I headed out one Sunday afternoon with my friend Kirsty and little PJ. Kingsley had really wanted to come with me, but was snowed under with work in the run-up to Christmas, so Kirsty took his place last minute. Tough work being a friend of mine. When I got home, Kingsley flicked through the images on the camera to see what he’d missed and nearly cried before heading back into his workshop to carry on working.
Having been invited to try The Bell Inn, we kicked off in style with a coupe of champagne and a medley of bites and starters from our pew right beside the fire. Okay, so the garlic, parsley & bone marrow flat bread (£5), which is woodfired, was out of this world. I’m pretty sure I made pleasurable noises whilst I was eating it – I apologise to those on the table next to us! The flat bread set the tone for everything that came out of the kitchen. You see, absolutely everything is seasoned to perfection, you will not find yourself reaching for the salt and pepper pigs here.
The stand-out starter for both of us was the Cotswold IPA Rarebit & Soldiers (£8). You’ll have heard of Welsh rarebit, well this Cotswold version is the richer-relative version; once you’ve had it, you’ll never go back over the border! It’s basically a cheesy fondue with sourdough soldiers to dunk in it. Once those soldiers were gone, everything got dipped in…the flat bread, the buttermilk chicken (£7), the hunk of sourdough and salted butter. In fact, just writing about it has made me dribble a bit!
Being a Sunday, we decided to be traditional and go with the roasts for our main course. Kirsty ordered the Chicken Breast & Bread Sauce (£14) and I went dark with the Dry Aged Beef Sirloin & Horseradish £16). Oh heck. I do love a roast dinner, and have long had a favourite, but it’s fair to say, The Bell Inn has now taken that accolade. My beef literally melted to the touch, Kirsty’s chicken was juicy and quite simply divine, the portions were hearty, served with loads of seasonal veggies and a ruddy good cauliflower cheese too. To wash down our roasts, we each had a carafe of white wine.
The dinner defeated both of us, and I’m going to blame that on the need to dip absolutely everything in sight into that melty cheese to start! But after a bit of a breather, we felt willing and able to dive into dessert. On a mission to eat something ‘healthy’, I ordered the Pedro Ximenez Poached Pear (£6) which was served with vanilla mascarpone and a delicious almond brittle. This was a perfect way to end the feast. Kirsty tucked into Sticky Toffee Pudding (£6) with clotted cream and we also both had a forkful of the Valrhona Chocolate Nemesis (which is a rich and naughty chocolate torte - £8).
So, what is this place all about? The menu is made up of your classic pub favourites with woodfired flat breads and pizzas thrown in for (very) good measure. I’d like to call it pub grub, but then you’d think of it as fairly standard, and this is nowhere near standard. Nowhere near at all. But then if I call it a gastro-pub, you’ll think it’s small portions and fancy pants stuff. None of which it is. This is pub grub done spectacularly well. The portions are generous and homely, the place is cosy and homely, and the hospitality will make you want to call this home! Even though it’s a 45-minute drive from (my side of) Cheltenham, it’s well worth it; plus, they are currently refurbing the rooms, so from the new year you’ll be able to stay over, which eliminates the need for a journey home at the end of the evening.
Where’s your favourite roast dinner?