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The Craven Arms

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After a slightly eventful journey about which we shall say no more, my better half and I arrived bang on time for our 7 o’clock table at The Craven Arms, a beautiful 16th Century Cotswold Inn, in the picturesque village of Brockhampton, just 4 miles from Cheltenham. There was plenty of parking and the pub dog greeted us and welcomed us in. The place has changed quite a bit since we were last here – a wall or two has come down, the kitchen has moved, there is a small downstairs bar with a TV where Andy Murray was getting duly thrashed by Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon semis and the restaurant is more spacious which is good as it was already quite busy.

Having chosen a gin and tonic, my better half had a dry cider from the selection of the ones on draught, we spent some time studying the main menu and the specials. We decided not to have wine as I was driving and he’s partial to a pint of scrumpy or three.

The pan fried Mackerel on a beetroot salad sounded good, as did the garlic mushrooms or the smoked salmon with Horseradish cream, but in the end I chose the Tiger Prawns in Filo Pastry with a chilli dip, while my husband chose the mussels in a white wine, chilli and garlic cream sauce. Most of the starters are around £5.50.

The main course was harder as we were so spoilt for choice. One of the Craven’s specialities is the ‘Grill Stone’ which allows you to cook your meat or fish at the table. The stones are kept in the oven at 450 degrees and you can choose between fillet, rib eye or sirloin steak, lamb, pork or fish. It comes with a choice of chips or new potatoes, salad or roast vegetables and a choice of Peppercorn, Stilton or Mushroom sauce. My husband chose the rib eye steak so I decided to go for something completely different.

The pan fried sea bass on a bed of samphire sounded interesting, but there were also the Sudeley Hill Farm sausages, pan fried duck breast with garlic mash, scampi or beer battered cod and chips, overnight slow cooked lamb and my final choice – a giant salmon fish cake with salad. Vegetarians are well served with brie and almond crumble, sweet potato, goat’s cheese and spinach pie and spinach and Ricotta cannelloni. Main courses (and there are far more than those I’ve just listed) vary in price from a modest £9.95 for the scampi or fishcake to £16.50 for the rib eye steak though the fillet is the one dish over £20.

The starters arrived on time and piping hot – the mussels were plentiful and the broth was delicious with a hint of Thai while the filo pastry which housed my prawns was crisp and the chilli sauce just spicy enough without being overpowering.

When the Grill Stone arrived it went on sizzling for ages. It’s the kind of thing that makes everyone turn round to see what you’re having! My husband commented that I didn’t have any chips or potatoes with my fishcake – they were an extra – but it was so filling that personally I didn’t need anything other than the salad with a delicious sundried tomato dressing.

I finished the meal with an eighties favourite Crème Brûlée while my husband had the very filling sticky toffee pudding and custard.

The whole dining experience was excellent thanks to landlady Barbara, her son Sam who is the Chef and the ‘girls’ who were friendly, attentive and helpful throughout. Just a shame we didn’t have any wine as the cellar is well stocked with French, Italian and New World wines.

The Craven Arms is located at Brockhampton, Cheltenham GL54 5XQ. Tel: 01242 820410.

The website is at www.thecravenarms.co.uk.

You can also email: cravenarms@live.co.uk.