Varied menu is as extensive as Frogmill’s sprawling grounds
FOR a brief spell, The Frogmill was owned by celebrity chef and serial restaurant opener Marco Pierre White, who ran it for three years until it was forced to close in 2016 when it went into administration.
Oxfordshire pub company and brewer Brakspear snapped it up and spent £3.5 million on refurbishing the Grade II-listed 16th-century inn, which reopened in July with a fresh new look that respects the building’s heritage.
Next to the golf course on the A436 at Shipton Oliffe, near Andoversford, this sprawling pub and 100-seat restaurant also has 28 bedrooms and the renovation was the largest project in Brakspear’s 240-year history.
With its extensive gardens – including a working watermill – it’s a vast space that’s tailor-made for events and it can be no coincidence that The Frogmill is hosting a wedding fair in January. Licensed for civil ceremonies, this boutique Cotswold venue a short hop from Cheltenham is sure to have a busy summer of weddings next year.
A warren of rooms, some warmed by wood-burners, it’s a welcoming and relaxed place where you can hunker down with a pint of Oxford Gold in the bar or head straight to the light and open-plan restaurant with its timber-clad walls, sandblasted oak furniture and quirky décor.
On a windy, rain-lashed mid-week lunchtime in December when the rattling windows were competing with Elvis Presley and Wham! Christmas songs, the restaurant was surprisingly quiet, with only a handful of diners.
This is very much a destination venue so it needs to work harder than many pubs-with-rooms to get non-residents to dine there during the daytime and there are plenty of deals on offer, including weekday “traditionally British” sandwiches such as roast beef and horseradish (£7.95 with chips) and a Monday to Wednesday £15 “pie and a pint” offer.
Time a visit on a Friday evening, and meat-eaters can splash out on the more decadent “Beast & Bordeaux” deal – £100 for two people to feast on a 20oz 30-day aged côte de boeuf with all the trimmings and a bottle of Bordeaux.
The A3-size menu served throughout the day is extensive, with a mix of pub staples like fish and chips, burgers and steaks alongside salads, sharing boards and more interesting main courses such as the £17 panroasted gilt head bream with lobster bisque cream, spinach and crushed garlic potatoes.
Out of half a dozen starters that included a venison and Old Spot pork Scotch egg and Severn & Wye smoked salmon, I went for the curried cod cheeks (£8.95).
Cod cheeks have a meaty texture similar to monkfish and they carry Indian flavours well. These lightly spiced pieces of firm fish worked well with the accompanying sweetness of the butternut puree, crunchy slices of radish and minty raita dip.
From a section of the menu called “working lunch” – essentially these were more like pub classics with smoked gammon steak, egg and chips among them – a venison, swede and carrot pie (£15.95) was served with a jug of gravy, broccoli and beef-dripping mash.
Despite soft, flabby pastry, the pie was packed with pieces of tender Bambi and sweet chunks of swede and carrot in the rich, thick gravy.
The glossy and rich beef-dripping mash was quite dry and stodgy – it brought back memories of 1970s school meals – but the broccoli was perfectly cooked and retained a decent bite.
School lunch memories continued with an overly sweet warm treacle tart (£6) teamed with a jammy raspberry compote and refreshing milk ice cream. It wasn’t a dessert for borderline diabetics.
It brought to a close an enjoyable lunch at a fair price in comfortable surroundings. OK the sheer size of the menu and corporate feel of the place isn’t for everybody – give me a small menu in an owner-run village pub any day – but for large groups and family gatherings looking for plenty of choice and space, you’d be hopping mad not to stop off at the Frogmill.
Frogmill, Shipton Oliffe, Andoversford, Glos, GL54 4HT.
Tel: 01242 386364. www.thefrogmill.co.uk
The Frogmill at Shipton Oliffe