Our minimoon to the Cotswolds was all about relaxation and rejuvenating. After the mad rush of the wedding, a flurry of late nights, and DIY all over the place, we were ready for some peace and quiet – that’s why we decided to do a staycation in the UK rather than have to deal with the hassle of airports and public transport. I’d researched a few places to eat out locally, but thanks to the fully equipped kitchen and our love of cooking, we ended up staying in a lot more than planned and making our favourite meals rather than going out.
The one place I had made a booking for us was the Royal Oak at Whatcote. It had excellent reviews on Trip Advisor, with testimonials of ambitious and ingenious cooking, freshly foraged ingredients and a long history. In fact, the original building apparently dates all the way back to 1168 where a small shelter was constructed to provide drinks for the workmen building the church. Today it’s more than a little shelter – we entered via a bar area that appears popular with the locals, into a light and airy dining room. The interior was beautiful, made even more so by the patio doors we were seated by that had been flung open in the nice weather, allowing us to sit in the breeze and feel as though we were sat al fresco with all the comfort of the indoors.
But onto the main event – the food! What had really appealed to us when booking was the menu which was adventurous but still used locally foraged, wild or reared ingredients, just in a more inventive way than most local pubs would do. The sample menu online had us intrigued, and the menu we received on the night – which differs depending on the season, availability and what’s good at that particular time – certainly didn’t disappoint. If you check out the pub’s Instagram, you can see more examples of their menu and how it changes very frequently!
We started with their own wholemeal loaf which was served with pork dripping and was included in the price of our meal as we ordered starters and mains. The pork dripping is something that seems a bit of an extravagance, but thinking about it in real terms, dripping is far more flavourful and “natural”. Personally, I now wish I had dripping with bread every time I eat it!
For starters, Ben chose the Pigs Head and Black Pudding Lasagna which came with a cider reduction and toasted hazelnuts. Though it looks a little like a cake on a plate, this combination was wonderful. The pork is locally sourced from rare breed Tamworth pigs and was juicy, and it contrasted beautifully with the crumbly black pudding. And yes, I can say this with confidence as I most definitely tried some!
I picked the Isle of Wight Tomatoes, Buffalo Mozzarella, Basil and Granola starter, expecting a simple caprese salad. In fact, what I got was far more interesting! The sweet and colourful tomatoes and generous chunks of mozzarella (I always appreciate it torn rather than sliced!) were served in a cold, clear tomato broth (I’d liken it to a gazpacho, but it wasn’t that exactly) scattered with granola pieces and basil leaves. This made for a gorgeous light summer evening dish, although I have to admit that the granola potentially didn’t quite match the rest of the dish for me – the sweetness and crunch would have worked well without the broth, but it sat somewhere between crunchy and soggy, which is a shame as the flavouring worked really well.
My main dish was the Cornish Pollock, Jersey Royals, Salsa Verde and Pickled Cockles. The fish was cooked to perfection, flaking away from the skin but still moist inside. It sat on a bed of crushed Jersey Royal potatoes which were good, but I think there were just slightly too many when taken into account with how light the rest of the dish was. This was also served with a segment of charred Little Gem lettuce, which wasn’t listed on the menu but was very tasty, a super tasty salsa verde and pickled cockles that were sharp and made an excellent contrast to the mild fish. I enjoyed this, although I do think the potatoes overwhelmed the dish slightly. But I didn’t enjoy it as much as my taste of Ben’s main which was:
Hay Smoked Hogget, Beetroot, Wye Valley Asparagus and Ewe’s Milk Cheese. Hogget is little used compared to lamb, although it’s renowned as having a better flavour for being left out on grass longer; as you can see, this hogget was just blushing, was very tender and had a gorgeous flavour. The rest of the dish was very complimentary, however I have to admit that I didn’t notice the cheese in there – perhaps Ben just ate it all and didn’t let me try any! Nevertheless, the hogget was the star of the show here and I wish it was more readily available in other restaurants.