There is a lesson to be learnt from this post. It’s not about flavour, texture, wine pairing, service and all that blah. No, it’s far simpler than that. In short – if you see a sign on a door saying somewhere is fully booked and to go elsewhere, sometimes it’s worth just ignoring it and chancing your arm a bit.
Ironically, that’s something I never do. We have a joke in our household that I’m all about the ‘rules’. I’m the person who queues incessantly to the point that I risk growing old and dying in the very same spot. I stick to footpaths, ‘fess up to unnecessary things for no apparent reason, and cringe if I feel like I’m joining the rebels who don’t stick religiously to the rules, whatever those rules may be.
So when I see a sign saying: “We’re fully booked tonight. Why not try …..”, for me it’s a no-brainer. Leave and try somewhere else. Not Mr M. He’s the rebel of the gang, so when he sees a sign like that it’s basically a direct challenge to him to ignore said sign. Most of the time it bothers me beyond belief. Not this time.
We’d been on a last-minute few days away in the campervan, tootling just an hour down the road to the picturesque town of Bourton-on-the-Water. Over a few days we sipped gin in the sun as Japanese tourists bustled past us, walked through the surrounding countryside eyeing up chocolate box cottages and tasted gin in the Costwold Distillery shop. But we refrained from eating out, saving it for one night.
We researched, we looked at places, and decided it would be The Mousetrap Inn, a picturesque pub at the end of town serving food that seemed simple, big on provenance, and subject to a smattering of ambition without any wankery. Imagine our disappointment to find that sign.
Mr M was not to be deterred. Since it was only 5.45pm his theory was that they might be able to squeeze us in and trotting out the ‘if you don’t ask you don’t get mantra’, he asked if they could. Yes, indeed, said the (incredibly helpful) young man behind the bar, as long as we could be fairly swift. Eating quickly is never a problem for us, so it was a deal.
As well as a strong food offering, The Mousetrap has an extensive wine list and some cocktails that go beyond the stereotypical pub offering. We chose our dinner courses outside over a G&T for him and a gin cocktail for me then headed inside to a cosy corner table to roar through some food.
Jamie started with an Isle of Wight heritage tomato, burrata & basil Panzanella – a fresh dish perfect for the sunny day he enjoyed it on. A distant cousin of any other Panzanellas I’ve had before, this felt like it’s a version dressed up in its Sunday best.
Creamy burrata hidden under a pile of rainbow bright tomatoes. Instead of uniform, cubed croutons, an array of crispy breads formed this element. The piece de resistance was the almost-clear tomato consomme to pour on top, bringing liquid that was eagerly soaked up, providing much-needed moisture as well as a burst of flavour wrapping itself around the whole dish.
I opted for one of the bar snacks as a starter (mainly because I am unable to resist Sriracha in any form but we’ll pretend it’s because I was watching my waistline). Forget bar snack, these cubes of Teriyaki beef rib with Sriracha mayo could easily be multiplied by ten and turned into a main course for me.
Tender cubes of beef, glazed in that heady mix of soy, mirin, sugar and ginger, that hits tastebuds around your mouth and turning you into a drooling mess quicker than you can say, ‘can I have some more of these please’. The Sriracha mayo was arguably unnecessary but for me the icing on the cake to what is a bar snack I have dreamed of since that very day.
With such excitement behind me, I guess it was predictable that my main course would struggle to match up. Which is ridiculous when you look at it.
As dishes go, the melee of roast Cornish cod, poached mussels, Jersey royals, creme fraiche & sea herbs was great – tender, flaky cod, fresh mussels with that telltale taste of the tea, creamy, slightly sweet Jersey Royals, fragrant, salty sea herbs and delicate creme fraiche. A delicate dish where all the elements complemented each other, tasted great, looked wonderful and transported you to the sea despite being in the middle of the landlocked Cotswolds.
The only problem was that really I wanted the Roast Cotswold lamb rump with parmesan and polenta, wild garlic pesto and asparagus. Or maybe the slow-cooked ox cheek with smoked potato, roast cauliflower and spiced granola. But because of some weird notion of trying to eat healthily whilst away, I didn’t. I went for fish. So there’s another moral to the story. If you want the lamb, have the bloody lamb!
I roared through my fish and then got my meat fix courtesy of Jamie who had (wait for it…) ordered the dry-aged sirloin steak with skin-on chips & Café de Paris butter. It may be a predictable choice but it was everything I wanted – the texture, flavour and experience that only good quality meat can provide and that we forget sometimes in our endless gluttony when it comes to meat.
There’s no picture because I was busy having a tantrum for choosing wrong rather than capturing his meal for this blog, but you’ve seen enough pictures of steak on here to last a lifetime. You’ll just have to believe me.
So there you have it. Forget high falutin descriptions of umami, flavour, mise en place and all that. There are two simple lessons to be taken away – don’t always follow the rules and always choose what you really want, not what you think you should choose. Because you’ll only end up with regrets.
As for the Moustrap Inn, no regrets at all. It’s a great place. Not cheap, but nowhere in Bourton is, and in my opinion, well worth it. Good food, a menu with a difference (especially from some of the other places in the Cotswolds, where classicity seems to be key), good drinks and endlessly accommodating staff. Oh, and dog friendly too, which we all know is a winner!
We paid in full at The Mousetrap Inn. They didn’t know I was a blogger.