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AlexForbes

Best gastropub in the Cotswolds- Kingham Plough

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Ok, ok, I can't really say that The Kingham Plough is the best gastropub in the Cotswolds if I've only actually tried three of them, but I really doubt there's anyone out there who can outcook Emily Watkins. She's only 29 but worked as Heston Blumenthal's sous-chef for 2 years. I didn't expect much when I arrived there for dinner and then BANG!, an incredible meal. Memorable.

So I was intrigued... who is this girl? And how come this kind of food - excellent - has gone relatively unnoticed? So I did some research and found out that:

- The Kingham Plough, in Kingham, has only been re-opened since August '07 (in its previous incarnation it was very dingy, I hear)

- as much as possible she cooks nose to tail, meaning she'll buy a whole cow from a local farmer then figure out ways to cook all the different cuts

- she's only been there for a few months but already found lots of great local suppliers - the asparagus, for example, comes from 8 miles down the (beautiful) road.

- I'm not the only one who thinks this girl is the real deal. Here's what the Evening Standard had to say:

"The food is too good here to waste space writing about the interior"

"OK I'm gushing (...) but isn't it always the place that opens with the least fanfare which invariably deserves the most"

"This is the best gastropub opening for many years" etc etc etc

Here's what I had:

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Delicious beer brewed down the road in a neighbouring village

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incredibly crisp croquette of escargots on top of a soft pillow of wild garlic soufflé, perfectly-dressed leaves

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incredibly delicious pigeon Wellington. I couldn't figure out why the meat was so incredibly tender and flavourful and smooth so I asked her what she'd done. Turns out it's cooked sous-vide in duck fat. Your typical pub pigeon dish, in other words. ;) The pigeon was served on a bed of wilted spinach and wild garlic gnocchi.

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a perfectly fine Damson "Yorkshire" with ice cream made of yoghurt from the ultra posh Daylesford Organic. Only complaint: tasted little ice crystals, maybe she doesn't have a Pacojet?

and then I had a taste of 3 perfectly ripened local cheeses, served with quince and damson paste and water biscuits.

my recommendation: go before she gets famous and jacks her prices!


Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

Official Website

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PhilD   
And how come this kind of food - excellent - has gone relatively unnoticed?

I thought she had had quite a lot of coverage in the review pages of the weekend papers, I recall a number of articles a few months ago. I see Gary attached the one in The Guardian.

Good to hear she is living up to the reviews - must plan a trip.

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Sorry, PhilD, I guess she has gotten press in the UK - hard for me to keep up with all that it's published, being a Brazilian living in Canada. Still, I was surprised to find that there weren't any topics on Egullet about her. So for foreigners, I say she's still a hidden gem.


Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

Official Website

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PhilD   
Sorry, PhilD, I guess she has gotten press in the UK - hard for me to keep up with all that it's published, being a Brazilian living in Canada. Still, I was surprised to find that there weren't any topics on Egullet about her. So for foreigners, I say she's still a hidden gem.

Sorry made the assumption you were local. I suspect the trouble with the board is that it doesn't have a vast number of contributors - quality over quantity - but it does restrict coverage.

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The brunette ;) and I ate lunch here on Bank Holiday Monday. After braving the Vale of Evesham Asparagus Festival on a very windy and rainy day and despite blunting my appetite with a late breakfast of asparagus and hollandaise sauce we were very much up for kicking back and relaxing with some delicious food and a few drinks in peaceful surroundings. Having seen AlexForbes' pictures and given the chef's background my expectations were high. Unfortunately, high expectations can mean big disappointments, and this was certainly the case here.

First impressions were poor - the attractive, very young waiting staff also looked out of their depth and overstretched. There was no experienced head waiter or maitre d' attempting to bring order to the evident chaos. We sat at the bar for 10 minutes or so being deliberately ignored until our drink order was reluctantly taken. During this several people came up to the bar to tell whoever would listen that they were ready to order.

However, determined to enjoy ourselves, we let the bumpy start wash over us and managed to enjoy a Bloody Mary - mine impressively spiced up with some freshly grated horseradish.

So, to the meal. As it was a bank holiday I suppose I should not be too harsh that the starter we both fancied: potted crab with wild garlic jelly was finished. An unadvertised special of asparagus with what looked like poached quails eggs on mini muffins was also off.

Which left us with guinea fowl terrine, with chicken heart and St. George's mushroom salad. The terrine was lovely, served with the roasting juices which were delicious. Hannah had fried duck egg, Trev's bacon and watercress sauce. Looking at the article posted above by Alex James, the egg is fried in goose fat with a breadcrumb coating. Although the yolk was nice and runny, the breadcrumbs had an unpleasant texture and oily taste. The bacon was in the form of lardons and the watercress sauce didn't taste of much at all.

Still optimistic at this stage that the meal could yet redeem the disappointing start. However, evidence was accumulating to contrary - neither our wine had arrived by the time we were tucking into starters, nor had we been served any bread - despite the butter and butter knife starting at us from the middle of the table. I called after a rapidly-fleeing waiter for some water who seemed to be studiously trying to ignore us (and everyone else).

