The Gumstool Inn, Tetbury - Restaurant Review

After Ian has a disturbing dream, Katie is sent to the Gumstool...

Ian had a dream last night that he cut my head off. There are some dreams that need interpretation, but this one appears reassuringly straight-forward.

"It came right off, did it?" I ask, somewhat coldly.

"Yes, but you didn't seem to mind," he emphasizes, comfortingly. Of course, I only have his word for that. I was busy elsewhere, at the time, anxiously trying to fit an excessive amount of lemon curd into a very small jar (a subject untackled, as far as I'm aware, by Freud). And even if I didn't mind in his dream, I'm not 100 per cent sure that's mitigation anyway.

Considering we celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary this month, this whole episode seems to constitute a disappointing lack of effort on his part. I did once read somewhere, however, of a chap explaining the secret of his long and happy marriage. He'd written a list, he said, of faults he'd always forgive his wife. So, in an attempt to stay joined in more ways than one, here goes my list:

1. The strange phenomenon that buying things on eBay doesn't count, while every �10 spent in Next represents an immediate and quantifiable threat to the family's prosperity, happiness - nay, even its very survival

2. That the person who does the household shopping (err... me) is directly and personally responsible for the rise in wheat prices; (luckily, the same equation does not apply to the person buying household petrol supplies (err... not me))

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3. That mistakes fall into two categories: those reverses of fortune that simply couldn't be avoided in any circumstances whatsoever, where the unfortunate perpetrator requires vast amounts of sympathy; and those caused by sheer carelessness and unintelligent lack of forethought. Poor Ian tends to be the victim of the former, while I... Well, let's move on

4. That the meaning of flowers can be defined purely in terms of apology

5. That if Ian were in charge of the judiciary, sentences for murder, sedition, armed robbery, etc, would stay the same, but not wearing slippers in the house would carry a mandatory life sentence, and that life should mean life. (Don't ask; we've lived with him for years and still can't figure this one out.)

It seems fitting, somehow, that we're dining at Calcot's Gumstool Inn, near Tetbury, named after the stool used by blameless husbands to scold their garrulous wives. (A suitable dining alternative, I suppose, could have been the Old Spotted Cow at Marston Meysey.)

We book in a last-minute panic - good job, as it turns out; it was almost full - and turn up as the place opens at 6.30pm. The Gumstool enjoys an odd-in-a-nice-way setting. Although pubby in style, it's actually part of luxury Calcot Manor hotel: we're talking country-inn prices in sumptuous surroundings. Now, if I were married to the Gumstool Inn, this is the list of things I'd be forgiving it for: 1. The specials board isn't ready, despite the fact that we linger over orders in case it suddenly appears; 2. Our table is extremely intimate with the one next to it, and hemmed in by a high wall of wood so discomforting that exposure therapy for claustrophobics is the only situation in which this d�cor would be ideal; 3. The waiting staff - only truly happy when grouped together chatting - provide an entertaining selection at our table whereby never the same face appears twice. 4. There's disappointingly little in the way of local food on the menu (or if it's there in abundance, there are few clues).

But having put those differences aside, the Gumstool and I can move on. The menu is one so good (even without the specials), it's hard to know where to begin: warm Cornish crab and leek tart that can be taken in 'ample' or 'generous' portions; Upton smoked duck with melon and figs; grilled Halloumi cheese with polenta and wood-roasted Mediterranean vegetables, to quote a few. For main course, there's fish pie, spit-roasted chicken, Home Farm mutton (I did say there was some local produce mentioned) and more.

We order twice-baked Cotswold ham and cheddar cheese souffl� (which looks as if it should be too rich; in fact, it's excellent) and a chicken liver parfait with onion marmalade and a toasted brioche (average, Ian thinks); and follow that with a good (if smallish) chunky crispy beer battered cod with Calcot chips, and pork and herb sausages with creamy mash and onion gravy. Are the sausages local? No idea; but I do know the mashed potato is barely lukewarm. All come with a choice of a side dish (which, if purchased as extras, are not overly-good value at �3 a shot). For dessert, we manage to down a white and dark chocolate brownie with run and raisin ice cream (swimming in sauce), and pancakes with caramelised banana, chocolate sauce and spiced milk ice cream; before retiring to a very nice lounge, with a real fire and crooked electrical sockets, for coffee.

For me, it's not a marriage made in heaven; but at less than �80 for a meal for two with wine and drinks to start, it's not a bad marriage of convenience.

Ambience 6

Service 6

Food 7

Value for money 7

The Gumstool Inn, Calcot Manor, near Tetbury GL8 8YJ; 01666 890391;

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