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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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 Parrot Bar and Grill, Cheltenham

I studied in Cheltenham and would often pass The Parrot Bar and Grill.  I was always intrigued by its warm Cotswold Stone exterior, wielding individual gold letters.  I’d also heard rumour that the Like a Prayer singer, Madonna, used to drink there.  There’s probably some truth in this Chinese whisper as the cone-breasted entertainer once checked out the Cheltenham Ladies College for her daughter.  As an impressionable student, with hardly any exposure to celebrities in those days, I thought it was pretty cool.

The Parrot Bar and Grill

The Parrot Bar and Grill, Cheltenham

A good few years later, and after learning The Parrot serves Kobe (possibly the best beef in the world) steak, my other half and I decided to give it a try.  It’s the only place in Gloucestershire that serves it.

We went on a cold evening and were drawn to the sandy, warm gleam of the building’s outer, like moths to a lightbulb.  Inside it was dark but in a strange way, cosy.  The interior was different to how I imagined; the bar was in the centre of the room, and looked like something from a film where people rock up to some isolated hotel in the middle of the countryside.  The restaurant was to the right of the entrance, on a slightly raised level, with walls painted with a burnt orange colour and furnished with black tables and chairs.

We had the trio of scallops to start.  It arrived nicely presented with three scallops wedged on a thick piece of black pudding, surrounded by a circle of pea puree.  The scallops were cooked well, slightly crispy with a soft centre.  Yet the scallop/ black pudding ratio was completely off-scale and I think it would be more appropriate to have it on the menu as ‘black pudding served with a trio of scallops and pea puree’.  Nevertheless, the flavour combinations were good.

Kobe beef

Kobe steak

Two 8oz Kobe fillet steaks with triple-cooked chips, salad and a side of port and stilton sauce were served as our main.  The plates came out hot which meant the salad garnish was warm, wilted and pathetic.  That aside, the chips were long, thick and golden; the steak glistening and beautifully charred.  When sawing the meat with the steak knife it was so tender that I wouldn’t be surprised if a butter knife could do the same damage.  Inside the meat was pink and cooked to perfection.  When I popped it into my mouth fireworks went off in my mind, I hardly had to chew and it tasted immense.  It is the best steak I have ever eaten.

I love a good sauce, especially if it has stilton in it, but the jug of deliciousness we had ordered remained practically untouched.  The steak spoke for itself, I would even go as far to to say it gave a rich and grandiose monologue of self-superiority.

The Parrot was definitely worth the trip for the Kobe fillet steak alone.

The Parrot Bar and Grill is now closed.

GloucestershireGlutton