A quiet Sunday morning in the Cotswolds felt like an oasis of calm after the weekend’s wedding preparations and celebrations, and after a leisurely breakfast, a coffee stop and a wander round a mostly closed Cirencester, Mr W and I decided to try and find somewhere for Sunday lunch. He had vague recollections of having eaten somewhere nice in the picturesque nearby village of Tetbury, many years previously, so we headed in that direction in the hope of finding it!
The restaurant in question was The Close, but this seemed to be offering fairly standard Sunday pub lunch fare, and as we were hoping for something a little bit more special, we moved on. Unfortunately, the weather was windy and a bit showery, so we didn’t manage to wander far before my moaning about being cold and damp set in, but we came across the Ormond – or The Ormond at Tetbury, to give it its full title – and decided to at least pop in for a drink.
The Ormond is a small hotel, with just 15 rooms, and has a welcoming bar, where we sat for a while to warm up and read the papers. They served a range of Illy coffees, which are always good, so I returned myself to a more ambient temperature with one of those whilst Mr W sampled one of the local ales. On the bar were bowls of peanuts and – unusually – cubes of strong cheddar cheese, which we enjoyed nibbling on whilst having our pre-lunch drink. The bar area itself is cosy and homely, and although it has a TV in one corner with a news channel showing, it managed to retain a fairly old-y world-y charm.
Sunday lunch is served either in the bar, or the small restaurant which sits behind the bar. One of the features of the Ormond is its courtyard and walled garden, and in the summer I would imagine the dining capacity to be doubled, if not more than that, thanks to the al fresco option. Sadly, the weather on the day of our visit didn’t lend itself well to that, so after consulting the menu, we decided to stay for lunch, but to have it served in the restaurant.
Ordinarily, the restaurant area is accessed through the courtyard, which would involve going outside again (as does access to the gents’ toilets!) but the bar staff let us walk behind the bar to get to our table. Throughout our visit, the staff in both the bar and the restaurant were pleasant and friendly and looked after us very well. We chose a table in the window, as the one we were originally offered was right by the entrance to the ladies’ toilets! There did seem to be some consternation about our request to sit at a table for four, rather than two, but considering we sat down late and the restaurant was practically empty, we didn’t see this as being a major issue for them! The restaurant is fairly small, so there were not really any ‘ideal’ tables, as all of them were close to a door, the bar or another table, but we quite liked the one that we had, and as it was not busy, we were not troubled by people going in and out of the door next to us.
Having eaten very heartily over the previous couple of days, we decided to go for a fairly light lunch, so we agreed to share a starter of Ham Croquettes. I had fallen in love with the Spanish ‘croquetas’ when in Girona a couple of years previously, and was hoping for something like this. Unfortunately, what came bore little resemblance to those little creamy, cheesey, potatoey bits of heaven with little bits of crunchy ham that are a staple of authentic Spanish tapas, but what we had was still very pleasant. It was similar to a large, spherical fish cake, with chunks of potato and pieces of very tasty shredded ham hock mixed in together with what appeared to be chopped leeks. The whole thing was deep fried in breadcrumbs and cut in half (ideal when we’d decided to share!) and attractively presented on a wooden board with some dressed salad leaves and a mustard aioli. Sadly, I was so keen to dive in to this one that I forgot to photograph it – which is a shame, as it was the best presented dish that we had.
To follow, I chose pork loin stuffed with mushrooms – which I was mostly drawn towards by its accompaniments: Dauphinoise potatoes and savoy cabbage. Bizarrely, there was a single green bean on the plate as well – perhaps an added extra! The pork was tender and moist and attractively presented, wrapped in bacon. Unfortunately, the mushroom stuffing was fairly tasteless and added little other than colour to the meal. It actually looked a bit unpleasant, as when I cut into the rolled loin of pork, the black stuffing squidged out in a fairly unattractive fashion. This was a great disappointment after the delicious mushroom duxelle I’d had on Friday night at Jesse’s Bistro. The Dauphinoise potatoes were seasoned well, but the consistency was not as good as some I have had. The potatoes were, if anything, a little undercooked, and there wasn’t a particularly creamy texture to them. The cabbage (and rogue green bean) was very good though. It was all served with a fairly non-descript gravy type sauce, which didn’t have a distinctive flavour and cancelled out any potential richness in the potatoes. It could have been an excellent dish, but too many little things being wrong with it meant it just wasn’t!
Mr W chose local sausages with mustard mash. This was presented simply, and topped with onion gravy. Unusually, the mustard mash had been flavoured with English mustard, and not particularly subtly. I love mustard as a flavouring, but in moderation, and would always use Dijon or wholegrain for mash, but in this case the mash had an almost luminous yellow colour and a very strong flavour. Mr W enjoyed it, but I found it too strong for more than a mouthful. The sausages were meaty and succulent and went down very well.
The Sunday lunch menu was on a par, price-wise, with similar places in the area, at £10.95 for one course and £14.95 for two. We only had soft drinks as we were both driving, but these were very reasonably priced.
In hindsight, we probably should have had our lunch in the bar. As the restaurant is so small, it felt quite dark and oppressive in there, and shortly after we sat down another group of diners arrived with a small baby, who screamed a lot during our meal and instead of being taken outside was semi-distracted by a toy that played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star over and over again. This was not the restaurant’s fault, and this blog is not a mouthpiece for me to air my views on children (or rather parents) in restaurants, but it did rather spoil our enjoyment of a relaxing Sunday lunch and even if we hadn’t been replete after our main courses, we probably still wouldn’t have hung around for a pudding.
I probably would go back to the Ormond if I was in the area again, but perhaps for more of a bar meal (I noticed they had a nice range of sandwiches on offer), or preferably on a Summer’s day when we could sit outside in the courtyard or the garden area, both of which were light and attractive and looked like pleasant places to spend a sunny afternoon or early evening. The restaurant – and the food – just lacked a certain something for me, although it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what that was.
Recommended – with caveats.
Food: *** Service: **** Atmosphere: **
The Ormond, 23 Long Street, Tetbury GL8 8AA