One of the wonders of the Cotswolds is how so much seems to be squeezed in to such a relatively small area. Every visit mysteriously seems to yield up a new historic country house, an immaculate honeyed stone village or a labyrinthine farm shop that all have somehow to have avoided the radar on previous visits.
This time we stumbled upon the hamlet of Ewen, just outside Cirencester and a short trickle from the source of the Thames at neighbouring Kemble. We have to admit to being guided here by the news that the local public house, The Wild Duck Inn, had been taken over by the Lucky Onion Group, an organisation that we were familiar with, being behind the excellent Wheatsheaf at Northleach and the Chequers at Churchill. They also run the fabulous 131 The Promenade and No 38 The Park in Cheltenham, both of which have featured in the Times Ultimate 100 Hotels listings.
Having been regular visitors at the other establishments, we knew of Lucky Onion’s ability – not only with sympathetic and tasteful restorations – but also in the more challenging task of generating a warm and familiar environment. Further skills lie in their ability to create a buzz around their food and beverage operation; a tough task within a region blessed with more than its fair share of exceptional foodie pubs.
Under its new ownership The Wild Duck (the ‘Inn’ has quietly been dropped) has just completed the first of its renovations with a new kitchen, and with a new look menu the Pub is again open for business. Further improvement work will take place over the next year to feature new and refurbished rooms (currently closed), an extended bar and renovated dining areas.
For now the dining areas are largely as they were under the previous long term owners, and that is to say very pleasant indeed. The historic 16th century interior is very much in evidence as you enter with old stone floors, a glorious inglenook fireplace and crackling log fire.
There are low beams overhead and a number of small dining areas that reveal themselves as you venture further in to the building. Tables and chairs are mis-matched and looked over by historic gilt-framed portraits hung on library pink walls.
The menu has avoided copying their ’sister’ pubs and is interesting and original. Given the rural location not surprisingly many options tended towards meaty and gamey with choices like Crispy Pigs Head (!?) or Creamed Mustard Veal Kidneys for starters and Whole Roast Ewen Partridge, Slow Cooked Ox Cheek and The Wild Duck’s Duck to follow. There was however plenty of variety and with enough fish and veggie options to keep any non meat eater more than happy.
We opted to start with a delicious and creamy jerusalem artichoke veloute. This appeared with a beautifully golden brown and domed pastry lid, and was served with ceps and hazelnut oil. A very tasty Cornish lobster noodle bowl was accompanied by shallots and bean sprouts.
For main course, we were tempted in by a very fresh grilled loin of Cornish hake that sat on a bed of celeriac, spinach, shrimp and seaweed, along with a spot-on beer-battered whiting with a perfectly cooked flaky body and came with ‘fries’ and a portion of freshly crushed peas.
Desserts all looked tempting and we were very pleased that we yielded to a caremelised banana with home made ice-cream. We enjoyed a couple of glasses from the small but good selection on offer and a pleasing rich and smooth espresso to follow.
Despite a full restaurant at peak weekend hours the service was timely as well as being unerringly polite and friendly. All the more impressive with only a handful of weeks under its belt after re-opening.
It looks like a great start for the new and not-so-ugly ‘duckling’ and we greatly look forward to future developments. Other LO properties have some great bedroom design, and we particularly look forward to seeing the revamp of the bedrooms, which given their location in the eaves and wings of the historic building promise to be spectacular. We shall keep you updated!
For more information visit The Lucky Onion
Images by CELLOPHANELAND*.
CELLOPHANELAND* were guests of the Wild Duck