Say the word 'Barnsley' to many people and they will imagine the slightly down at heel northern town, with a past reliant on coal mining, glass making, flat caps and ferret racing - and at one time home of George Orwell, that is when he was not living near Painswick , the Isle of Jura or, of course, hunting for Wigan Pier which had, in fact, been demolished. Anyway: more of George later.
As this is a foodie blog, I'd better note that the northern town has a good item of food named after it, the Barnsley chop. This is a double lamb loin chop which used to be three ribs doubled, weighing about a pound and a half. This was hung well, sealed and cooked in the oven. Served traditionally with chips.
Our southern Barnsley is a charming village between Cirencester and Bibury, a poetry in limestone, with not one house spoiling the bucolic rural atmosphere and architectural harmony. Amongst these joys is The Village Pub, run by those clever people who also own Calcot Manor and Barnsley House.
Back to George Orwell now, who had an exacting list of ingredients for a good pub. Good architecture...darts not in the main bar...quiet enough to talk and certainly without radio or music...good food, a mixture of light food and more substantial meals...a proper landlord or landlady... a pleasant garden, beer not served in handleless glasses and excellent stout. Well let’s forget about the last two and darts, The Village Pub has all the other qualities in substantial quantities.
Pubs always attract comparisons and they seem to me today to present the constant acceptable face of good/gourmet food in a time of changing aspirations and habits. Well this one certainly does. George would have been ecstatic here, as we were this week. On an autumn evening warmed by superb fires we were Orwelled (a new verb, English is a flexible language) and without even the sight of a chop. Or was there?…read on!
Our welcome was warm, with the happy buzz of contented guests boding well and creating atmosphere. What a pleasurable experience it all was,with a short and sensible menu never beyond the capabilities of what must have been a busy kitchen.
Sandie, my wife, loves crab and hers, from Dorset, was simply delicious with a good mayonnaise. She even, most unlike her, ate the brown meat - it was so sweet. My smoked pigeon breast with a watercress, fig and hazlenut salad was similarly simple but imaginative.
Food here at the 'pub' is MOF/MOF (minimum of fuss, maximum of flavour): come here for good food carefully sourced and simply prepared.
As a delightful surprise for carnivore Somers, there was on offer a Barnsley chop of Cotswold lamb, melt in the mouth, flavoursome meat, so much for the north, eh? Barnsley chops alive in Barnsley, Glos...chips pronounced 'excellent' and an appropriate caper sauce. Well done to Graham and his team.
Sandie dissected a perfect Cornish plaice, skillfully served with purple sprouting broccoli and browned butter, so MOF/MOF.
From a simple to understand and (mercifully) short wine list we found our favourite grape type, Pinot Noir - with which we have, seemingly, an obsession. It's a grape type grown all over the world and definitely affected by 'terroir' (i.e.the soil type) and styles, so the variations in style are considerable. 'Feminine' Pinot Noir pairs well with fish and ‘masculine’ with game or meat or even stands up on its own, very versatile for two people sharing a bottle. Our little red friend, this time, came in the form of Casa Silva, Reserva, 2013 from Colchagua Valley. This Chilean vineyard of the year wine was definitely 'feminine' and suited plaice and lamb so well.
A Chocolate St. Emilion (mousse with macaroons) was so rich that we dubbed it it could st. million [calories] and this was accompanied by the wonderful Orange Muscat ‘Essensia' from Andrew Quady in California.
Our room was simple and comfortable. Breakfast showed the same care and charm as supper.
Who could not be happy here looked after, very ably, by Max (the boxer), Dora (from Hungary) and Linda (a local) all ably orchestrated by Tom Bentley who is both a charming and superbly caring host, with a kitchen team to match.
Do,do go and sample this perfect 'pub'. We recommend that you do - pubs like this are as rare as rocking horse ****!
CONVIVIAL is a word that springs automatically to mind.
The Village Pub,Barnsley,
Tel: 01285 740421
E-mail: [email protected]