Var­ied menu is as ex­ten­sive as Frog­mill’s sprawl­ing grounds

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - Dining Out - MARK TAYLOR

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.

RAT­ING 3.5/5

Frog­mill, Ship­ton Oliffe, An­dovers­ford, Glos, GL54 4HT.

Tel: 01242 386364. www.the­frog­mill.co.uk

Photo: TANLIJOY

The Frog­mill at Ship­ton Oliffe

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