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

 

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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

The Forest Showcase: the Forest of Dean food festival

A few Sundays back, I headed to the grounds of the Forest of Dean’s 17th century Speech House for the annual food festival, the Forest Showcase.

Set in the centre of the dramatic forest, the Speech House was originally a hunting lodge and now it operates as 37 bedroom hotel, which has large grounds to host many events like this food festival or the annual Fern Bonfire and firework display. However, the Forest Showcase is an independently-run event – rather than something organised by the Speech House.

IMG_1054On the day of the Forest Showcase, there was an autumn chill but glorious sunshine and blue skies as we arrived into the festival around 1pm. The one-day event had been opened that morning by Masterchef and YouTube’s ‘Buttery Biscuit Base’ star, Gregg Wallace.

We made our way into the Food Hall where we were met with Blakeney cider and perry producer McCrindle’s Cider’s stand. The cider maker’s ‘Loiterpin’ perry was on display – an eye-catching product in a Champagne-style bottle.  Owner James McCrindle explained that this type of drink was made long before winemakers in Champagne did, as the Forest of Dean provided the coal to make the glass for the special bottle. We tried a sample of the Loiterpin and it was a light and fragrant bubbly – good enough to toast a nuptial speech.

We also had a glass of the still berry McCrindle’s cider – very nice and not too sweet – and I bought a trio pack of the Dry Vintage as my first Christmas gift purchase of the year.

As well as the Blakeney producer, some other local area’s cider makers were exhibiting – Severn Cider, Apple County and Gwatkin. The brewers showcasing their ales were Longhope-based Hillside Brewery, Mitcheldean’s Bespoke Brewery and further-afield Wiltshire’s Wadworth Brewery.

Next stop in the tent was Hillbrooks Icecream, where I sampled the salted caramel flavour. I didn’t even realise that such a good ice cream producer existed in the Forest of Dean.

We moved on to sample some cold-pressed rape seed oil. Stainswick Farm makes these incredibly fantastic oils on its farm in Oxfordshire. This is a seriously good product – the basil oil would be perfect for a salad, the oak-smoked oil was not too intense but extremely delicious, the garlic oil was good and my personal favourite – the white truffle oil, which is truly fantastic and would be perfect to finish off a plate of pasta or risotto. IMG_1073

Moving on to another drizzly food product, Tigg’s dressings. A winner of a Great Taste Gold Award 2015 – its original dressing is the favourite of mine from the range – and the owner said the preference of most people. It has a zingy, sweet and sour taste created from the cider vinegar and tomato ingredients.

We then sampled some of the cheese from Somerset-based Gould’s Cheddar stall. My favourite was the three year-old Fiery Fred’s Crazy Cheddar as it was creamy and strong, but not too crumbly. Very moreish. I picked up a block for my Christmas cheese board. This exhibitor was also showcasing the Windy Ridge Cheese ‘afterburn’ variety, a cheddar that is packed full of Jalapeño peppers, red chillies and a mix of red and green bell peppers – very tasty for palates that enjoy a bit of heat!

Other edible items showcased included meats, confectionary, patisserie, conserves, fruit and vegetables, bakery, olives and antipasti, scotch eggs, pastries, Asian produce, vegan and vegetarian options, herbs and spices, juice coffee, wine and spirits

IMG_1071The Forest Showcase offered so much throughout the day for things for people to see and do, as well as the bustling Food Hall there was talks in the Cookery Theatre by various chefs and food producers – including a beer and food pairing demonstration by Harts Barn Cookery School and Hillside Brewery – as well as the Arts and Crafts Pavilion for handmade or unique goods, the Kids Zone with turnip tossing and vegetable statue making, a petting zoo as well as the Live Music Tent.

Before heading off I made sure I visited the Native Breeds stall for a pulled pork in McCrindle’s cider roll. As you can imagine, it was the perfect end to a fun foodie day out.

The Forest Showcase was a great event and good value at £12 for a family of four. It was a good event – and hopefully there will be more exhibitors and visitors for next year’s festival.

Photography is courtesy of Garry Holden Photography.

