Bed.

Inside it is a gorgeously inviting, traditional public house with tankers and dried hops adorning the walls. The restaurant had candles on each table to add atmospheric sparkle.

If you’re a fan of hops for your glass, rather than the wall, you won’t be disappointed with the
local tipple offering. The Farmer’s Boy Inn appears to have a good relationship with the nearby Hillside Brewery, and if you fancy something different, a range of local Wye Valley Brewery varieties.

The Farmer's Boy Inn - mushrooms with Shropshire Blue and white wine sauce on a toasted muffinWhen we ordered our sarters, being the antipasti truffle pig I am, I opted for the olives, ciabatta, with truffle butter, basalmic vinegar and olive dipping oil. My other half chose the wild mushrooms with white wine and Shropshire blue sauce on a toasted muffin.

Not only have people raved to me about the food at this place, but in particular they have raved about its pies. This is why I chose a beef, stilton and stout pie with shortcrust pastry and truffle mash. My dining partner ordered the half and half pie – beef and stilton, with chicken and mushroom with a puff pastry lid and chips.

When the starters arrived, my olives and bread were presented so beautifully, with a cute little bottle with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar in, and with the warm, crusty Italian bread, it was a lovely
first course to guzzle. I tried the mushrooms with the white wine and blue cheese sauce and it too, was delicious. The white wine complemented the cheese well, with the latter not being too overpowering, as it sometimes can be. Again, presentation had been taken into account.

The Farmer's Boy Inn - Steak, Guiness and stilton pie with shortcrust pastryNot so soon after our empty plates were collected, our pies had landed on our table. I was served my pie with chips, peas and a small jug of gravy. I had ordered mash, and though I’m usually one to say if my order gets messed up, I decided not to mention it as I’d really enjoyed my dining experience until that point. Soon enough though, the apologetic and friendly waiter had brought out my mashed potatoes. Who’s one to complain at free extra food hey?

The filling in my pie was delicious, a perfect balance of the flavours and tender, slow cooked-beef. The filling was rich, hearty and warming. The truffle mash was to die for. If I had to make on criticism the shortcrust pastry in my pie was pleasant, though it could have been more ‘short’ and crispy, though it was almost perfect.

My other half’s pie pastry was buttery and flaky. It had the double filling and although it was tasty, I didn’t quite understand the concept of featuring two fillings in one pie. I was kind of expecting a pastry divider in the middle – if that could even be possible!

Overall, I was really impressed by The Farmer’s Boy Inn. The atmosphere was lovely and inviting, all of the staff seemed to enjoy their work and were friendly and helpful, and most of all the food was fantastic. This place was really the nicest meal I’d had for a while and I would definitely recommend it.

The Farmer's Boy Inn - 2 in 1 pie, steak and Guiness and chicken and mushroom wit puff pastryAlso worth noting is that if you’re not based locally, this place offers rooms, and if you want entertainment, I noticed a few leaflets around the place that promoted forthcoming tribute acts and dinner nights.


The Farmer’s Boy Inn, Ross Rd, Longhope, Forest of Dean. GL17 0LP. Tel: 01452 831300

 

Stratton House Hotel, Cirencester

exteriorOn a cloudy, chilly Friday afternoon, we headed to Stratton House Hotel in Stratton, just out of Cirencester, for afternoon tea.

Cirencester is a lovely town in the east of Gloucestershire that’s known for its rich Roman history. There are many nice places to eat in the Cotswold city, with all kinds of cuisine on offer.

There was a sparkling wine afternoon tea offer available on Groupon at the three-star hotel, which was just £15.00 for two people. I bought the voucher as a Christmas present for my nan.

We arrived at Stratton House at lunchtime and parked up in the car park outside. The Stratton House Hotel exterior is built from Cotswold stone and looks very pretty.

Inside the building, the interiors are a little dated and its crying out for a refurbishment. It really is a beautiful building with a large, well-maintained garden and so if the inside reflected the outside I think it would make it seem quite inviting. The reception area looked shabby with typed up notices papering the walls.

