For those of you who watch A Place in the Country (and the chances are that if you’re reading this, you probably do) will know that the Cotswolds rates highly as a destination for City types in search of a rural home. Commutable and chocolate box picturesque, this part of the country seems to encapsulate everything good about England, albeit in a very Richard Curtis way.
Yet it was a part of the world that neither the Northerner nor I had visited. To prove we’re nothing if not eager to try out new places, we followed ten sun-filled days swimming in the Adriatic Sea off Croatia with a weekend break in Tetbury in the heart of Gloucestershire. We were drawn to the town by the amazing art-meets-fashion ‘bed and breakfast’ that is Oak House Number 1. Owned by the charismatic and charming Gary and Nicola, you will struggle to find a more romantic place then this. And is was they who recommended, and kindly booked us into, The Chef's Table, which is run by the Michelin-star chef Michael Bedford and his wife, Sarah.
Housed in a former antiques shop (of which there are plenty, might I add), The Chef's Table combines a delicatessen/food shop/fishmongers at ground level with a bistro spread over two floors. We dined upstairs where you find an industrial-sized open kitchen where Michael and his chefs cook from a short blackboard menu.
Whetting our appetites with a cheeky glass of prosecco, and some freshly baked bread and olives, we went for the homemade prawn bhaji with a lightly spiced red lentil dhal and the Cornish lobster and pea risotto for starters. The Northerner’s bhaji was subtly spicy and worked well with the dhal. It was cooked to perfection without a trace of oiliness. My risotto saw the sweetness of the peas combining nicely with the rich flavour of lobster. It arguably lacked a little seasoning but that is being picky. For mains the Northerner went for the roasted wild halibut with broad beans, and the crab and parmesan gnocchi. The fish was moist and firm - while the gnocchi was delicious - the sharpness of the parmesan merging brilliantly with the succulent crabmeat. I went for the roasted Gressingham duck breast with confit leg, a tatin of butternut squash and a baked English onion. This turned out to be a feast-sized dish, with the confit leg and duck breast challenging my normally voracious appetite. Nevertheless it was a lovely dish for which the onion provided a sweetness that offset the game flavours of the duck. For dessert we went for the soufflé which was light and subtle sweet and just what we needed to round off a big eating night. We drank a bottle of the Bagordi Rioja 2008 which was superb, so much in fact that we ordered an extra glass to round off the evening. (But perhaps that’s more a reflection on us.)
The Chef's Table also offers a cooking-as-theatre experience that comes about through the bar-style seating for some of the diners. However there are no Gordon Ramsay-style tantrums here, in fact it’s the opposite with it being so calm and quiet that you don’t quite believe it’s a working kitchen. The waiting staff are friendly and helpful, as you would expect in a place of this quality, and the prices are very fair with the mains mostly falling around the mid-teens mark.
However, it is a little quiet. I know might sound an odd thing to criticise it for, but the staff seem to speak in near whispered tones, and to my memory there was no background music. So while it is a lovely place to eat, and we most certainly enjoyed ourselves, it wasn't a place full of fun.
But then again, perhaps I’ve been in London too long where you get used to noise that borders on chaotic wherever you are. Maybe the Northerner and I need to sign up for that Place in the Country.
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