Years ago, when maths teachers were cruel to children (sometimes) they would ask a class 'which weighs more, a ton of feathers or a ton of iron?' Many children would quickly answer, 'iron' - wrong, of course.
In Tetbury a competitive race takes place in late May where sporting athletes carry and run up a steep street, called 'Gumstool', with a bale of wool. Wool might sound light, but these intrepid competitors carry a woollen sack weighing 60 pounds for men and 30 pounds for women and teenagers .
'The Woolsack’ a seat cushioned by wool, in the House of Lords is traditionally the seat of the Lord Speaker - and has been so since the reign of Edward III. It's a reminder of the wealth generated by the English wool trade for many centuries.
All very good; but what have these historic facts to do with this month's restaurant review?
Well, The Gumstool at Calcot Manor has carried the name across from nearby Tetbury to become a very successful and delightful alternative to the excellent Conservatory restaurant at Calcot. We reviewed it during half-term and noticed how easily both parents and children relaxed into the simpler format at The Gumstool - many following on from a visit to the magnificent display of tree colours at Westonbirt Arboretum, which is only a few miles away.
Sandie, my wife kept on using the words 'a picture' about the perfect presentation of all (and I mean all) of the dishes, well thought out and perfectly cooked. As a chef for many years in my career, some of the cooking baffled me - such perfect results so admirably and cleverly prepared.
After our usual Camparis, we chose from a shortish menu and separate daily specials' sheet - don't you just hate leaving the table to look at a blackboard or try to remember what a waitperson gabbled through? - we chose.
A selection of 'nibbles' (patatas bravas, chargrilled globe artichoke, shell-on prawns with an exquisite mayo and chorizo (that controversial word again) balls. All-in-all quite a different approach to a pre-first course,
Next Scallops with Jerusalem artichoke purée and fried Iberico ham . The salty smoky ham is a perfect foil for the delicate sweetness of scallops (one only has to eat raw scallop to notice how sweet they are) and were pronounced 'wonderful'.
I had a 'crab sausage roll' with brown crabmeat mayonnaise, meltingly light pastry, altogether a joy.
A recent innovation at The Gumstool is an open fire used for cooking and I watched my meltingly tender calves' liver being cooked a point. With pancetta, golden buttery mash and acidic chopped capers… this was manfood of the highest order. My wife's generous lemon sole was, as she kept saying, 'a picture' but what an edible picture: Firm fillets slid off the fish perfectly and spinach and really tiny new potatoes completed this work of art. Simple good food perfection.
Puds were going to be tricky as our lunch so far had been quite a sufficiency. but one item on the dessert menu really caught our imagination - truffle ice cream. We both thought that this was heavenly, a fitting end to a superb lunch on a grey autumn day.
The wine we chose to accompany this delicious feast was Vistamar Sepia Reserva 2014 - you do remember that pinot noir goes well with fish? - from Casablanca Valley, Chile. It's a perfectly well made wine with hints of cherries and blackcurrant, oh and of course grapes...
Even the water, by Belu, has passed the Somers test - big bubbled and 'springy'. over £1.5m of the profits made by Belu go to WaterAid, who bring fresh water to the needy of the world.
Our thanks to the all-girl team who looked after us, nothing was too much trouble, yes, they knew we were reviewing, but having a fullish vista of the whole dining room, I could see that their spontaneous charm and keenness to please was generously extended to everyone.
Thank you Ella, Barbara and Monica in particular and thanks to the kitchen team for a delicious and fault-free lunch. Very happy guests. In the classic words of Arnold Schwarzenegger: "I'll be back!".
The Gumstool at Calcot Manor
Nr Tetbury, Gloucestershire GL8 8JY
E-mail: [email protected]