As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to the Cotswolds, Harriet O'Brien picks out a selection of restaurants, cafés and markets to find the best local food and drink in this glorious Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the west of England.
What a cornucopia of great tastes. Centuries of farming in this dramatically pretty region have resulted in well-practised traditions of producing some of the finest ingredients in the country – from veg (especially asparagus) to lamb, beef and dairy products (particularly for excellent cheese and ice creams). There’s a wealth of ways in which to enjoy this bounty, whether in wonderful old pubs offering contemporary twists on classic dishes; in buzzing cafes and organic farm shops; or in handsome yet easy-going restaurants with exquisitely presented cuisine. Or simply graze your way round a farmers’ market and enjoy the abundance of the land. One of the criteria used to select businesses was to choose members of GTBS or the Our Land initiative in which businesses described how they sustain their environment, support their community, and share their knowledge of the local landscape.
They glory in their rural surrounds at this elegant Georgian inn. Not only aesthetically but practically too. For the restaurant menu celebrates the wealth of nearby producers, from venison and Cotswold lamb to grouse and pheasant from Gloucestershire and Warwickshire shoots; and there’s always a fine selection of veg grown locally. The property changed hands in 2014 (it’s now owned by Cirrus Inns, which also runs the former Marco Pierre White pub The Yew Tree by Highclere Castle new Newbury) and the new proprietors are keen to emphasise their commitment to upscale dining and accommodation - in eight beautifully presented bedrooms. seagravearms.co.uk
The Plough Inn
It’s now difficult to believe that this handsome 17th-century village pub was derelict when Nick and Laura Avery bought it back in 2012. Their loving restoration involved gutting parts of the property and relaying stone floors, all the while keeping as close as possible to the original character of the building. The Averys have devised the resurrected Plough very much as a community hub for picture-pretty Cold Aston and the surrounding area, so expect to find yourself amid a local buzz here. The Averys pride themselves on serving local ales (and won North Cotswold Pub of the Year in Camra’s 2014 awards) and on offering no-nonsense pub food based on really fresh local produce – the likes of Gloucester Old Spot sausage and mash, and honey-roast ham. B&B is also provided in three cosy attic bedrooms. coldastonplough.com
Set close to the centre of charming old Tetbury, this splendid 17th century tavern was given an impressive revamp in 2013, courtesy of new owners, husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis. Once an unloved boozer, it’s become a retro-chic haven complete with reclaimed floorboards, a bar made of recycled church panelling, and six stylish bedrooms in the old skittles alley across from the main building. It’s a welcoming, arty venue hosting events and gatherings in the old-style saloon bar while upstairs under beams and wrought-iron chandeliers is a well-priced restaurant offering a modern take on hearty pub classics (very much devised from local produce), great salads and tempting puds.
Really fresh ingredients are the basis of Matthew Beardshall’s beautifully conceived menus at this stylish small restaurant with (three) rooms in bustling Nailsworth. From venison carpaccio to honey-roasted pheasant with sage pudding, and amazing desserts such as tea cream with poached quince and milk sorbet, food miles and sustainability are big considerations here. Bread is a particular passion and is baked every morning – along with shortbreads, biscotti and more. Dine formally or opt for the brilliantly inventive tapas menu based on what’s best from the markets in the area. wild-garlic.co.uk
This is a great place to stop for coffee, lunch or tea if you’re in the Cheltenham area. Star Bistro is run from National Star College, which provides training for people with disabilities ad learning difficulties. It is run in partnership by National Star and Wriggly Worm, a charity dedicated to helping people through food and cookery. It’s situated on the Ullenwood campus and has an offshoot café, StarBistro at Pepper Crescent, at 12 Royal Crescent in central Cheltenham. Lunch highlights range from watercress soup to confit duck, using local Cotswold products and ingredients; teatime cakes are plentiful and, of course, homemade. StarBistro has been named the national People’s Favourite in the Sustainable Restaurant Awards. Special dietary requirements catered for and the cafes are wheelchair accessible.
Intimate, easy-going and charming in equal measure, this little restaurant is hugely applauded locally – so much so that it doesn’t need to woo publicity. Some of the best dishes in the Cotswolds are served in the two small dining rooms here, the likes of goats cheese soufflé with hazelnuts and onion marmalade, and pan-roasted loin of venison with celeriac and beetroot jus. They’re the creations of Nick Pullen, while his wife Sally genially runs front of house. The Pullens take much pleasure in sourcing suppliers locally: beef from Todenham Manor Farm; free-range chickens from Great Farm at Faringdon; cheese from Smart’s Farm and Crudges, and so on. wildthymerestaurant.co.uk
Cotswold Lion Café
Of course you won’t find any lions, or even lion motifs here – but pictures of sheep instead. Named after the local breed of sheep that was developed for especially thick (and profitable) fleeces, Cotswold Lion Café opened in 2014 in the Old Prison at Northleach, which is today the headquarters of the Cotswold AONB. It’s a relaxing, spacious place looking on to a central green where carts from the Rural Life museum are displayed. Grab a coffee or tea and settle into an armchair or sit at a table to enjoy homemade soup, quiches and more for lunch. Closed Mondays November through February.
