Friday, 9 June 2017

The Red Lion in Blewbury, Oxfordshire

I first heard about The Red Lion Pub & Kitchen at the beginning of this year in a newspaper article which contained a very complimentary review of the venue. The place dates back to 1612, and its location is on the edge of the beautiful, ancient and quaint village of Blewbury in South Oxfordshire.

I was staying in the nearby village of Wallingford. There I saw Agatha Christie's house, which sits on the edge of the village at Cholsey. I also walked the Thames Path in Wallingford and took the opportunity to forage for some wild garlic. After that, a visit to The Red Lion for dinner seemed a fitting way to finish the day.

After a short 15 minute drive, we arrived at The Red Lion, tucked away in a corner on a small lane in Blewbury.  

The Red Lion Pub & Kitchen has been sympathetically refurbished and furnished using vintage furniture, country antiques and quirky finds while retaining many of its original features.

The menu offers locally and seasonally sourced ingredients in modern British dishes with French influences.

There’s also an adjacent snug oak-beamed bar with a working fireplace and flagstone floors, offering craft beers, many lagers and ciders and both Old and New World wines. Outside, there is an orchard garden perfect for summer dining and drinking with views overlooking the nearby fields.

They have individually furnished bedrooms, all en-suite upstairs. 

Dinner at The Red Lion

The food was outstanding. You can see the care and love that has been put into preparing the dishes. The ingredients were of high quality, seasonal and presented in some rather creative combinations.

The service was fast, friendly and very accommodating.

Carpaccio of Octopus, celeriac and walnut remoulade, Spiced Vodka lime and red pepper salsa

Potted Duck, Foie gras, Orange and quince chutney
Braised Pigs Cheeks cooked in Ale with Creamed Potato and Asparagus

Steamed steak, kidney and ox cheek pudding, sticky black garlic and wild mushrooms

The ultimate pure indulgence  - A sharing platter of mini desserts perfect for people, like me, who are indecisive when ordering desserts. Chocolate,  raspberry, ice cream, crème brûlée, custard tart - all delightful and satisfying

The Red Lion Pub & Kitchen 
Chapel Lane
Didcot - UK
OX11 9PQ
Tel: 01235 850403
Open Hours:
Monday 11:30am - 11pm
Tuesday Closed
Wednesday - Thursday 11:30am - 11pm
Friday - Saturday 11:30am - 12am
Sunday - 12pm - 6pm

Disclosure: I was a guest at The Red Lion. All views are my own

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Wiltshire, Bradford On Avon

Kennet & Avon canal

I just love how you can find beautiful little towns full of character in the English countryside. Bradford on Avon is one of them.  Just on the edge of the Cotswolds in West Wiltshire, The River Avon runs through it and can be admired from the ancient bridge which retains two of its original 13th-century arches.

There are plenty of things to do in town as well as on the outskirts. Bradford on Avon is full of little independent shops, various types of accommodation, restaurants, a local market and loads of historical buildings.   A walk by the Kennet & Avon canal is a must. It's peppered with colourful barges and quirky pubs along the away.

Staying and dining at Timbrell's Yard

Timberell's  Yard bedroom

Timbrell's  Yard bedroom 

Timbrell's  Yard bedroom

The Timbrell's  location is idyllic, situated on the banks of the River Avon, directly across the river from the Holy Trinity Church, it overlooks a beautifully manicured green private garden on the other side of the river. A former Victorian factory, Timbrell’s Yard's decor is quirky with reclaimed goods that have been given a new lease on life. 

The owners have gone for a rustic modern look with exposed stones and salvaged wood combined with metal and glass. The outside flagstone yard overlooks small bits of the car park as well as the beautiful river. Timberell's atmosphere and service are very relaxed which is probably due to the fact that the staff are young and local.

There are 17 rooms; my room overlooked the river Avon. It was a well-appointed room, not luxury, but has bags of style. It was airy, with neutral yet trendy tones.  I loved the large window in the room with fabulous views of the river.  The bathroom was very nice, and the toiletries were fantastic, sourced from a local brand, Bramley.  I had never heard of them, but I will be looking to buy from them online.  Unfortunately, you're not allowed to take them home, which I found out upon checking in.

The furniture throughout the place is reclaimed; classy, second hand and hip - very cool, indeed! 

There's a tiny parking area, on a first come first serve basis,  but there's also a public paid car park next to the venue. The train station is about a 5-minute walk from Timbrell's - very convenient!

A great place to stay and use as a base to explore the area. 

