“You’ll like The Butchers Arms” said our friends Stephen and Judy. “They cook your sort of food. We’ll take you there one weekend.
”Well, they should know our tastes as we eat in their restaurant, Culinaria, almost every week so we accepted the offer with alacrity. The chef, James Winter, had worked for Stephen for a while then gone off to Skye to work at The Three Chimneys which had added a veneer of Michelin sophistication to his grounding in Stephen’s bold flavours.
He and his wife Liz had opened The Butchers Arms a year ago in the depths of the Gloucestershire countryside. It’s a peach of a building set in an orchard overlooking fields of buttercups on which graze their own three steers.
Inside is a bar which has deliberately been kept as plain as possible (“We’re a local, not a gastropub” James insists) and a tiny dining room with three wooden tables. The maximum number they can take is 14 - James works entirely on his own in the kitchen.
It was one of those menus where you want everything. Impossible to decide. I opted for a starter of crab and avocado which came piled loosely in a timbale-shaped mound, fresh tasting with just a kick of chilli which went brilliantly with our accompanying bottle of 2005 Pazo di Barantes Albarino.
Pan roasted squab of pigeon arrived in delicate pink slices accompanied by an unctuous pure of white beans. Seared scallops with two deeply savoury discs of pot roasted pork belly was a bold and beautifully executed surf’n’turf combination, later echoed in a main course of roast turbot with braised oxtail and red cabbage which had no trouble accommodating a 2004 Crozes Hermitage Le Grand Courtil. My roasted loin of Huntsham Farm Middle White pork, a real snip at £13.95, was full of flavour and had the most amazing crackling. Accompanying roast potatoes were crisp and fluffy.
The only dish I could fault was a slightly leaden dark chocolate espresso cake but I loved the pistachio ice cream that went with it. And the treacle tart. And the faintly wobbly, ultra-creamy honey and vanilla cheesecake with rhubarb and ginger. I'm not normally big on puddings but these were impossible to resist.
Overall this was highly skilled cooking of top quality ingredients at a very fair price. Yes, absolutely my kind of food.
The Butchers Arms is at Lime Street, Eldersfield, Gloucester GL19 4NX (not far from Tewkesbury but quite hard to find - look at the website for directions) Tel 01452 840381