The previous evening having been spent yamming down Benson’s restaurant-quality risotto with a shit-load of bin-end Spanish, last Sunday got off to an earlier start than I’d hoped. Rousing me first by opening and closing the bedroom door and then kneeing me in the balls, my youngest niece cold-heartedly broke the news that, as she saw it, I had only three friends, one of whom was a cat. Heavy-eyed, humbled, and putty in her hands at the best of times, I shook a leg and sorted her out a bowl of ‘Krispies’.
With hindsight, I might reasonably have felt just a tad sheepish around my lunch date for the day, especially having written-up her pub/restaurant/hotel with such brash objectivity last year. (“Hi. Yeah, remember me? I was rude about your business. Wanna go out sometime…?”) That I didn’t, I’m sure, owed as much to her generous nature as it did to a general lack of self-awareness on my part, and considerably less to the courage of any conviction I might have brought to the table.
The table in question had been reserved at The Ebrington Arms. Just north of Chipping Camden, the Hymnal’s been to Ebrington before and the impression its pub always lent is that of a proper, community-driven local. Hosting regular food-led events and offering up great regional product, both wet and dry, the place is obviously, and rightly, appreciated and utilised by the village. It’s traditional, it’s modest, it has a fuck-off stuffed fox on a shelf in the back dining room and, as far as this ship has sailed, is as good a place to get tucked in of an afternoon as there is.
Beginning with bread and olives, we shared (kind of) starters of Filo Tartlet of Mussels, Bacon and Brie, a Twice Baked Souffle of Smoked Haddock & Cheddar Cheese with a Crab Bisque (Both £6, both bloody delicious), and an expertly touted bottle of de-listed Gruner Veltliner (£21). I say expertly in that our server was pro-active and conscientious enough to mention it at all - it would have been very easy just to let us choose from the list -, and also because she smiled so sweetly as she did so that only the most senseless son-of-a-bitch would have had it in them to say ‘no thanks’. We loved both it and her.
Main courses provided probably the main point of contention, though this was relatively minor; the Roast Beef arrived more toward the medium/well-done than the preferred pink. RH seemed happy enough, mind. My roasted, chestnut and sage-stuffed supreme of Guinea Fowl, despite coming with what was my second risotto in 24 hours, absolutely hit the spot. I see sweet potato, I see not a lot else. With these we enjoyed a Central Otago Pinot Noir which, to our disproportionate amusement (I think we were drunk already), derived its name from some sort of indigenous tribal face decoration. It was £23 and a good match.
Desserts, our first ones at any rate, were an Apple, Rhubarb and Cinnamon crumble with warm custard (£5.75) and a Cherry frangipane slice with Cherry syrup and Vanilla ice cream(ditto). With the latter I couldn’t help feeling I’d won, the crumble being served, somewhat affectedly, in a latte glass. No complaints, though. About the food, that is. By now the warm afternoon sunshine that was fair blinding me through the window, coupled with the heat from an adjacent radiator, had lent me a quite feverish sheen. We subsequently finished our wine and, to the relief of my retinas, went through to the bar. For Cheese, naturally.
I hadn’t foreseen the course count spiralling much further beyond a fourth. Nor, however, had I seriously registered RH’s plea not to judge her if she ate a lot. I’d never do that, anyway – on the contrary, I’m entirely respectful of anyone that delicate with such a capacity to consume – but we weren’t done by a damn sight. I wouldn’t dare try to absolve myself of any responsibility here either; to keep ordering shit felt quite natural. I do feel a need, however, for appearance’s sake, and for what it’s worth, to give an idea of the time frame within which this all went down. We’d been here since 2pm and, though I wouldn’t know for sure because by now I was proper pissed, I’d guess it was then around 7.30pm.
Terrine of Ham Hock, Black Pudding and Apple, piccalilli bread and onion chutney (£6) was probably the day’s most attractively presented starter dish. Breaded & crisp fried Buffalo Mozzarella (also £6) did exactly what it promised. With wind in our sails we revisited the pudding card too. In light of the stage we were at and how heavy you’d imagine all this must have been sitting, you might have questioned our choices. Mercifully, Marmalade and Chocolate Bread & Butter pudding (£5.75) was lighter than it sounds. Baked Chocolate and Beetroot cake with pistachio ice cream, conversely, was absolutely as sturdy as you might think. A duck sinker? No, too cruel. Weighty? Most definitely. Tasty? We didn’t leave any.
The inebriated, equine-themed encounter we had at the bar with Rod and Patsy rather rounded off a quite brilliant day out. These two were as bananas as the cheese I could just about remember having had a share of not 90 minutes before.
I’d unequivocally encourage a visit to The Ebrington Arms. It’s picture book stuff, outside and in, the service, with the exception of one fairly moody mother who’d deposited our main courses (or should I say second courses…?) with less ceremony than you’d like, was very good indeed, and the food, with eminently forgiveable glimpses given it’s so keenly priced, is excellent. I had such a nice time, and in such good company, I don’t even care that they stung me for a carafe of Montepulciano we never had. It just means I feel less guilty about being so hopped up on Uley Bitter by the time we left that I neglected to leave the tip the whole experience deserved. An oversight that’s since been rectified. I think.
Thanks for coming, Rach. I had fun, man. xx