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

 

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.

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.

 

The Cock Inn, Blakeney

After a few decisions on a Friday evening, we decided to head to The Cock Inn in Blakeney, a small village based along the A48 in the Forest of Dean.   The last time I’d eaten there was about nine years ago.  Since then, the pub has been taken over by chef Andrew Jeffs, who trained under the eye of a three Michelin-starred chef, Nico Ladenis.

The Cock Inn - Blakeney

The Cock Inn, Blakeney

Inside The Cock Inn there is a cosy bar area to the right of the entrance and the restaurant is on the left.  Exposed beams complement the raw brick work; a humble and rustic setting is the result.

At the bar my other half orders a pint of lager and I decide to go for a McCrindle’s Cider, which is made in the same village.  When the barmaid tells me how strong it is, I amend my choice for half a lager.  I’m driving.

In addition to the menu, there’s a list of wholesome specials on the chalkboard which hangs above the restaurant’s fireplace.

We order local Severn and Wye smoked salmon with soda bread and tartare sauce, and pork, duck liver and brandy paté with toast and pickle to start.  For main we choose from the specials board – fillet beef Thai red curry and Surf and Turf.

Severn and Wye smoked salmon, soda bread, tartare sauce

Severn and Wye smoked salmon

I love smoked salmon.  The pink soft pieces of delicate heaven that oozes salty, woody flavours as soon as it touches the tongue.  The soda bread is how you would imagine; dense and spongy, smeared with the right amount of butter. The tartare sauce is tasty and I’m guessing home made.  I enjoy my starter mainly down to my love of this fish.  There doesn’t seem to be a lot of cooking skill required for this dish and I would probably say a bit overpriced at £8.60.

My partner’s paté tastes good.  The relish it came with was also nice.  I’m sure it would taste better if I was not eating salmon.

Soon follows the fillet beef Thai red curry.  I love a good South-East Asian curry, regardless of its colour.  However a good Thai curry, in my opinion, should not be thick and creamy, but thin and fragrant.

Pork, duck liver and brandy paté with toast

Pork, duck liver and brandy paté

This curry was the latter.  Watery but in a good way.  Beautifully charred pieces of fillet beef with a soft centre is the star of the show and crunchy mange tout adds a delightful texture.  The spice is perfect, and promises a little kick that does not overpower.  The rice helps to soak up the sauce.

My dining companion’s surf and turf looks impressive and short of any scampi nonsense.  The steak is sliced – we’re not sure why – but this exposes the colour of the crimson medium rare meat.  Big juicy prawns jewel the top of the steak and is covered by a blanket of peppery rocket.

The prawns are good and the meat not bad, but slightly tough.

Soon our plates are clear and we left satisfied with our meal.  To sum up this experience, and sorry if I am about to use words that grate on you, I would say it is ‘posher than average pub grub.’    I suppose ‘pub grub’ is better than ‘posh nosh’ – you will not catch me using that foul phrase in a hurry.

Fillet beef Thai red curry

Fillet beef Thai red curry

 

 

 

 

 

Surf and Turf

Surf and Turf

 

 

 

 

 

The Cock Inn, Nibley Hill, Blakeney.  GL15 4DB.  Tel: 01594 510239

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