Main course: again I struck luckier than my hapless companion. I had the foresight to ask how the beef came (medium-rare) and managed to change it to rare. The fillet was served simply, with triple fried chips and a watercress salad. Although unseasoned, this was quickly rectified and I have to say that triple fried chips are a pretty amazing invention with an almost obscenely crispy crust. Apart from the chips this was really just average bistro cooking however.

Although the fish pie had been the first choice for Hannah, this was also off, so she settled for lamb hotpot served with wilted swiss chard. This was a culinary cock-up of huge proportions. The idea, as far as I could tell was to deconstruct the hotpot into discrete layers. Now I am not sure why you want to do that, but if you do, I think all the components need to be cooked perfectly. However, the onions, carrots, potatoes and lamb were woefully undercooked in this case. And by woefully, I mean the potatoes were 'al dente' - if that moniker can even be applied to a potato! The sauce was thin and insipid tasting. A side of swiss chard did nothing to redeem the dish. A real disappointment. This would have been sendable back and if I thought the waiters actually cared, I would have done so.

Disappointing. The cheese order was mucked-up but eventually came as a very nice plate of Cotswolds cheeses, but I cannot award that much credit for local cheeses served properly as this is a regular event in my house! The chocolate pudding with vanilla doughnut was off, and replaced by a pretty horrid tasting chocolate cappucino which had a very unpleasant foam on top.

So, all in all, a pretty poor meal. The positives: A few items showed flashes of culinary innovation - my starter and the chips that came with the main were well above standard bistro fare. The price was keen: £80 for 3 courses for 2 people including drinks. But the negatives unfortunately outweighted them here, the front of house was seriously bad and although I heard the waitress apologise to other diners that they were seriously understaffed, the staff which were there did not seem to be operating at 100% efficiency.

I agree with anyone that wants to criticise on the basis that a lot of these points should have been picked up at the time when something could have been done about them, and that is a fair criticism. However, we are laid back diners and can let a few mistakes by an obviously inexperienced crew wash over us. For me, the only irredeemable problem really is if the cooking isn't up to scratch and I think that was the case this time.

I would go back - but maybe on a night when I was sure that Emily was cooking - I've no idea if she was this time - when I expect it to be very quiet, maybe a weekday night in Winter!

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Nickloman, what a pity that you had a bad meal - I am guessing it was a very busy night and, being relatively new, they were ill-equipped to handle the big crowd, both servers and cooks. Too bad, really too bad, especially considering how I'd raved about my experience. I can only hope they get their act together so that the food is as good as I had it on every other night. Maybe they read egullet? ;)


Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

Official Website

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Nickloman, what a pity that you had a bad meal - I am guessing it was a very busy night and, being relatively new, they were ill-equipped to handle the big crowd, both servers and cooks. Too bad, really too bad, especially considering how I'd raved about my experience. I can only hope they get their act together so that the food is as good as I had it on every other night. Maybe they read egullet? ;)

Well, I was disappointed because the menu read really well, exactly the type of fare I really like. I think we probably picked a bad day (Bank Holiday Monday) - I felt if they had a really well-organised maitre d' the experience would have been much better, and I think a couple of dishes hinted at the possibilities. But sadly it didn't come together. I might try again off-peak and off-season.

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Matthew Norman had a similar experience to me, it seems:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/200...ts.foodanddrink

This rang true anyway:

The paranoid resentment grew as the minutes passed without one of the offhand young waiters bringing our drinks. I asked after them. "Yeah, they're on the way," came the reply, in the manner of the minicab controller insisting that the blue Vauxhall Vectra is just turning into your street when it is, in fact, pulling up outside the government building in Pretoria.

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Well, Nickloman, I read the nasty review, and as it ended with

"Somewhere buried here, I suspect, is a very good

restaurant indeed, but it wants a bit of digging up with the garden hoe of humility." I could help to think that

the same could be said of Mathew Norman, somewhere buried here is a good

restaurant critic - if only he didn't have such a big ego as to spend so long

- 2 full paragraphs! - recounting a silly drunken tale of his youth that is of

no interest to all but himself, and making prejudiced comments like

"female voices lowered in pitch by three decades of Silk Cut

and male ones raised by three hours of overly tight mustard

cords melded into one monotonous bray of merriment."

In the end, I gather he liked the food, for the most part, but felt

the place was snobby and the service careless.

Well, I believe that he may have a point, although I still say that when

I went service was just fine, and the food, much better than fine.

And judging by how busy the place seems to be, I guess many people

tend to agree with me.


Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

Official Website

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In the end, I gather he liked the food, for the most part, but felt

the place was snobby and the service careless.

Well, I believe that he may have a point, although I still say that when

I went service was just fine, and the food, much better than fine.

And judging by how busy the place seems to be, I guess many people

tend to agree with me.