We were seen through to the restaurant where we were seated opposite a large window with great views across the garden. We were then served two glasses of sparkling wine, and not long after, the cake stand with the tea.

The finger sandwiches were white bread with ham and wholegrain mustard and the brown sandwiches filled with cheddar and pickle. The sandwiches were fine but nothing overly special, but I am also conscious the offer for the tea was inexpensive. After we finished those, our tea and coffee was served at our request, once we’d finished the wine. The coffee came in a smaller pot and the tea in a much larger pot.

Next we ate the plain scones, still warm, with a generous helping of clotted cream and strawberry jam. These were very delicious – though scones with jam and cream are pretty difficult to get wrong.

The cakes that adorned the stand’s middle tier consisted of sweet mini meringues filled with cream and strawberries, a small (and I’m assuming) shop-bought tart pastry filled with a raspberry coulis and sweet cream cheese filling that was pleasant enough, a strange puff pastry item that was stodgy and filled with an egg-custard type item and heavy sponge cakes topped with white chocolate and a dark chocolate butter cream. When I asked the waiting staff what the cakes actually were, they didn’t have a clue and I found this disappointing. I think restaurant staff should be able to tell you what they’re serving you. This made me doubt any of the cakes were actually homemade.

Though, it’s not all doom and gloom. I think for £15 for two people for afternoon tea and two glasses of sparkling wine is not a bad price, and it was pretty good value for money. And I was able to get three cups of tea out of the pot too.

There was a couple of people at the hotel also having the same, which suggests to me the deal has been popular. We had a nice few hours though I do think the food could have been better and that the waiting staff could know what they are plopping down in front of the customers.


Stratton House Hotel, Gloucester Rd, Cirencester. GL7 2LE. Tel: 0844 855 9129.

 

The Gloucester Old Spot – near Cheltenham

The Gloucester Old SpotWhen asked about Gloucestershire, people from outside of our county would probably think of farms, big green open spaces and cosy pubs. They might even know about the history of Gloucester and the elegance of Cheltenham.

The Gloucester Old Spot is the epitome of a traditional Gloucestershire pub – warm, inviting and offering fantastic food and drink.

I have a friend from Worcester and with its close access to the M5, this is the perfect meeting place for us. It’s half hour away from her and I. There is ample on-site parking too.

The pub is inviting and warm for a cold January afternoon and its neutral interior bar area is elegant and charming. In fact, Gloucester Old Spot is one of two pubs in Cheltenham featured in The Good Pub Guide. The bar area is to the right of the entrance and the dining room to the left.

The dining room is striking. Deep purple walls are complemented by exposed stone, original antique oil paintings and taxidermy stags’ heads. On this occasion we sat near the wood burner in the room.

Gloucester Old Spot - caramelised red onion tart with Goats cheeseThe waitress handed us the lunch menu, which is full of British dishes with imaginative concoctions. There are crusty cob sandwiches, fish dishes, vegetarian options and steaks.

I ordered the Balsamic Red Onion and Goats Cheese Crottin Tartlet with Chargrilled Romesco Salsa and Rocket Salad. As it is January I thought just this as a main would be healthy enough!

When it arrived it was beautifully  presented. The goats cheese and balsamic red onion worked really well together – the red onion was really sweet. The tartlet shortcrust pastry was crisp around the edges but unfortunately soggy underneath. I would have preferred it crispy all around and I’m assuming that it should have been.

What I was really impressed with was the Romesco Salsa. Romesco is a nut and red pepper sauce and this particular salsa had a sun-dried, Mediterranean taste to it. Extremely moreish.

This dish was lovely for a light lunch, regardless of the pastry, as the flavours worked really well and even though it was tasty, not too unhealthy.

I recommend a visit to the Gloucester Old Spot, whether you live in or outside of the county. It’s one of the places that make you love Gloucestershire even more.

I’ll be back for dinner some time.


 

The Gloucester Old Spot, Piffs Elm, Tewkesbury Road, Cheltenham. GL51 9SY. Tel: 01242 680321