Last weekend, we were in the Cotswolds for a family party, and I was keen to have Sunday lunch at an old favourite of mine, The Village Pub, in the beautiful village of Barnsley. The pub is a pretty Cotswold stone building (like just about every building in Barnsley!) and has a lovely outdoor seating area – which we sadly didn’t get to use this time as it was a bit too cold and damp. Nevertheless, we enjoyed a lovely Sunday lunch in the restaurant.
The Village Pub doesn’t actually do what it says on the tin – at least not on a Sunday over lunch time, as it’s very much a restaurant, with pretty much all the tables given over to diners. The dining style is relaxed and casual, though – borne out by the fact that dogs are allowed, and to our delight, a table near us was occupied by a group with what we termed ‘Labradors three ways’ – yellow, chocolate and black! The décor is pub-like, with a number of small rooms joined on to each other, rather than one big dining room, but despite the low ceilings and old-fashioned building, the lighting and furnishings are such that it doesn’t feel dark, cramped or oppressive.
Whilst we consulted the mouth-watering menu, we decided to order a couple of dishes from a selection of tapas-style nibbles. One of our choices was quail and black pudding Scotch eggs, which were tasty little bites, and even my Mum, who is not a lover of black pudding, tried a bit of one and declared it to be not too bad! Our other was my favourite – Welsh Rarebit fritters: little deep fried packages bursting with tasty, gooey Welsh Rarebit, sharp cheddar coming together with a kick of mustard, and not a hint of greasiness. Welsh Rarebit is not necessarily what you’d expect in the Cotswolds, and it almost pains me to say that some of the best Welsh Rarebit I’ve tried is outside Wales, but this would certainly be up there, and I would have been tempted to just order a big plate of these, had the rest of the menu not been so very appealing!
The dishes on the menu feature a lot of locally sourced ingredients, none more so than the vegetables from the kitchen garden of nearby Barnsley House, and it’s clear that quality is of paramount importance, with a lot of thought put in to constructing a menu to suit a variety of tastes. To start, I settled on potted shrimp, served with toasted bread. Tiny little shrimps were big on flavour: well seasoned and topped with clarified butter, and were complemented by the crunchy toast.
Mr W chose a seafood soup, which was more of a bisque, full of flavour, and served with croutons and saffron mayonnaise. Again, not necessarily what you’d expect in the Cotswolds (known for many things but not its coastline!), but it was done really well.
Dad was feeling adventurous and went for the simply named ‘Village Pub terrine’. It turned out to be a chunky terrine of (we think) chicken and ham, served with some even chunkier tangy piccalilli and plenty of bread. It went down really well with my pickle-loving father!
Mum had a simple platter of smoked salmon, served with a salad – again, good quality ingredients, simply prepared but beautifully presented.
There were a selection of Sunday roasts on offer, which came highly recommended by our waiter, but we all declined in favour of some more unusual dishes. I went for venison ragu lasagne, from the specials menu, which came with a rocket salad. As with a whole section of the dishes on the menu, which were obviously intended as either a starter, a main, or a smaller appetite main, this was available in a half portion, so I decided to go for that and have a portion of chips on the side as these also came highly recommended by the waiting staff! The lasagne was delicious. I’m not convinced I’d have known it was venison if I’d not been told, but it certainly had a lovely rich flavour, and was topped with a generous layer of creamy béchamel. The rocket salad was okay, but I found the dressing a little bit oily and could probably have managed without it, but that was my only complaint, as the lasagne really was good. The chips were out of this world, triple cooked, with a very crunchy exterior that was bordering on being like a roast potato. I was left dreaming of a meal consisting of Welsh Rarebit fritters and a big portion of chips on the side!
Mr W and my Dad both went for the Village Pub pie. This contained organic Black Angus beef and Hooky Ale (one of the local brews) and was served with mash and greens. They both proclaimed the pie to be a hit, a crisp pastry top with a generous and tasty filling, the flavour enriched by the ale.
Mum chose an unusual Vegetarian dish of Portobello mushroom on toast, served with local feta, blushed tomatoes and spinach. This was nicely prepared and presented, with the salty feta working well against the juicy mushroom.
We were on to the home stretch, and Mr W and I shared a pudding of rhubarb and apple crumble with custard. The crumble was shortbread-like in texture, and had been added afterwards, rather than cooked with the fruit (which is my personal preference) but it tasted good anyway, and the topping was crisp, which was the main thing! The sharp rhubarb was almost al dente, but was tempered by some sweet, soft apple pieces towards the bottom of the dish. The custard was creamy, with a strong vanilla hit – but could have been served in something easier to pour from. As it was, we ended up spooning it in to the main dish as our eating made room for it!
Dad had a vanilla burnt cream served with a shortbread biscuit, once more, a simple dish, well executed, and I liked the Englishness of the name too!
With drinks and a well-deserved tip, the bill came to £140 for all of us. I thought this was more than reasonable for the quality of the dishes we had, and the amount of choice on the menu. The service was friendly and attentive – there was a minor mix up with our ‘nibbles’ and a bit of a delay when we asked for the bill, but both of these were resolved quickly, and with profuse apologies.
If you’re in the area, I’d highly recommend the Village Pub. In fact, it’s an easy drive from South Wales, so would make a lovely focal point for a day out in the Cotswolds, with nearby Cirencester only minutes away. There are rooms at the pub too – so you could even make a weekend of it, and if they are anything like as good as the food, you wouldn’t be disappointed. Everything we ate was almost faultless, and the menu has something for everyone, with the small portion option a great idea for foodie families. I was heartened to overhear a conversation between the staff and fellow diners about the fact that there is no children’s menu, but that the smaller plates are ideal for children. As someone who was always offended as a child by the all-too-common offers of sausage, chips and beans and the like whilst adult diners tucked into enviable delights, I think this is a great idea.
Food: ***** Service: *** Ambience: ****
The Village Pub, Barnsley, Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7 5EF