If you are planning a Cotswolds escape this summer then make sure you stop off at The Churchill Arms
There are some assignments that are – as Kevin Bacon would say – no-brainers. So, when I was asked to spend a night in the Cotswolds to review a hotel/restaurant owned by a former protégé of both Gordon Ramsey and Marco Pierre White, it is fair to say I was booking my train ticket quicker than a curse word spills from Mr Ramsey’s mouth.
Of course, with high expectations comes the increased possibility that I was going to end up being disappointed. However, after spending a delightful evening in the company of The Churchill Arms I am pleased to report that it met my expectations and more.
Naturally, the Cotswold countryside was as stunning as it always is: a veritable feast for the eyes of rolling hills, lush green fields and vast expanses of farmland. You do not need to spend a lot of time in its company to appreciate why so many of Britain’s elite – be they celebrity or politician – decide to live here.
Upon arriving at the quaint town of Moreton-in-Marsh, my companion and I set about planning how we were going to make the short trip to the nearby village of Paxford where The Churchill Arms is based. We did not need to think too hard.
No sooner than we had stepped out from the train station than someone from The Churchill Arms had come to collect us and take us there – a service they say they are happy to offer to anyone who will be staying the night with them.
“They produce classic, tasty dishes but with a dash of flair”
From the outside, The Churchill Arms looks like any number of traditional 17th Century pubs that frequent all manner of villages across the United Kingdom.
However, looks can be deceiving, and the interior décor is very modern and in-keeping with the rustic, chic feel that all the best gastropubs are trying to achieve. We were then shown to our room for the night, which like so much of pub mixes tradition and contemporary features with aplomb. For those of you looking for a weekend getaway to the Cotswolds then The Churchill Arms will make a wonderful base.
And all of this is without mentioning the food. I managed to grab a quick word with head chef, Nick Deverell-Smith, who told me that his philosophy is to produce classic, tasty dishes but with a dash of flair.
Settling down to our table with a glass of wine recommended by the friendly and knowledgeable waiting staff, a quick perusal of the menu showed exactly what he meant. All the dishes offered were simple, seasonal fare but as with any great restaurant the devil is in the detail.
For starter, I opted for a fresh crab salad with avocado and crusty bread while my partner opted for the smoked haddock soufflé. The salad was delicious and the fresh taste of the crab was balanced by a healthy dollop of homemade seafood sauce.
The haddock soufflé has become the dish The Churchill Arms has become renowned for and with good reason. Cooked to perfection and brimming with flavour it took all I could manage not to swipe it from under my partner’s nose!
Mains continued on the impressive precedent set. We plumped for sea bass with lobster ravioli and local greens alongside the pork T-bone with mash potatoes, apple and crackling. The sea bass, in particular, is an excellent example of what The Churchill Arms does so well: good, wholesome food but with a chef’s flourish in the form of the ravioli that makes it that little bit special.
We had heard the pork T-bone described as ‘an ultimate pork chop’ and that was not far from the truth. A truly huge cut of meat was presented and it was as succulent and perfectly cooked throughout as meat half its size. No mean feat.
“It took all I could manage not to swipe it from under my partner’s nose!”
A dessert menu was placed in front of us and after some light cajoling we relented and ordered a cheeseboard and an orange cheesecake. The cheese was locally sourced from a shop we passed on the way to the pub and came with some delicious chutneys and sauces to spice it up. While the cheesecake showed off those chef’s flourishes again being presented deconstructed with a tangy orange sorbet to sweeten the deal. A wonderful finish to a delicious meal.
After all that food it is no surprise that a good night’s sleep was not hard to come by, of course, when you are sleeping in rooms as comfortable as the one provided to us that is to be expected. An early start was rewarded with a delicious full English breakfast packed with local ingredients and a hearty way to start any Cotswolds day.
So, should you consider visiting The Churchill Arms? Well, let me put it this way, frankly, it is a no-brainer.
The Churchill Arms,
Paxford, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire
013 8659 3159