It was chef Emily Watkins who put The Kingham Plough firmly on the destination dining map before selling the Cotswold gastropub in 2019. While new owners Matt and Katie Beamish have a tough act to follow, they’ve already injected a healthy dose of local appeal to this 17th-century inn.
Menus are broader in scope than previously yet no less enticing, walking a comfortable line between showier, statement dishes and more modestly priced pub classics. Parsnip and ginger soup, fish and chips, or ‘The Plough cheeseburger’ with caramelised onions, contrast with the flashier likes of Avruga caviar-topped ‘Smokin Brothers’ salmon with damson jam and roast Creedy Carver duck and chestnut mushrooms.
Our warm black pudding, apple, chicory, pickled red onion and pumpkin seed salad was sturdy stuff, as generous as its lengthy description, while chicken liver parfait went the other way entirely: a dainty, pink slice framed in a neat layer of herbed butter to be slathered on fluffy brioche.
Roasted Old Spot pork belly with bubble and squeak was another classic refined, the precise cutting on the crackling and accompanying apple dice worthy of any Michelin-starred table.
Halibut in a bisque sauce proved a little pubbier, with tomatoes, leeks, savoy cabbage and courgettes adding up to one vegetable too many, although an equally busy Black-Forest-inspired dessert was pure 1970s excess with jam, cake, sauce, cream, chocolate shards, Aero and three types of cherry all flawlessly combined.
The all-purpose approach extends to smart but understated spaces that are indisputably pubby. Bare stone, wood panels, stripped beams and a solid, sanded bar are in full atmospheric effect, while upholstered armchairs, gleaming wooden furniture, artistic prints and sketches – all for sale – add chic comfort in the bar area.
Staff proved keen but never intrusive, their relaxed approach matching the pub setting, while we were impressed to find both local ales and wine taken very seriously (there are six en-suite rooms for those sensible enough to have planned ahead).