I don’t know if I mentioned (ahem), but we got married recently and my lovely colleagues treated us to lunch out in the beautiful Cotswold town of Stow-on-the-Wold.
So on the coldest day of the year (there was even a dusting of snow), I wrapped up in my biggest coat, and we headed out to TheVine Leaf, which is set in a courtyard just off the market square in Stow-on-the-Wold.
The Vine Leaf is a small, family-run restaurant where all the food is cooked - from fresh - by their chef in the kitchen just above the restaurant. Lots of the ingredients are locally sourced and they make a point of not being a fast-food joint, but a good-food place where they can cater for all likes, dislikes, allergies and budgets.
Our treat included two courses (from any of their menus) and a glass of wine each. We were feeling quite peckish so we had some bread as a pre-starter with oil and balsamic. I was prepared for a long-ish wait, but actually our starters came quite quick. Kingsley had the Fresh Cornish Mussels in a White Wine & Cream Sauce and boy-oh-boy were they the best mussels ever! They were so friggin’ big, and the white wine & cream sauce was something else! I managed to reach over a few times with my hunk of bread to help him mop some of it up – absolutely delicious! I had the Crispy Coated St Eadburgha Cheese served with homemade berry compote. St Eadburgha cheese is locally produced and is a mix between brie and camembert. This cheese would be good anyway, but smothered in bread crumbs and deep-fried to the point of heavenly gooeyness wines extra points from me.
If I’m completely honest, we both wanted the Slow Cooked Local ‘Old Spot’ Belly of Pork served on bubble & squeak with a cider sauce, crackling & seasonal vegetables for main course, but wanting to provide you with a variety of dishes and pictures, I was kind and let Kingsley have that; I ordered the Baked Free Range Chicken Breast on Sautéed New Potatoes with Mushroom & Madeira Sauce & Seasonal Vegetables. We couldn’t fault either dish, but for both of us, it was the sauces that stood out; both really packed a punch with the flavour. But it was indeed the cider sauce which shone; it was sticky and had such a depth of flavour – I just wish we’d had some bread left to help Kingsley soak it all up.
Suitable stuffed, Kingsley opted to stop there, but I was on a greedy day and the Homemade Warm Sticky Toffee Pudding served with custard was calling out to me. I asked for a ten minute breather, and the chef kindly obliged so when my dessert came I was raring to go again.
The Sticky Toffee Pudding warmed me from the inside out. It was everything it should be, with a fabulously moist sponge, sticky toffee topping seeping through the cake, and served with lashings of warm custard.
The Vine Leaf is a perfect example of a hidden gem. It’s tucked away in a little courtyard and could easily be passed off - from the outside - as a coffee shop, but just inside those doors is a warm welcome, great service and good, honest, home-cooked food.