We had visited before, even though only for a couple of drinks, and remembered the beautiful, rustic atmosphere of England’s oldest inn (built in 947 AD, with a few oak beams and bricks remaining; most of today’s building is from the 16th Century). After a morning of driving around the countryside in a convertible 1988 Jaguar XJS we were hungry and quick to make our choices on the food: smoked mackerel pate with paprika mayonnaise & grapefruit gel (£7), pan-roasted scallops with pea puree, roasted sweetcorn, and blood pudding (£11) for starters, chicken mushroom leek pie with crushed potatoes, glazed mixed beets, Cheltenham carrots & tender stem broccoli (£16), and an 8oz Dexter Beef Burger with chips for mains (£15), as well as chocolate delice with pistachio crumb, candied orange & coconut puree (£7), and British strawberry pavlova with Chantilly cream & strawberry puree (£6.50) for dessert.
Feature photo and the above photos are (c) Brakspear, rest of the photos are (c) Berkeley Square Barbarian
Service was very professional and friendly, and it did not take long until our starters arrived. The mackerel pate went incredibly (and quite unexpectedly, to be frank) well with the grapefruit gel, lovely dish. The pan-roasted scallops were the clear winner for us, though. Neither of us are normally great fans of pea puree or sweetcorn, but this starter was just out of another world, perfect combination of flavours, with both the pea puree and the sweetcorn adding an enormous freshness and (in the case of the latter) crunch to the dish.
I’ve always been a huge fan of combining blood pudding and seafood, so this fourth major ingredient doing well was not unexpected. Needless to say that the scallops were cooked to perfection. No surprise that a November 2017 Conde Nast Traveller review ranks The Porch House among the top three restaurants in the Cotswolds.
We were still talking about our starters when the mains arrived. I loved my burger, but it turned out that Ms B’s choice was even better. Neither of us were in any doubt that the chicken mushroom leek pie was among the best pies we’ve had in years (and we’ve had our try at Michelin-starred pies).
No cheating devices like taste-enhancers or over-dosed stock, just good, honest, locally sourced quality ingredients with an enormous amount of succulent free-range chicken. This pie made us believe in pies again. England, from what we read (and from vague childhood memories ranging back to a one-month road trip my parents undertook with my sister and me in the mid-eighties through England and Wales) used to be the grandmasters of pie. People visited England with one thing on their mind: the marvellous pies.
The desserts are usually more Ms B’s area of expertise (she’s the one with the sweet tooth), but in this case I was pondering for the first time in a while if my attitude towards desserts was wholly justified. I was particularly fond of the chocolate delice, which was incredibly chocolaty and quite rightly looked to die for with the pistachio crumb, candied orange and coconut puree. Ms B’s favourite was the pavlova, which is understandable, because she grew up in New Zealand, which invented this fine dessert, and because the strawberries were so intense in flavour (people forget how great strawberries can taste thanks to semi-ripe mass-production varieties found in most supermarkets these days).
We will most certainly return to The Porch House during our next visit to Stow-on-the-Wold and for many more to come.