Wotton Farm Shop
This lively, all-encompassing concern just north of Wotton-under-Edge is run by the Grimes family who take much pride in supporting local enterprises. The shop section is stocked with the farm’s own veg (freshly picked, of course) as well as fruit and other veg from nearby. It offers bread from the local bakery, cream and milk from Jess’s Ladies organic dairy farm near Gloucester, and an excellent deli featuring Cotswold cheeses. In summer you can pick your own raspberries and more here. And at any time of year you can enjoy the Grimes’s wholesome café and visit the outlying fields where alpacas graze. wottonfarmshop.co.uk
Abbey Home Farm café and farm shop
Back in 1991 Will and Hilary Chester-Master started converting Abbey Home Farm, just a couple of miles east of Cirencester, to organic production. And since then their enterprise has steadily grown. There’s a cornucopia of a farm shop selling everything from the farm’s eggs, veg and meat to (organic) mueslis, chutney and even strips of nori seaweeds (for sushi). There’s a prettily devised café serving vegetarian soups, salads and bakes for lunch Tuesday to Saturday, and roasts on Sunday. There are courses you can take (cheesemaking, breadmaking and the like). And there are farm walks to follow (two dog-friendly, two dog-free) as well as farm trailer rides to enjoy during the summer. Closed Mondays. theorganicfarmshop.co.uk
Chedworth Farm Shop
To the south east of long, pretty Chedworth lies Denfurlong Farm which has been owned, run and loved by the Finch family for four generations. The farm shop here is managed by mother and daughter, Roseanne and Amy, and presents wonderful fresh veg, a great meat counter stocked with local meats as well as beef from the Finch’s own carefully raised Friesian/Hereford cattle, cow-to-cone ice creams (they’ve sometimes made it, they say, in a matter of 12 hours) and much more. Alongside is a neat café offering hearty breakfasts, lunches of homemade pasties and the like (roasts on Sundays) and supper on Fridays. Open daily. chedworthfarmshop.co.uk
Jolly Nice Café and Farm Shop
A disused petrol station on the A419 between Stroud and Cirencester was recently transformed … et voila, a very stylish farm shop and café. This delightful enterprise is run by daughter and mother Harriet and Rebecca Wilson, and it developed, as if organically, from an ice cream business that began at the family farm at Westonbirt. The Wilsons started offering their home made flavours from a retro-chic trailer on the A419, and then opened their lovely farm shop and diner in and around a former filling station, complete with a meadow for outdoor dining in summer and a cosy yurt for indoor eating in winter. Open daily. harrietsjollynice.co.uk
Star Anise Arts Café
A short walk from Stroud’s High Street, this buzzing enterprise exudes creative community spirit, offering excellent all-natural food and a platform for local arts. The menu mainly features vegetarian and vegan dishes, based where possible on seasonal organic ingredients from the area - the likes of squash and ginger soup and asparagus and wild mushroom risotto. Sourdough bread and Danish pastries are made on the premises and are particularly renowned locally. Indeed frequent queues testify to the café’s popularity with Stroud’s residents. Events staged here range from live music and theatre in the evenings to regular Saturday morning storytelling. Open daily except Sundays. staraniseartscafe.com
Woodruff’s Organic Café
When Woodruff’s opened in 1998 it was Britain’s first totally organic café. This central Stroud breakfast-lunch-and-tea venue continues to exude great zeal for local organic produce under manager/owner (since 2003) Holly Moore. Holly was joined by her husband Raoul Moore, head chef at Fish restaurant, The Old Passage Inn, Arlingham.The menu is principally vegetarian, with the offering a selection of fish dish featured largely because the local fishmonger offers such excellent ingredients - but where the fish is not locally sourced, you can trust that Raoul's expertise and knowledge in this area translates to confidence that what is offered is scrumptious. Breakfast options range from Mexican-style eggs with bean chilli to fruit and yoghurt with honey and seeds; lunch highlights might include Goan coconut dahl with spinach and peas, served with pitta bread. The cakes are baked daily and Woodruff's boast a specialism in all dietary requirements throughout the menu: wheat free/gluten free/sugar free/vegan etc.... Although Erin Baker is no longer working at Woodruffs she does teach vegetarian cookery classes here. Woodruff's offer outside catering and have their own new, local venue 'Owlpen Manor, Uley' where the catering for small parties to large weddings is based. woodruffsorganiccafe.co.uk
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