Hmm, well I'm glad you enjoyed your visits there, and as I said in my review, perhaps I went on the wrong day.

However, I'd be wary of equating how busy a restaurant is with how good it is - otherwise we'd all be down Oxford Circus McDonalds right now, wouldn't we?

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So as not to double post; I'll merely refer interested parties in my recent experience there, to the topic on Eating in the Cotswolds; bottom line: I agree more with Nickloman than Alex, whom otherwise I greatly admire. And she was there and cooking that meal.


John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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Wonder if anybody has dined here recently? It had quite a bit of exposure when it first opened.

Some of the comments on Tripadvisor are very negative,interested to see if they have sorted out there front of house problems?

AA Gills review in the Times is perhaps worth a read if you can put up with his initial drivel

Reports appreciated.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/food_and_drink/eating_out/a_a_gill/article6970422.ece

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Someone in my local asked me of somewhere he could stay whilst having his car fettled in oxfordshire, i said the kingham plough gets all the coverage but i couldn't say whether it's any good or not, but with a trip planned to see matt at the montagu in beaulieu as it 'append i was looking for a spot of lunch in oxfordshire so having piqued my own interest, i booked a table for lunch.

having found it a bit off the beaten path, it was a nice looking place with an obvious 'gastopub' makeover lots of pale greens and greys (i'm sure there must be a whole page at farrow and ball now of gastropub colours as they all have them (indeed we did too)).

Given the publicity and the rave reviews from aa gill and giles coren, who contrary to popular belief i do rate, i was expecting as gill had written a demonstration of how to run a food led country pub, i think it fair to say that despite no calamatous errors i can name off the top of my head 3 pubs within half an hour drive of my house that box them into a corner in running a proper pub (ok - the star at harome, the pipe and glass inn, the st vincent arms)never mind nationally. For example only 2 real ales on tap (my local in the sticks has 9) and no fire lit on a chilly lunchtime, i wouldn't mind but the fireplace has pride of place in most of the publicity pics for the place!

so anyway back to the trip, a warm welcome at the bar offered a choice of tables whilst we had a pint at the bar and a scan of the menu. The bar snacks menu actually looked most inviting, scotched quails eggs, mini pork pies, rarebit and sourdough etc, had it not been for the fact we were dining at the hand and flowers in marlow that evening we'd have got stuck in but mindful of that we stuck to a solitary scotched quails egg before our mains.

now they make a fuss of their country location and shooting connections, but to me a four choice mains offer of 3 game dishes and a burger (in the evening, a steak) does not a balanced menu maketh, yes we know you're a country pub but we do eat other things in the sticks you know!

so that left the final choice, a home made burger of aged beef , sourdough bun , triple cooked wedges, and salad, £14.95 with cheese £16.95. Like most foodies i'm a sucker for a burger and after a 3 hour drive the thought of game didn't really inspire, so a pint of lager, a quails scotch egg, a burger and a glass of wine would hit the spot i thought.

The alarm bells then started to ring, a lady next to me was paying her bill and had her burger comped with the waitress saying ' i know you didn't really like it'. hmmm have you ever left a burger - not lest a £15 one?

then it got louder, on ordering we were told they were cooked med/rare, no issue for me but mrs m wanted it cooked through (for medical rather than taste reasons) , that was a slight issue as the waitress explained how they were cooked, 'well they're cooked sous vide then finished off etc' , hang on a minute, a sous vide burger? (think peter kaye's 'garlic? bread?' etc) and we were warned it might be a bit tough. Now here's a novel thought, just put some meat in a pan and cook it until the required cuisson, revolutionary hey?

so they arrived, i was expecting something special given the places rep but a rather disappointing small puck sized burger arrived in a pale looking soft bun, with half a plate of standard issue salad, oh and some home made ketchup. Let's just say there's somethings that are really done better on a large scale industrially. And the cheese? for £2 a reasonable slice might be expected, but no, they'd obviously borrowed the meat slicer to cut the bit on mine, you could see the burger through it, it was that thin.

The burger itself? Hmmm yes, browned on top and pink in the middle but a potentially unpleasant metallic taste, i would bet that's what put the lady diner off, i don't know if came from the aged beef being a little gamey or the sous viding, but it wasn't actively unpleasant, but to my mind there was no benefit from poaching the little fella before grilling him. sarah's was cooked though and yes as warned it was a bit hard going.

the wedges though were world class, i tried to swap the wedges for TC chips on ordering but again got caught in an english/polish mix up and left it as per the menu.

The previously demolised quails egg was cooked through so mrs m could eat it, it was good but i thought there was a fighting chance of a runny yolk, james at the pipe and glass can manage it in his .....

I had a glass of an italian house red with the burger and it was very good.

so all in all it's not a bad place, if it were down the road/ half an hour of travelling from me i'd be very pleased , but is it the best in the country? a lesson in country pubbery? No, much like ramsay's f word search, i doubt it's the best pub in oxfordshire, never mind the UK.


you don't win friends with salad

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