Restaurant Review: The Butchers Arms, Eldersfield
The Butchers Arms gets Katie Jarvis' seal of approval.
Restaurant Review: The Butchers Arms, Eldersfield
The deliveryman who knocks on our door looks white and shaky as he hands over a parcel. “I’ve just delivered a package to Keith Allen,” he tremors, “and he opened the door stark naked.”
“Ooh!” I say, in comforting crescendo, trying to form a sentence in which the words “naked” “package” and “Keith” sound reassuringly normal. Because, in fact, this is completely normal for Keith, who happens to be a very charming neighbour.
Clearly the deliveryman has led a sheltered life. It’s not like that Saturday morning, for example, when I got up bleary eyed and shot into the bathroom to powder my nose, completely forgetting there was a ladder up against the outside of the window with a man painting the frame.
I wouldn’t say there was a ‘wobble, wobble, crash’ exactly. But it was the incoherent sounds of mental discomfort that alerted me to the fact that all was not well. It wouldn’t have been so bad but he was a neighbour; we never looked each other in the eye again.
Another deeply humiliating incident, as we seem to be onto the subject, involved coming back off holiday to an empty fridge. So I did a sort of Clement Freud, making a delicious family meal out of a few bits of cardboard, nails and sticky-backed plastic.
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A friend dropped by and was so impressed by my improvisation, she stopped to watch me making a white sauce from a packet of flour I’d found modestly lurking at the back of said-cupboard. As I added it to butter, I realised it was more mobile than I’d expected. In fact, it had evolved an entire and likeable personality of which bits were waving cheerily at me from the pan.
But let us leave this world of staggeringly low standards for a while. It’s Ceri McQueen, our marketing supremo, who suggests the Butchers Arms for review. “You must go to Eldersfield,” she commands, much in the manner of Gandalf to Bilbo. “Elders-where?” I ask, semi-suspicious that this is yet another joke based on our relative ages. “The Guardian gave it a good review, and Matthew Fort recommends it,” she clinched.
So we head off – blimey; beyond Gloucester – to places so rural they make Amberley look as if it should have its own Underground system, to the Butchers Arms, where Snoop, the Scotty dog, greets guests with dignity at the door. Then ruins the effect by sprawling in the pub with her legs in the air. “Tart,” says the chap at the next table, knowingly.
By rights, the Butchers Arms should be inhabited by people who fall menacingly silent the minute you walk in, and who know the location of at least three bodies. But someone has got it wrong. Someone has made it one of the most fantastic food pubs in the county. The menu is compact but startling. Starters include Cornish fish soup with smoked cod, turbot, crab and red mullet; Bath chap with black pudding, cucumber pickle and fried bantam egg. (This is becoming strangely Hobbit-esque.)
We tuck into monkfish wrapped in Iberico ham (just the descriptions make me dewy-eyed) with chanterelle mushrooms, carrot puree; and Salcombe crab cakes with tomato and chilli relish and cr�me fraiche. It’s so perfectly cooked, I’m reduced to grateful weeping fits: sourced by someone who loves food; planned by someone who dreams about it.
And the main courses follow suit: fillet of Hereford beef, for example, with anna potato, crispy cow’s tongue and cheek and beetroot; and loin of Chedworth roe deer with celeriac puree, red cabbage, chestnuts and bacon. I have another fishy dish (unusual for me): pan-fried fillet of hake with cider-braised pork belly (fancy being allowed the two!), butter beans and salsa verde; while Ian has a perfect breast of Gressingham duck with pumpkin ravioli, ratatouille and basil pesto. It’s gorgeous food, served by the lovely Elizabeth who owns the pub with James, who’s tucked in the kitchen along with one of their mums who’d kindly volunteered to wash up.
After nice puds – Seville orange marmalade pudding with Drambuie custard, and treacle tart with (fab) white chocolate ice cream and apple sauce (but on the small side) – and coffee, we paid �110 without trying too hard. But you know what you’re paying for. Improve Snoop’s moral code and they’re onto a winner.
The Butchers Arms, Lime Street, Eldersfield, Gloucester GL19 4NX, Tel: 01452 840 381; www.thebutchersarms.net
Value for money 7
Three of a kind: Hidden gems
�– The Howard Arms, Lower Green, Ilmington CV36 4LT Tel: 01608 682226;
It may not be well-known throughout the Cotswolds, but this is a 400-year-old pub beloved of the Sunday Times, where the food is roaringly good and the open fires are delicious.
�– The Ostrich Inn, Newland
GL16 8NP Tel: 01594 833260; www.theostrichinn.com
This is one pub that shouldn’t be hiding its head in the sand. Easy to find opposite the church known as the ‘Cathedral of the Forest’.
�– Trouble House Inn, London Road, Tetbury GL8 8SG Tel: 01666 502206; www.troublehousetetbury.co.uk
Food with thought characterises the menu, whether it’s sardines on toast, 18-hour pot-roasted beef, or a nice bit of duck from Madgetts Farm.