Timbrell's Yard Wiltshire
49 St Margaret's St, Bradford-on-Avon BA15 1DE
Phone: 01225 869492

Dinner at Timbrell's


Delightful sweet crab meat capers lemons grilled fennel and rocket, the toast was generously topped with crab white and brown meat. Wine: a glass of Prosecco


Juicy and tender Ribeye dry-aged - perfectly cooked no blood running- roasted garlic & parsley butter, fries, crisp onions roast mushrooms & watercress sauce cider brandy & peppercorn
Ice cream stem ginger and vanilla bean  with Pedro Ximenez
I enjoyed my meal at Timbrell's Yard. Recommended.
Notes from the restaurant:
Menu offers gluten-free and  vegetarian  options
Indicates cheeses pasteurised and unpasteurised
Provenance where possible, local farmers and growers
Fresh catches and seasonal ingredients 
Meats come from BRISTOL, Gloucestershire and Somerset. Fish from Bridport  - 24 hour 'port to plate.'
Bread, biscuits, cakes, and burger buns baked daily on the premises

Places of interest in and around Bradford on Avon

There are so many beautiful places to explore in Bradford. Start with a walk through town where you will encounter The Shambles, once a part of the city's medieval marketplace but now a pedestrianised street full of independent shops, greengrocers and boutiques. Don't forget to stop and take in the view from the town bridge which straddles the River Avon.  Pop by the Tithe Barn, a very long mid-14th century monastic stone barn which features an unusual crooked timber roof.


The Holy Trinity Church is another landmark of the area worth checking out and don't forget to explore the small alleyways along the way when walking up the hillside to the church. Bradford has its own small museum showcasing the natural and historical heritage of the town and the surrounding villages.  Next to it sits The Bridge Tearooms, there they serve a variety of afternoon teas;  loose-leaf tea in china cups, lovely homemade cakes, tasty and fresh finger sandwiches and small bites served by staff kitted out in Victorian garb.

The Bridge Tearooms

Iford Manor and Gardens 

Iford Manor
Iford is an easy 20-minute country drive from Bradford on Avon. Iford Manor has its roots in Medieval times. The classical facade was added in the eighteenth century. The hanging woodlands above the garden were also planted at the same time.

Iford is home to William Cartwright-Hignett and his wife Marianne. I love the story of how they met and the history of how Iford Manor and Gardens came into the family.

The Grade 1 Italianate garden at the Manor was designed by the architect and landscape gardener Harold Ainsworth Peto who lived there from 1899 to 1933. Peto was a British architect, landscape architect and garden designer who worked around Britain and Provence. He travelled extensively bringing with him lots of ideas and objects from as far away as Asia.  A walk around the garden will reveal lots of sculptures, vases and architectural items from his travels.  It's a unique and romantic hillside place characterised by steps, terraces, sculptures and magnificent rural views.  An oasis of tranquillity and rather romantic.

They hold opera performances and jazz concerts, as well as a series of free "3-to-tea" concerts on Sunday afternoons by amateur and not-so-amateur artists.

Iford Tea and Cider
William's love for tea started at Cambridge where he and his friend founded The Tea Society, which was about learning and discovery tea.   His passion took him to opening a tea room in Cambridge and eventually opening an online tea business.  William is always looking for creative and exciting ways to make British heritage relevant to today's demands.  You can find his teas online here:
Iford  tea

Iford's apple orchard is thriving with some unusual and unheard of varieties. Together with his neighbour, Joe, they have just started Iford Cider.  My favourite was Iford Peto Press (green label) 

Iford Manor
BA15 2BA
T: +44 (0)1225 863146
2017 Opening Times:
April to September
Tues, Weds, Thurs, Sats & Sun (& BH Mons), 2-5pm
October: Sundays, 2-5pm

Buttle Farm

Buttle's Farm

I met Robert when I went to take a look at his rare breed native British pig farm. Robert is a firm advocate of the Slow Food Movement, a grassroots movement that promotes the preservation of traditional and regional cuisine and as well as the farming of plants, seeds, and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem.

Buttle's pigs are happy pigs, they are born and raised on the farm in an extensive free range system in small groups. They live in a high welfare and natural environment and are outdoors all year round.  There are also Guinea Fowls which roam free around the barns and fields, eating bugs and seeds along the way.

The guinea fowl roam free range around the barns
Delicious Bacon from Buttle's farm and Guinea Fowl eggs

Buttle Farm has a range of award-winning charcuterie including bacon, salami and air dried ham, all of which are made in a converted barn on the farm. They also sell fresh pork to leading restaurants and directly to the consumer. Get on their mailing list here:

They also have the ultimate in luxury holiday accommodation on a farm.

Farm for Slow Pig Day 2017 event is taking place on the 18 June 2017.

Buttle Farm
Compton Bassett, Nr Calne SN11 8RE
Phone: 01249 814918

Bowood Gardens
Bowood House

Bowood is a grade I listed Georgian country house with interiors by Robert Adam and a fantastic garden designed by Lancelot "Capability" Brown in the 18th Century. It is adjacent to the village of Derry Hill, halfway between Calne and Chippenham in Wiltshire, England.

