Ta­ble talk

A 500-year-old re­fur­bished pub in a quin­tes­sen­tial Cotswold vil­lage that’s re­ally rather nice

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents - Wil­liam Sitwell

Wil­liam Sitwell at The New Inn

ONE OF THE MER­ITS of the vil­lage of Coln St Ald­wyns is that it is not Bibury. Bibury is just up the road from C St A and for the tourist, that vil­lage has it all. Ru­ral per­fec­tion with one of the most fa­mous lines of cot­tages in the world (Ar­ling­ton Row), a quaint stream, a lit­tle bridge, a mill, a pub, a ho­tel, vil­lage shops, a fish farm and coach park­ing.

The fi­nal point is cru­cial be­cause, as lo­cals will tes­tify, tourists pile in by the bus-load, they hop off, mosey around the vil­lage, take pho­tos and then leave. Cru­cially, they don’t spend any money. They don’t even catch a trout at the fish farm. Then their bus whizzes off, knock­ing vic­ars off bi­cy­cles and into the stream, en route to Bices­ter Vil­lage (a large out-of-town, out-of-doors, vil­lagey-feel shop­ping cen­tre).

Coln St Ald­wyns has no such prob­lems be­cause you can’t get a coach down the high street. And so tourists who might have flown thou­sands of miles from some­where like, er, China, don’t re­alise that if they’d ex­plored just a cou­ple of miles up the road from Bibury, they’d have come across a vil­lage that would knock spots off it in the an­nual Most Quintessen­tially Cotswoldy Vil­lage com­pe­ti­tion.

It has a name no for­eigner, or in­deed English per­son, can pro­nounce or spell. There are clubs from gar­den­ing to the WI, a shop, a cricket ground, a big house and park where some posh folk live, and a pub. A more English vil­lage in which to set a tale – be it Wode­hou­sian, Agatha Christie or a Mid

somer-style mur­der – I chal­lenge you to find. There was even a bat­tle in 1989 when some das­tardly spiv bought the pub and tried to turn it into week­end flats. Seventy vil­lagers ar­ranged a meet­ing un­der the chest­nut tree, suc­cess­fully fought the clo­sure of the pub, and the prop­erty de­vel­op­ers were hung, drawn, quar­tered and fed to the trout at Bibury fish farm. I made that last bit up, but you get my drift of English au­then­tic­ity.

The pub, The New Inn, hav­ing sur­vived for some 500 years, has re­cently re­opened after a re­fit with new staff and a new chef. With much of its pale Cotswold stone walls cov­ered in ivy, it is an invit­ing sight. Un­usu­ally for a ru­ral gaff, the bar is open all day ev­ery day. Pre­sum­ably there are enough lo­cals in th­ese parts with a re­laxed ap­proach to life that en­ables them to sit in a pub on a Mon­day morn­ing or Tues­day af­ter­noon to jus­tify the cost of em­ploy­ing bar staff.

Our visit was on a Fri­day af­ter­noon. We were late and stressed but Dom, the chef, made us feel very set­tled as he came out, told us to re­lax and said he was there all day so we could or­der any­thing we wanted, when­ever we felt like it.

This is the sort of wel­come I like. Par­tic­u­larly on a sum­mer af­ter­noon. Par­tic­u­larly when it’s pour­ing with rain. It’s that per­fect English weather mo­ment. Out­side it’s rain­ing but it’s warm enough to keep the front door open and still cool enough to have a fire.

So we sat on a ta­ble in the cor­ner by the fire, the sound of heavy rain pelting down on to the win­dow panes, and we drank rosé. It’s times like that, that I thank God I’m not an al­co­holic. I’m get­ting half cut and the world feels just about all right. It’s a feel­ing en­hanced by tak­ing shel­ter in a Cotswolds vil­lage.

We or­dered half pints of prawns and mus­sels and, as we waited, tucked into some naughty snacks: crispy bits of chicken which we dipped into a chipo­tle sauce – like a gen­tle spiced mayo – some slices of chorizo with aioli and a pile of wel­com­ing, soft and creamy cheese cro­quettes, again spiced, this time with jalepeño. They were imag­i­na­tive, but not overly com­plex, lit­tle bites, with Lon­don-trendy dirty-food in­flu­ences that felt quite rad­i­cal for a pub in the sticks.

The prawns also came with aioli and won­der­fully fresh bread, and were pleas­ant but not as blowsy and piquant as I’d like. The fresh­est ones al­most pop when you bite them. And the mus­sels were sim­i­larly very slightly tired but with a great sauce flavoured with nduja (a red­dish spicy sausage from Italy) and wild gar­lic, an in­gre­di­ent so good that I think it should get pro­tected sta­tus.

We fin­ished with a rich and fault­less sticky tof­fee pud­ding. We sipped more rosé as the rain fell, won­dered what mis­eries the coach-stricken tourists were en­dur­ing, and con­cluded that we re­ally rather liked The New Inn.

We tucked into some naughty snacks… a pile of wel­com­ing, soft and creamy cheese cro­quettes

Above Prawns with aioli. Be­low Sticky tof­fee pud­ding

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