The Rattlebone Inn, Sherston - Restaurant Review
The Rattlebone Inn, Sherston may have had a troubled past, but Jason Read is getting this vibrant pub back on track
When he arrived at The Rattlebone Inn in Sherston three years ago, Jason Read's mission was simple: "to run the best pub in the area, serve great food and provide a warm welcome."
After three years at the helm, Jason has achieved all three of his aims and succeeded in turning the pub around after what had been some difficult times.
Until recently, a casual internet search for The Rattlebone Inn in Sherston would have probably thrown up several stories about the pub's troubled past, a period which culminated with tabloid frenzy involving Prince Harry's alleged under-age drinking in 2001. It's a story that slipped into local folklore and one that took a while for the pub to shake off.
Jason admits that it had become a hindrance when he arrived and it took the best part of two years to get the pub's reputation back. And so it should - it's one of the finest examples of the quintessential Cotswold village pub, 10 minutes from Malmesbury and Tetbury and close to Badminton and Beaufort Polo Club.
With its wobbly tables and roaring fires, The Rattlebone Inn is a 16th century country pub packed with character. It even has a ghost - the 11th century Saxon warrior John Rattlebone, who lends his name to the pub.
A Young's pub, it was taken over by Jason in 2005 and he has transformed it into one of the most vibrant food pubs in the region, with customers often travelling over 30 miles to sample the atmosphere, service and food.
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The menu is a popular mix of delicious modern country dishes and pub classics. All the food apart from the ice cream is prepared freshly on site by chef Roger Payne and his team and most of the ingredients are sourced from local farms and producers, many from within a 30-mile radius.
Typical dishes on the menu include roast rump of lamb with fresh mint and garlic jus, chicken, leek and tarragon pie and char grilled 10oz rib-eye steak with hand-cut chips. Starters range from �4.25 to �5.95, main courses from �8.95 to �16.95, with plenty of cheaper options at lunch.
As well as the usual menus, Jason and his team have built up quite a reputation for spit-roast meats, curry festivals and special weeks such as Game Week in October and Fish Week in April.
The pub has a 70-seat restaurant, but it's not a gastropub, according to Jason, who holds firm views on such things.
"It's a very good food pub but also a very good drinkers' pub. It's not a gastropub that tries to keep out the drinkers and we have a very vibrant bar trade
"Too many pubs in this area have become restaurants but I think proper pubs are making a comeback and I like to see us as a smart country pub that welcomes drinkers as much as foodies."
The Rattlebone Inn has recently been refurbished, with new carpets and woodburners installed throughout the pub.
"We've smartened it up without losing the character," says Jason, who has also put new decking in the garden, which already boasts two boules pistes which are used by 34 teams and several more when the town hosts its annual boules day in mid-July.
Other events at the pub include the monthly acoustic music sets, summer parties in the garden and the annual Christmas party which sees the locals singing carols to the accompaniment of a 15-piece brass band in the bar.
But the pub is most famous for its annual Mangold Hurling competition, which sees locals competing to throw cattle-feed turnips as far as they can.
"A chap called Hector was this year's champion," says Jason. "He threw it 80 yards, but he still has a long way to go before he beats the most famous Mangold Hurler - that was somebody called Lobber Jenkins who was around in the 1950s."
So, how far did Lobber Jenkins throw his turnips?
"Er, nobody knows," laughs Jason. "Just make it up, it all adds to the legend."
The Rattlebone Inn, Church Street, Sherston, Malmesbury. Tel: 01666 840871. www.therattlebone.co.uk