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It might have been quicker getting to Barnsley's Yorkshire namesake, but an expedition by train and taxi is made worthwhile by an excellent meal.
Restaurant Review: Barnsley House
It might have been quicker getting to Barnsleys Yorkshire namesake, but an expedition by train and taxi is made worthwhile by an excellent meal
Can you creep onto our patch and do the restaurant review this month? read the surprise email from the Editor. A harmless enough request, perhaps, but then I am one of the only adults in Britain who doesnt drive and reviewing a restaurant in the Cotswolds requires planning of military precision.
I turned to her indoors early the next morning and broke the news. I am just going outside and may be some time. OK, it might not be on a scale of Captain Lawrence Oates in the Antarctic 100 years ago this month, but she knew what I meant.
Getting to Barnsley from Bristol is an expedition without a car and one that can involve planes, trains and automobiles. It would have been easier to get to the villages Yorkshire namesake in the time it took me to get to Barnsley.
In hindsight, I should have chartered a plane from Bristol to Kemble, but that might have been an expense form too far and I didnt fancy being called by the Leveson Inquiry. In the end, the total I spent on trains and taxis almost exceeded the vast writers fee for the review.
Bad planning also meant that I ended up changing trains at Swindon and climbing aboard the 10.14am to Cheltenham. I didnt realise half of Kingsholm would be squeezed into the four carriages alongside most of the racegoers for the Cheltenham Trials Day.
The train was carrying more booze than Keith Richards roadies tables were littered with bottles of Champagne, port, red wine, beers and just about every spirit known to man. I felt inebriated by the time I got into my cab at Kemble.
I knew my taxi must be approaching Barnsley without even spotting the sign. There cant be many villages where you see people wandering along the street in knee-length white bathrobes and Hunter wellies.
The last time I dined at Rosemary Vereys formidable former home it was under different owners and the only two other diners in the restaurant were Anne Robinson and Delia Smith. If that isnt enough to put you off your stroke, nothing is.
The Potager has recently been revamped to make it more informal and less intimidating to those of who dont arrive at the hotel by helicopter.
Head chef Graham Grafton (whose impeccable CV includes Le Caprice and Bibendum) is also using as much produce from the garden as possible and this was evident in dishes such as a tempura of just-picked vegetables served with Thai dipping sauce.
The menu is extensive without being overwhelming and at least 10 dishes are available as starter or main course sizes. My starter of risotto verde with grated Berkswell cheese (7.50) was a substantial bowl containing more vegetables than rice. Cubes of courgette, tiny florets of purple sprouting broccoli, pieces of cavolo nero and kale combined in a mossy soup of a dish with plenty of crunch and squeak texture. The grated cheese added a pleasingly salty edge to a dish that had been perfectly seasoned.
To follow, a wild rabbit pie (16) served in its own cast iron dish with a brown and shiny pastry lid. Beneath the buttery pastry, there was a comforting stew of tender bunny (an uninvited visitor to the garden, perhaps?) in a delicious sauce studded with cubes of carrot, swede and parsnip.
A creamy passion fruit bavarois (6.50) with the requisite wobble made for a sweet and fruity finale with a streak of acidity that cut through any richness.
This was a meal that perfectly mirrored the kitchen garden at Barnsley House. The new-style informality of The Potager restaurant is sure to attract a broader clientele, whether they have arrived in dressing gowns and Hunters or Captain Scott-like rucksacks and Thermos flasks like myself.
Barnsley House, Barnsley, Cirencester, GL7 5EE Tel: 01285 740000,
Value for money 8