Blimey, at the moment it probably looks like Mr M and I lead one merry life of holidays, weekend breaks and meals out. I promise it’s not all fun, there’s a fair bit of work in between. It just so happens the way I’ve organised my blog everything’s coming at once.
As you well know, 2016 is all about adding some of our travel adventures to the blog. You only have to check out my last post on my weekend in Bilbao with Mummy B if you’re looking for something slightly different to the usual food-filled posts. But while I love jetting off to far-flung places, I’m well aware there are plenty of beautiful spots in our own lovely country if you want to escape for a few days.
Cue the Cotswolds. Being Midlanders, we’re literally just an hour or so from this beautiful part of England yet don’t go half as much as we should. So when I was offered the chance to check out a place in Minchinhampton near Stroud we jumped at the opportunity. I’ve got a whole post coming up for you lovely peeps in a few days, but first – the food.
The Ragged Cot is a lovely little combination of country pub, restaurant, hotel, bed and breakfast, all set in a picturesque former 17th century coaching house. Its restaurant is a modern addition with expansive bi-fold doors across its width overlooking beautifully-kept gardens at the back.
It’s got a lovely relaxed feel with simple and homely, yet classy, decor and plenty of memorabilia around to remind you of the history of the place. It strikes just the right balance of making you feel comfortable yet in slightly more salubrious surroundings than any old country pub.
The summer menu was a mix of modern British dishes perfect to enjoy on a warm evening in a quintessential English setting. There was also a blackboard of specials of the day with a few tempting extra choices.
To start, Jamie had the winning choice of a goats cheese and spinach tart with dressed pea shoots and a tomato and garden chive dressing. Presentation-wise, it was everything a summer dish should be – light, colourful, pretty on the plate – and tasted just as good too.
Goats cheese and spinach is a fairly classic combination anyway, while the addition of sweet, delicate pea shoots and the light dressing fitted perfectly with a dish that smacks of warm summer afternoons and evenings.
And now it’s confession time. This little incident demonstrates the perils of: a) having too much fun that you don’t write stuff down, and b) building up a backlog of blogs so you can’t remember every little detail. I could try to fudge it but I’m going to be honest. I didn’t write down what I had for starter and I ordered it off the specials menu, so I can’t go back and check. It was a fishy pate, simply presented and I know I enjoyed it. It wasn’t up there with Jamie’s but still very nice and in keeping with the light, summery feel of the menu.
Don’t worry, there was no chance I could forget the main course. If you read this blog regularly you’ll know I don’t often choose chicken as a main course. I’m either carnivore-ing it up and having some kind of meat, or trying to be healthy and opting for fish. For some reason, I just tend to associate chicken with something I could easily make myself at home so don’t tend to order it when I’m out.
Not this time. The pan-fried supreme of local chicken stuffed with Woefuldane White Heaven (a local cheese made literally down the road) and Black Forest Ham, served with crushed new potatoes and garden sage cream sounded too good to miss.
It was definitely the right choice. Succulent chicken with crispy golden skin stuffed with creamy soft cheese and salty ham. The crushed new potatoes and green beans it came with were simple and allowed the chicken to sit front and centre stage.
Having said that, the pool of garden sage cream sort of stole the show. It worked beautifully with the chicken but also made for a lovely last few mouthfuls. You know that moment at the end of a roast dinner when you’ve got all sorts of bits of veg and meat left that you can mix up with the remainder of your gravy. This was the summer version. Bits of crushed up potato and morsels of chicken all glued together with the creamy delicate sauce. Definitely a winner.
While I was busy stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something new and local, Jamie returned to his tried and tested favourite with a 10oz sirloin. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There are only so many words I can find to describe a good quality steak, cooked how he wants it and served with decent accompaniments.
His steak was apparently full of flavour and a nice change from his usual choice of rib eye. It came served with roasted tomatoes, onion rings, mushroom, mixed leaves, house chips and a blue cheese sauce. All were great apparently, especially the blue cheese sauce which I can testify to as I managed to snaffle some, using one or two of the enormous chips as handy vehicles.
By this point you might have noticed the Ragged Cot’s rather rustic crockery – a nice touch in my view. Something a bit different from the standard white plates and bowls you get in most places, and another element that fitted with the country coaching inn kind of feel.
For dessert I opted for dark chocolate brownie with artisan vanilla bean gelato. It certainly looked the part, complete with rich chocolate sauce drizzled on top, although the brownie itself wasn’t quite as moist and gooey as I would have liked.
It was beaten hands down by Jamie’s dark chocolate fondant with artisan mocha gelato – a gooey, chocolatey, oozing mess of richness. Of course, we all know fondants are inherently difficult, but this one had been perfectly executed. A light, delicate outside that leaked a lava flow of chocolate when cut into – just like the indulgent distant relative of a perfectly-poached egg – in a stereotypical Masterchef moment.
Suitably stuffed, we were grateful we only had to stagger upstairs to one of the Ragged Cot’s nine bedrooms to sleep off our indulgent dinner (more on that very soon!). I guess the fact that there are only nine of those rooms yet the restaurant was full shows that it’s not just somewhere catering for the captive audience of those who are staying there, but a place that people from the nearby area frequent too. Always a good sign.
The atmosphere is definitely a great place for a relaxed meal, especially in summer. The food’s good – I love the use of such local ingredients in dishes that are a mix of classics yet other twists on what you’d normally expect – as well as the relaxed yet well-executed presentation. Definitely worth a try folks, whether you’re passing through or planning a quiet night away.
We were given a complimentary dinner at the Ragged Cot as part of a review stay. I wasn’t asked to write a positive review.