Pieminister, Stokes Croft, Bristol

Pieminister

The work team and I fancied a bit of lunch away from our office, so we made the 15 minute trip into Stokes Croft, Bristol. The Stokes Croft area has been known for being slightly rundown with derelict buildings and social problems. Yet as time has gone on the district has attracted professionals and students alike for its cultural and artistic offering. The community vibe is impressive and that’s why it’s so appealing.

We decided to head for the flagship branch of Pieminister, the well-known pie producer and small chain of restaurants. Pieminister opened this first branch in 2003 and has done remarkably well ever since for its dedication to good ingredients, good products and investment back into the community.

You can’t miss Pieminister on the street with the words ‘Live and Eat Pie’ written on the face of the building. Inside expect an industrial feel with shadowy, dark licks of paint and warehouse-style furniture. The room is dark but it has a nice atmosphere.

I opted for the Orchard Pig apple presse – as I’ve tried the brand’s cider before so I’m guessing the juice would be good. I also opted for a Moo & Blue pie, which is beef and stilton for those of you that can’t figure it out. Out of £10.00 I had around 30p change – a good price for a team lunch out.

We weren’t sat waiting long until our food came out. Soon there were steaming hot plates of pie, mash and a boat of gravy in front of it. The great thing about Pieminister is that they are proper pies – none of this dished casserole with a puff pastry lid nonsense.

I cut into my pie that was settled on top of a mountain of real mash, surrounded by its gravy moat. The pastry was just right, perfectly cooked, and the right amount of flaky. The beef inside was

Pieminister - Moo and Blue pie and mash

slow-cooked and tender. The stilton gravy was not too overpowering but had the right amount of rich, creamy and almost bitter taste of the blue cheese – a perfect complement to the braised bovine.

The gravy was good consistency for pie and mash – not too thick, not to thin – and the mash was good too. It was mash that was sturdy and stodgy, perfect to support a pie.

Pieminister is definitely worth a visit and it now has branches not only in Bristol but also Manchester, Leeds, Cardiff, Oxford and London.

‘Live and Let Pie’ people!

Pieminister, 24 Stokes Croft, Bristol. BS1 3PR. Tel: 0117 942 3322

 

 

 

The Suffolk Kitchen, Cheltenham

The Suffolk Kitchen

The Suffolk Kitchen

This dinner had been booked for well over a month, as I’d planned to take out three special people in my life as a treat.

Another friend, who is a foodie thanks to his time owning his own deli and during a different chapter of his life managed the food hall at Selfridges, had recommended The Suffolk Kitchen in Cheltenham to me. I know the restaurant has previously won the Taste of Gloucestershire awards for its commitment to locally-sourced and seasonal food with as it describes, ‘a good honest British menu.’

We arrived just before 7.30pm and were seated at our table directly in the window, which was perfect for our group to people-watch the passersby. I would describe the interior as clean, contemporary and cosy – a lovely environment to enjoy a sociable meal. It also seemed to be pretty busy – but not so much that disturbed the ambiance but enough for a good Saturday night buzz.

 

The Suffolk Kitchen - seasonal asparagus, with poached egg and hollandaise sauce

The Suffolk Kitchen – seasonal asparagus, with poached egg and hollandaise sauce

Our friendly waitress placed a jug of water and some bread – not sure whether it was homemade but I guess it was – on our table. The white bread had sun-dried tomato in it and the brown was red cabbage. My favourite was the sun-dried tomato option as it was sweet and delicious and the butter rich, creamy and salty. The red cabbage bread tasted like, well, bread with red cabbage in it.

Us ladies opted for a bottle of Principato Vigneti Pinot Grigio 2013, and the boys, beer. The wine was very good, and quite a mellow taste as far as Pinot Grigio goes. As we were served our drinks we were told of the specials – the main was a lamb dish, and the starter, an asparagus option with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce.  Just over the past week had asparagus officially come into season, thanks to our warm mid-April and only a few days before our meal had I been saying that I’d like to make asparagus with hollandaise sauce and a dippy egg. And yes I do realise I’ve just used the phrase ‘dippy egg’ and that I’m over eight years old.

