27 August 2013

The Butchers' Charms
The Butchers' Arms (Eldersfield)

The Butcher's Arms Eldersfield
My blog this week is about Michelin-starred pub The Butchers Arms in Eldersfield. Now I know what you’re thinking...last week I said that this wasn’t a critic’s blog, and now here I am, blogging about a Michelin-starred joint. That doesn’t sound like Avon Gorged.

In fact, the reason I have chosen to write about it is because it was very Avon Gorged. It was a really great experience filled with brilliant food. The kind of food that you want to tell everyone you know about, at the same time as wanting to keep it all to yourself. Right up my street some may say - except that it wasn’t because it was in Gloucestershire.
I was bought a night out at The Butcher’s Arms as a birthday present. My birthday is in June and the next Saturday we could get was the middle of August. I would say that this shows it’s a pretty popular place - I should add that it only has six tables so that may have contributed a little to the wait too. Now, the size of the place might give you the impression that it would be a bit of a quiet affair. This was something we were concerned about pre-visit because as a group, we’re definitely not 'a bit of a quiet affair'. However we needn’t have worried at all. The place was (I’m going to use that word again) buzzing. They say on their website that, “although we serve great food we are very much a pub and at times the noise levels can rise. Please bear this in mind when booking.”  Basically, don’t come thinking it’ll be all starched tablecloths and silver service. It’s a pub, and it feels like one...but a really, really, really good one.

We started with a round of pints. They have one cask ale which they serve until it runs out. A good philosophy, but one that might not suit all beer enthusiasts looking for variety. It does however provide a bit of excitement because you don’t know what you're going to get. The website states St Austell, Wye Valley and Wickwar Brewing Company as recent choices. So it’s nice to see that although you might not know what it'll be, it’s probably going to be relatively local.

To be honest, my Michelin experience to date has been a little fussy - a spot of emulsion here, a seafood foam there. However, what I liked about the food at The Butchers Arms was its simplicity and lack of pomp. That’s not to say that it wasn’t superb, because it was. But, call me a fuddy-duddy, I do quite like a menu where I know what most of the things are. Looking back at the menu now, none of the dishes took more than one breath to say, and none required us to embarrassingly ask the waitress to explain anything for us. It was also unanimously agreed that we all wanted to eat everything on it which I take as a really good start. But it does make the menu-choosing a little fraught because I’m scared I’ll get food envy when the grub arrives. Luckily the huge hunk of home-made bread which arrived post-ordering helped to dispel the nerves.

Bread and butter
To be quite honest, the main thing I have brought away from my experience was that the menu was so inviting that I ended up ordering soup. Please someone tell me the last time I ordered soup in a restaurant because I think it was in Wales in 1997. Back then it was a fish stew, and similarly this time, the sound of the scallop and home smoked cod was enough to make me go for the option I normally always ignore on any menu (it’s a liquid! For starter?). And honestly I’m glad I did because it was truly excellent. Spicy and sweet, and served in some kind of two-handed Toby jug, it really blew my mind. I still can’t quite get over choosing it, and certainly haven’t stopped talking about it, although I’m not sure I’m totally converted to soup just yet. I think the fact it was described as a stew helped.

Beef main course
Next for main, I had one of the best pieces of beef I’ve ever eaten, which was accompanied by a croquette and an oxtail pie. Yes and yes. Pastry and breaded potato on the same plate. I also happened to try the lamb with chorizo which was excellent. And trust me, I’m as surprised as you are that I didn’t order that.

Doughnut dessert
Next up were the desserts which presented a slight problem to my age-old formula of “fishy starter, meaty main, choccy pud”. I went for the closest match, the brown sugar doughnuts with white chocolate ice-cream (roughly translated as Diabetes I think). Although also excellent, the cooked pineapple that accompanied it didn’t quite help to lessen the sweetness, seeing as though it is the sweetest thing known to man. Otherwise though it was a really fun pud and a great way to end a truly memorable meal.

Although I love Bristol, hence the reason I started this blog, it is nice to get out and about sometimes. I feel I should entitle this post – “Avon Gorged abroad” - although I’m not sure Eldersfield quite counts. However I say to you Bristolians, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from my little jaunt, it’s that The Butchers Arms is well worth a trip outside the graffiti-strewn streets of our fair city.

You simply won’t regret it.

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