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Stunningly beautiful year-round, the rolling Cotswolds’ landscape has remained virtually unchanged for centuries, and the same could have been said of its culinary scene - until recently that is. Traditional stalwarts – the country-house-hotel restaurant, trad pub grub and twee tearooms – remain, but a new generation offering local, seasonal produce and innovative cooking is muscling in. The result is a much-improving dining scene that’s swiftly updating the Cotswolds’ reputation from culinary backwater to a gastronomic destination.
The Churchill Arms, Paxford (pictured, right)
Dating from the 1700s, this is the quintessential Cotswolds boozer, with large inglenook fireplace, creaky wooden beams and cosy corners. At the bar, you’ll find three real cask ales on tap, while the menu is seasonally driven with no fewer than 70% of ingredients sourced and supplied from within a 15-mile radius.
Directly attached to an organic working farm, this is probably the most famous farm shop in Britain. Within the converted barn complex lies the award-winning Trough café, all pale wood and whitewashed stone. Almost everything on the monthly-changing menu is organic, including the meat, which is reared on the farm outside.
The Kingham Plough, Oxfordshire (pictured, left)
A destination eatery renowned for its food, The Plough’s head chef Emily Watkins is a young, dynamic cook making intelligent use of ingredients. It’s also worth stopping here for a drink in The Plough’s pretty courtyard garden on a hot summer’s day, perhaps with a few of its mighty calorific but utterly delicious bar snacks.
Created by James ‘Bob’ Parkinson, former head chef at celebrated gastropub The Swan at Southrop, and trained by Simon Hopkinson, this restaurant-cum-deli within Cirencester’s historic Corn Hall, offers a daily-changing menu of precise, flavourful, modern dishes using seasonal, locally sourced produce.
One of the most popular restaurants in the area, the emphasis is very much on local produce, with chef patron Peter Robinson making good use of his own herd of Gloucester Old Spot pigs on the Modern British menu.
This stylish restaurant with rooms occupies the former headquarters of celebrated furniture designer Sir Gordon Russell. A modern, light-filled dining room bristles with activity from morning to night, with friendly, attentive staff serving a menu of classic, meaty British dishes prepared by award-winning head chef Damian Clisby.
Soushi Sushi, Cirencester (pictured, right)
This slick, contemporary sushi joint in the centre of Cirencester serves a regularly changing eat-in or takeaway menu featuring freshly made sushi, bento boxes and noodle dishes made using locally sourced vegetables and fresh fish delivered daily.
Visitors drawn to this part of south Oxfordshire would be well advised to book ahead at this charming village dining pub with rooms. Relaxed and sociable, The Swan hosts walkers, weekenders and famous locals (Kate Moss resides nearby), and its simply decorated interiors don’t distract from the robust and eclectic menu for which The Swan is renowned.
Set in the pretty village of Northleach, The Wheatsheaf is a a 17th-century coaching inn that offers 14 elegant ensuite rooms (thanks to an extensive refurb), as well as a cosy dining room with open fires. The food is of the hearty, rustic variety, with the brunch and feasting menus well worth a look, and there’s always three cask ales on draught, as well as an excellent wine list.
Opened in December 2008 by chef-proprietor Nick Pullen, Wild Thyme Restaurant with Rooms in Chipping Norton has a deserved reputation as one of the best places to eat in Oxfordshire. Its consistently high standard of exciting modern British food is made using the freshest local produce, much of it sourced directly from local farmers.