 

 

The Suffolk Kitchen - pork belly with salted caramel sauce

The Suffolk Kitchen – pork belly with salted caramel sauce

I opted for the asparagus starter, and my other half chose the smoked haddock and prawn fishcake with coriander and red pepper harissa. The others chose an asparagus plus a baked goats cheese and caramalised walnuts first course.

I am extremely pleased that I decided on asparagus, which I was told the easygoing owner on front-of-house told me it was grown in Cirencester. The vegetables were perfectly cooked, al dente, and season, with a slight char from the griddle pan. The hollandaise sauce was tangy and creamy and the poached egg was cooked to immaculate precision. I really enjoyed dipping my asparagus into the saucy mess on the plate and to be honest I felt a bit disappointed that the whole thing was over too soon. The fish cake was what could be expected and was tasty – but didn’t blow my mind, or mouth rather.

 

 

The Suffolk Kitchen - roasted duck with confit orange

The Suffolk Kitchen – roasted duck with confit orange

For main I decided on braised West End Farm (a family-run farm in Wiltshire) pork belly, served with salted caramel sauce, parsley olive oil mash and crackling, and finished with spiced carrot compote, green beans and kale. My significant other decided on roasted duck served with confit orange, potato rosti and sautéed broccoli, accompanied with roasted beetroot and swede finished with a rich orange jus. Our dining companions opted for steak.

My main was immense. The little strips of crackling on top of the meat was golden, salted and crispy. The pork belly was seriously good – braised and the fat literally melted in my mouth. The salted caramel sauce was equally delicious – a fantastic accompaniment to the pork. The parsley olive oil mash was tasty and worked very well. The greens also held a deserving patch on the plate – you needed to crunch on some foliage to feel like you were replenishing your body from the oh so naughtiness of the sauce.  This rich and meaty dish is not for the faint-hearted and if I had one criticism it would be that there was a little too much meat for me, considering the richness of the flavour.

A mouthful of my partner’s duck with a roasted beet proved that this also was a delicious concoction – although I think pork won hands down on the flavour. The steaks seemed to go down well too.

The Suffolk Kitchen - cheese board for one

The Suffolk Kitchen – cheese board for one

After our sweet-savoury main courses we didn’t fancy a typical pudding so we decided on a cheese board for one to share between two. When it arrived on its wooden platter, the cheese was joined by grapes, a red onion chutney, an apple so beautifully sliced it almost looked like origami and some kind of homemade cracker to break apart by hand.

I didn’t ask about all of the cheese varieties but of course there was a brie and a stilton. The red onion chutney was delicious but unfortunately I found the cracker very unusual. It had some curry-type flavouring and my tastebuds did not enjoy it with the cheese. Although just because it did not suit me, does not mean it would not suit anyone else. It really annoys me when food critics say the food is bad because they don’t like the taste – namely that arrogant idiot that writes for The Times – I refuse to be one of those.

The other two that joined us for our meal opted for the peanut butter cheesecake and before I could try any, it had gone. I am assuming top marks for that deliciously-looking pud.

The Suffolk Kitchen is absolutely worth a visit. The food, setting and service could not be faulted and I had a fantastic evening. The entire meal for four courses, four mains, two desserts and drinks came to just under £165 – not including the tip.

The Suffolk Kitchen, Suffolk Parade, Cheltenham. GL50 2AB. Tel: 01242 237057.

The Ship Inn, Newnham-on-Severn

The blue exterior of the cosy Ship Inn, Newnham-on-Severn

The blue exterior of the cosy Ship Inn, Newnham-on-Severn

One early March Friday evening, we headed to The Ship Inn in the pretty Forest of Dean waterside village, Newnham-on-Severn. It’s not difficult to find The Ship – it’s along the A48, in the centre of the village’s High Street and is painted bright blue, which I’m sure has been done for people to find it but also as a talking-point. After all, talking-points are the basis of all of the The Ship’s marketing ploys to lure visitors through its door.