Bowood is one of Capability Brown's finest parks with a sinuous lake (almost 1 km long), lawns that slope gently down from the house, drifts of mature trees and an arboretum of rare trees.

Part of the house is open to the public with permanent and temporary exhibitions.

Bowood Gardens
Derry Hill, Calne SN11 9PQ
No dogs allowed.
Opening times: April  to early June  - 11am-6pm
 Tickets from £7.25

Disclosure:  I was a guest of Timbrell's, Iford Gardens, Buttle Farm and Bowood Gardens as part of press trip organised by Visit Wiltshire. All views are my own.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Wiltshire, Lacock

Lacock Abbey

Wiltshire, one of the historic regions of England, has roots that go back to medieval times. It's nestled in the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, and Berkshire. The area is also known for its pre-Roman archaeological sites.

Wandering around the charming village of Lacock, one can see why it is a National Trust village. If you think you've been here before, it might be because it is a popular filming location.  Following the main road into the village, you feel as if you are in a fairytale place, as long as you disregard the modern day cars intruding on the road! The central area used for filming is a wide street full of historic houses. Each building is prettier than the other with bags of character and historical details. This village has been used in film productions of Wolfman, Pride and Prejudice, The Cranford Chronicles, Emma and the Harry Potter movies.
Bakery in Lacock

Bus Stop

The village's focal point is the majestic Lacock Abbey with its lush grounds. The 13th-century building is situated in the middle of the village. It was used as an abbey until 1539,  after which,  it became a  country house with its own woodland grounds.

For many years, it was the home of the Talbot family, including William Henry Fox Talbot in the 19th century. His incredible achievements and his invention of the photographic negative are celebrated at the Fox Talbot Museum in the grounds of the abbey.

This place is very photogenic, and you feel a sense of community. The village is dotted with charming houses bursting with architectural details.  I love this area of Wiltshire, specially this village.
Locals selling jams and homemade goodies in Lacock

Staying at The Sign of the Angel in Lacock

The Sign of the Angel

The Sign of the Angel is believed to be named after an old type of coin used in the area and is located right in the centre of the village. Dating back from the 15th Century, it was a timbered coaching Inn, meaning it was a lodging primarily for coach travellers.  Nowadays, it's a local restaurant and features five traditional and comfortable rooms that are available to guests for relaxing getaways. 

Every old building is said to have a history, and this one is no different. I was told that there is a resident ghost. Some guests hear things that go bump in the night; one member of staff was locked in a room with no explanation, as the keys were in their pocket. Some people feel a 'presence' in the corridors.  When one morning a guest asked about the resident dog, the receptionist said, "We don't have a dog." The guest then said, "How can that be? It was scratching at my door last night..." Spooky!  I love a good ghost story so I totally bought into it. Disappointingly, I must say that I didn't 'see' or 'feel'  any presence of a ghost.

The Sign of the Angel is a fabulous place to stay in the area; I just love how quirky and atmospheric this place is.  It's a short walk away from the Abbey and spending time in and around the village is pleasurable. You feel as if you are an actor in a film.
Welcome drinks at The Sign of the Angel

The Sign of the Angel has been sympathetically renovated, so expect quirky decor, uneven floors and doors, beamed walls and ceilings. For guests staying overnight, the main living room upstairs has wood panelled walls and they can expect stylish furnishings along with a cottage garden. They offer en-suite bathrooms, free Wi-Fi, and tea and coffee making facilities in the bedrooms.

The restaurant is rustic-chic featuring a stone fireplace and a beamed roof. They offer Modern British dishes using local and seasonal produce.  Dogs are welcome for a fee.

Eating at The Sign of the Angel

Tasting Menu - May 2017

A straightforward and well-crafted dinner

Dinner  7 courses @£40 |  Wine flight £15

Amuse bouche

Bath soft cheese and Veal bonbon, selection of bread made in-house, rosemary and chilli were my favourites.

The gnocchi was light and well-seasoned. I love the contrast of sweet pepper and feta cheese - texture and taste

Fish, asparagus, pickled onions almonds buttermilk jelly honey
Palate cleanser  was a refreshing orange and Pimm's sorbet

Local Lamb juicy spinach carrots mash, Spinach & Rosemary twirl and thick sauce to die for

Dessert: Lavender Brownie, Raspberry and Chocolate Cheesecake  with Pedro Ximenez - sorry not photos!
Port soaked Stilton paired with Dow's fine tawny port 

Lovely cooked breakfast and a table full of nice breakfast bits too.

I thoroughly enjoyed staying at The Sign of The Angel.  I highly recommend it.

Disclosure:  I was a guest of The Sign of the Angel organised by Visit Wiltshire. All views are my own.
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