Review: The Chequers Inn, Ettington, Stratford-upon-Avon
August 11, 2022

[Disclosure: We were invited for a complimentary meal at The Chequers at Ettington for the purposes of this blog. I wasn’t asked to write a positive review, and as ever these are my honest thoughts on our experience]

I don’t tend to like ‘us and them’ comparisons. As Agatha Christie said: “Generalisations are seldom if ever true and are usually utterly inaccurate.” But sometimes you notice little similarities don’t you and can’t help but generalise with some things (whilst recognising that there are always exceptions to the rule).

So here’s my generalisation. In cities, dining out often involves ‘restaurants’. But if you live in a small town, or out in the countryside, the chances are you may end up spending more time eating in pubs. It’s just the way it goes. Yes, of course cities have pubs, but they also have a higher concentration of restaurants. We have fewer in small towns and villages, yet country pubs come into their own. And not just for drinks. 

One of the great thing about middle England – and by that I mean Warwickshire, the Cotswolds, and all sorts of other parts of the Midlands – is that those pubs tend to be really very good. Especially when it comes to the food. I’ve lost count of the great meals we’ve had while roaming around this area in the van, and it’s always good to discover a new one.

Chequers Ettington
Chequers Ettington
Chequers Ettington
Chequers Ettington

The Chequers at Ettington has had a pretty good reputation for a while, as far as I’m aware. It’s just ten minutes outside Stratford and very much has that Cotswold feel. An 18th century building decorated beautifully, split into bar and restaurant giving options for those who want the more casual approach (and to take their dogs), or people who want more of a formal vibe.

Having never been before, I’m not sure what the garden was like before. But safe to say, it’s had a revamp and is very much a glorious al fresco spot that can continue to house guests well into the winter thanks to a bit of clever design and planning (no doubt inspired in part by the lockdown years).  Heated pergolas, cute little booths at the front, fairy lights and plenty of different areas to enjoy a few hours of sunshine and fresh air.

Chequers Ettington
Chequers Ettington

It’s not quite summer when we visit (remember life without 30 degree temperatures?) so we sit inside in the restaurant which, on a weekday lunchtime, is doing a healthy trade and perhaps illustrating that ‘destination dining’ isn’t just about swanky pop-ups or Michelin stars, but can be about good pubs serving up decent grub too.

We’re deftly escorted to a table in the corner where we can admire the decor and soak up our surroundings. The menu is a decent mix of choice, from classic pub grub like fish and chips, burgers and pizzas, to the more gastropub offerings of trout, pork belly and duck breast. It’s hard to choose what to have – always a promising sign.

Chequers Ettington
Chequers Ettington
Chequers Ettington

 

Since I’m with my mum, who can’t put away the same volume of food as Jamie and I can, we opt to share a starter. The Mexican scotch egg is everything we hope for. It’s still slighty warm and the yolk nice and jammy. The outside is crispier than some but it works, and there’s a well-judged warmth from the meat.

The tequila and lime dip is more of a salsa and I’m not sure how discernible the tequila is in it, but I’ll take the sweetness of the tomato balanced with citrus over something that could potentially have become a bit of a bitter boozy affair without careful attention.

Chequers Ettington

Chequers Ettington

A roast chicken supreme comes stacked up on a layer of spinach and a hefty chorizo and mozzarella potato cake. It’s an impressive sight, and serves to remind you that this is a place of hearty comfort food, not multiple-course menus of miniaturised dishes.

The chicken is cooked well, the potato cake has the same crispy case as the scotch egg that gives way to oozy mozzarella and chunks of chorizo that spike it with a bit of smoky warmth. Everything is brought together by a cream sauce that’s well seasoned and is just the right texture to coat everything without overtaking the other elements.

Chequers Ettington

It’s a good dish, but the duck is slightly better. It’s been honey-roasted so has a sweetness to the skin but all the slightly gamey notes you’d expect from the pink meat inside. It could maybe have been rested for a tiny bit longer to avoid some of the juices that leaked from it, but I’ve seen far worse examples and it doesn’t detract from what is a great tasting duck breast.

Sauteed new potatoes are crispy and both they and the wild mushrooms have been cooked with care, turning what so many people treat as bit parts in the main event into stars in their own right. The dijon chive sauce tastes similar to the cream sauce that came with the chicken, but the addition of chives lift it, making it one of those ‘is it acceptable to mop up the sauce with your finger?’ moments.

It’s another big portion, but we manage it, reminding ourselves that it’s always a good idea to share starters here if you’re going to try and go for the whole three courses.

Chequers Ettington

That’s exactly what we planned to do, but resorted to sharing a dessert too. Lemon cheesecake, made with proper cream cheese. It’s nearly too rich, but the lemon curd on top is spiky and saves the day, along with a decent coulis. I wonder if the cream on top is necessary, but Mum doesn’t seem to mind, and I imagine most others won’t.

Chequers Ettington

As we leave, more tables are enjoying a slap-up lunch, many with wine, much to my envy. We head back to the car via the toilets, which are so impressively decorated they are deemed worthy of both a photo and a mention in this blog.

On the drive home, Mum is already planning a lunch rendez-vous with a friend at The Chequers, and I’m making a note to stop there on our next van jaunt in that direction. To my mind, it’s exactly what a decent pub should be. Decent food, generous portions and good value – mains are all under £20 and for food of this quality and portions of this size, I don’t think it’s bad value.

Add to that decent service from staff who are attentive and know what they’re doing, and some nicely done decor – both inside and out – and you’ve got a decent place to eat. Proof that we shouldn’t forget our pubs when we’re looking for a good meal, no matter where you are.

[Disclosure: We were invited for a complimentary meal at The Chequers at Ettington for the purposes of this blog. I wasn’t asked to write a positive review, and as ever these are my honest thoughts on our experience]

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