In the past The Ship’s owner has unveiled the ‘Rat Burger’ – a lamb burger with rosemary and thyme, rather than a flattened roadkill courtesy of the A48 – and it is still on the menu. More recently the ‘Titanic Burger’, (deep breath in) a stack of ¼ lb steak burger, ¼ lb bacon burger and a 1/4lb minted lamb burger with three toasted buns, three potato rosti, red onion, sliced tomato, tomato ketchup and minted mayo, and of course the killer Iceburg (breathe out), was in the limelight. Gluttons who fancy themselves a ‘Man vs. Food’ legend are welcome to come and sink a Titanic (at £17.95) and if successful, make The Ship’s very own hall of fame. In addition to these key talking-points, you can often see signs along the neighbouring road to beckon passing-trade for their custom.

The relaxing restaurant environment at The Ship Inn

The relaxing restaurant environment at The Ship Inn

There is sometimes difficulty to park near The Ship – you need to find a space some where along the High Street as the pub/restaurant doesn’t have its own car park. After you push open the pub’s creaky entrance door you are met with a cosy, warm-lit small bar area to the right and the restaurant to the left. The interior has a nautical theme with natural wood, beige and mint-green and the sparkle of polished surfaces, crockery and glass make you well aware you are in a clean and relaxing environment.

We ordered some drinks at the bar, where a few locals sat on bar stools nursing half-drunk pints of lager, before we were seated in the lovely restaurant. We took our pint of Peroni and half pint of Scurvy Cure cider through to our table. The cider is very good but unfortunately I didn’t find out who makes it. Although a later conversation revealed the reason behind the cider’s name; apparently years ago sailors used to take cider on voyages as water or fruit would not preserve very well and the vitamins in cider would prevent the onset of scurvy.  Quite a convenient story about the cider that is served in a conveniently-named pub.

The lady on front-of-house advised us of the specials board, with a nod to the ½ lb barbeque beef burger with fries. We opted for two burgers, with a side-order of onion rings, to enjoy after the starters of whitebait with tartar sauce and filo prawns with sweet chilli dip.

Filo prawns and sweet chilli dip

Filo prawns and sweet chilli dip

When the starters arrived they were on a starter plate with a small bit of garnish and a ramekin. The starters to be honest, were pretty bog standard but I didn’t really expect any more – given we had ordered the filo prawns and whitebait.   The starters weren’t fresh, they had been bought in bulk – probably in a big box from Bookers – and thrown into a deep-fat fryer. I can tell, as for many years as a student I worked as a waitress and kitchen-prep – and I know a cash and carry, pub-grub, pre-made starter when I see one. The starters were edible, as I said I knew what to expect when we ordered.

 

1/2 lb barbeque burger and chips

1/2 lb barbeque burger and chips

After our empty plates had been collected our mains soon followed. Two burgers with fries and a side of onion rings were plopped down on the table in front of us. The first thing I thought was how enormous the vessel-like burgers were and that we didn’t need the extra side.

The gigantic bap stack was held together by its wooden crucifix, and the mountain of skinny chips accompanied it on a tin plate covered with parchment not unlike the stuff you get at an Ed’s Diner.  Pulling apart the burger I could see the a melted slice of cheese – possibly Monterey Jack (if not, it should have been) – under a gloop of sticky dark barbeque sauce. Underneath the beef was a potato hash on salad.

 

You need to use a knife and fork for the burgers at The Ship and the first slice of the beef I saw that the meat was cooked medium to medium-rare. The flavours of the juicy meat, with the smoky-sweet sauce and the creamy tang of the cheese was a heavenly combination. I was very glad the burgers were recommended to us as it was seriously delicious. The bun, although I didn’t eat too much, was white, soft and floury and very pleasant. The only criticism I do have is that I would have liked to say the onion rings were home-made – I think they had made the same trip back down the A48 from Bookers with the filo prawns and whitebait.

The burgers at The Ship are well worth the trip to Newnham for and I recommend that you go hungry. The atmosphere of the restaurant is always nice. I’m sure the landlord has some more talking-points up his sleeve and so in terms of the menu, I don’t think this ship has yet well and truly sailed. For now, anyway.

Dinner for two at The Ship for two courses, drinks and a tip came to £60.00.

The Ship, High Street, Newnham-on-Severn. GL14 1BY. Tel: 01594 516283.