What a beautiful weekend we just had. The skies were blue, the sun was bright and I was donning my wellies for a weekend with my friend J in the Cotswolds. Yay. Last autumn J treated me to a trip in the Peak District for my birthday and our jaunt to the West Country was my chance to return the favour for hers. I set off from London on Saturday morning and after the rage, disappointment and tears that accompany any journey with First Great Western (grr) I arrived in Moreton-in-Marsh only an hour or so late.
Moreton-in-Marsh is a small market town in Gloucestershire filled with honey coloured buildings and caramel coloured cottages. Aside from being a beautiful and historical town, Moreton-in-Marsh has a certain mythological status for me. Back in the day when a cottage could be purchased for £6,000 and children were a long way off, my mum and dad used to live and work in the town before they decided that they couldn't live in any sort of cottage together without losing the will to live.
We stayed a short walk across the fields outside of Moreton-in-Marsh in a fabulous B&B. Old Farm is a working farm producing top quality food. Sarah runs a farm shop which stocks meat from the farm as well as other (very) local produce. It was the thought of the hand reared bacon and sausages for breakfast which pushed me to book a room and had me humming "Old MacDonald" all week in anticipation.As much as I love pulses, I don't think I could ever be a vegetarian. I do, however, want to know that the meat I am enjoying has had a respectful and stressful existence before arriving on my plate. Well, as stressful as life can be while spending your days wondering what exactly "going to market" means and why your furry friends never seem to come back. I did have a slight pang when I saw these little piggies (I'm not made of stone) but this subsided when I smelled the mouth-watering Sunday joint that Sarah was basting.Most of the weekend was spent scraping mud off our impractical footwear (sorry mum) with sticks and, of course, eating. We had hoped to have Afternoon Tea in the town but unfortunately we left it too late. We did, however, manage to explore the local deli - The Cotswold Cheese Company. This gem of a shop stocks a wide variety of produce. After a moment fantasising about having shelves as tidy at this:I invested in some goose fat (for roasties), some balsamic vinegar and some seasonally shaped Coeur de Neufchatel. I've got an idea for a recipe involving the cheese which I'm going to try out this weekend. Yum.
For dinner we went to the Horse and Groom at Bourton on the Hill. Bliss. It was everything you want to a country pub to be. For me, one of the saddest sights in the countryside is stepping into a seemingly beautiful country pub only to be faced with a printed (not chalked) blackboard menu which screams 'boil in the bag chain pub grub'. Ooooh it makes me angry. Simple British pub food is not rocket science. Who wants to spend a day tramping up hill and down dale only to return to the same sad food that is available in every chain pub across the country?
Rant over. The Horse and Groom is in a completely different league. All of the ingredients are sourced locally (some even coming from the B&B) and everything we ate was tender, flavoursome and wholesome. I had a butternut squash risotto to start and a moist chicken breast served with a rich, deep red wine and onion sauce. J had a lightly curried parsnip soup and a tender, flavour-packed steak. Pudding was the infamous Mrs G's toffee meringue. A slice of chewy, caramel meringue filled with rich toffee cream and named after the owners' mum who makes it for the restaurant. Not only was the food great and the atmosphere cosy, the owners even arranged for a member of staff to give us a lift home when our taxi let us down. What service!
As ever, the weekend was over too soon. I took the train back to London filled with fresh air and laden down with food from the farm. If you fancy a post Valentine's break with a friend or loved one I hope that Moreton-in-Marsh has whetted your appetite.