The Kingham Plough

Related tags Kingham plough Oxfordshire Egg Food

Kingham, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, OX7 6YD 01608 658327 What do you after you've been the sous chef at the best...

Kingham, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, OX7 6YD

01608 658327

What do you after you've been the sous chef at the best restaurant in Britain? In the case of Emily Watkins, who worked for Heston Blumenthal at the three Michelin star Fat Duck for two years, you open one of the most perfect English dining pubs in what was once hailed by Country Life magazine as "England's Favourite Village".

The Kingham Plough stands on the edge of the green in this idyllic Cotswold village, across from a row of honey-coloured, chocolate-box houses. The pub itself backs on to the Daylesford Farm estate, owned by the Bamford family of JCB fame. It's on the estate where the Daylesford Farm Shop - known locally as the Harrods food hall of the Cotswolds - attracts local A-list celebrities

like Liz Hurley and Kate Moss.

As well as its celebrity connections (the pub even gets its cheese from Blur star-turned-farmer-turned-food-writer Alex James, who lives nearby), the pub is also ideally situated on the Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire border and a short drive from Cheltenham and Oxford, not forgetting tourist honey pots such as Moreton-in-Marsh, Chipping Norton and Bourton-on-the-Water.

Watkins and business partner Adam Dorrien-Smith took over the pub during the summer and after an extensive refurbishment it reopened earlier this month with the additional bonus of seven fabulous boutique bedrooms.

Despite her Fat Duck background, Emily hasn't gone down the same molecular gastronomy route as her mentor. Rather than offering bacon and egg ice cream or snail porridge, her daily-changing menu sticks to the same sort of traditional English cooking as at Blumenthal's Hind's Head pub in Bray, Berkshire. She has also recreated several ancient Cotswolds recipes for the bar menu, including something called Plough Pudding - an old harvesters' snack of hot suet pastry lined with bacon, dripped with honey and rosemary, rolled and baked.

Watkins has adopted a strict local-sourcing policy and 85% of her suppliers are within 10 miles of the pub, including dairy and chickens from Daylesford, duck eggs from a local villager and quails' eggs from a 12-year-old boy who keeps quails.

Eager to keep the pub as a place for locals as much as gastronomic tourists, the front bar has been kept simple and tables aren't laid for food, whereas the dining room occupies the ancient tithe barn a few steps up from the bar. The room is simply decorated with antique wooden furniture, and a private dining area with one long table is separated by a curtain at the back.

Emily has clearly learnt well from Blumenthal and she adopts the same precise cooking methods, such as temperature-controlled water baths to cook meat and fish.

This showed in my main course of Hereford fillet steak (£14) which was medium rare throughout and had an unusually intense depth of flavour, accentuated by the pat of melting asparagus, horseradish and mustard butter on top. It was served with a Jenga-like stack of excellent triple-cooked chips which were hot, crispy and salty on the outside and light and fluffy within. A separate bowl of well-dressed watercress completed a majestic dish.

Before that, a hen's egg (£4) - which was crispy on the outside and perfectly runny inside - was perched on a lardon of salty smoked bacon from a local butcher and surrounded by a moat of mossy green watercress purée.

It was a triumph of textures and flavours, and the ultimate take on bacon and eggs.

To finish, a textbook summer pudding (£5) packed with autumn berries and soft fruits, served with an ice cream flavoured with home-made elderflower cordial using

elderflowers the chef had picked from local hedgerows, with a ripple of raspberry running through the middle.

Emily Watkins opened the Kingham Plough quietly and without fanfare, but this is one of the most significant gastropub openings of 2007. My tip is check it out now before the national critics arrive en masse and tables

are hard to come by.

Mark Taylor

Pub facts

Owners: Emily Watkins and Adam Dorrien-Smith (freehold)

Most interesting dishes:

Starters: crisp hen's egg, watercress and smoked bacon (£4); cured Bibury trout, cucumber and marsh samphire salad (£5); chicory, Oxford Blue and pickled walnut

salad (£4).

Mains: crayfish and cod pie, buttered garden peas (£12); saddle of lamb, pearl barley and tomato risotto, braised fennel (£12); guinea fowl terrine, globe artichoke hearts, mashed potato (£11).

Puddings: summer pudding, elderflower and raspberry

ice cream (£5); cider-battered apple fritters with cider

and honey ice cream (£5); chocolate pot (£5).

Lunch bar snacks: scotched quail eggs (£3); potted mackerel and toast (£3);

pork pie and chutney (£3).

Menu innovation: local cheeseboard (£6) featuring a choice of five cheeses, including Little Rollright, Kingham Green, St Oswald and St Eadburgh, served with celery, water biscuits, quince and damson chutney. Customers can order slices of four different cheeses or just a big piece of one particular cheese for the same price.

On the wine list: to cut down food miles, all wines are from Europe with none from the New World. Short, well-chosen list starts at £10 and rises to £60 but a third of the wines are under £20. Six by the glass.

Standing out from the crowd: local-sourcing policy on

the food; all crockery is stamped with a stylish Victorian-style blue logo

with the pub's name and the words 'home-cooked food', locally-produced lager on draught, seven bedrooms and enclosed courtyard garden.

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