By Ben Honisett
This quiet little country pub turned out to be quite the surprise. If you’re at all familiar with the area, you’ll know this pub has been through a series of different owners over the last few years – some good, some bad, but all fleeting, which has sadly left matters such as the food anything but consistent.
However, following a recent trip I’m delighted to report that things are much improved – in fact some of the new menu items are really quite inspired and I think I see the beginnings of a pub that’s turning things around.
Take, for example, the Gin and Tonic battered fish – served as a starter, juicy pieces of firm white fish were fried in a batter more akin to a light tempura – it had a perfect, salty crunch to it, and the mildly bitter flavour of the gin coming through contrasted divinely with the relative sweetness of the plump fish.
I was starting to sense that the chef might have an eye for the more experimental – sure, most of the traditional pub fare is on the menu here, for better or for worse – but clearly the main course choice was going to have to be the poached salmon salad with a blue cheese dressing.
I don’t know where they’re getting their fish from, but it’s amongst the best I’ve tasted – there are signs dotted about the place, in amongst lots of charming local artwork and photos that you can buy, talking about how they locally source as much of their produce as possible.
Of course Wiltshire’s landlocked but my guess is the fish is getting here nice and quick, it’s still got that certain ‘sweetness’ to it you often only get at the seaside or in top-dollar restaurants.
Poaching fish is such a delightful way of cooking – I really wish it was done more. Sure, you don’t get the crispy skin, but you get such a light, juicy texture that greedily absorbs the flavours around it – in this case a rather punchy blue cheese sauce, powerful enough to season the accompanying green salad, but drizzled sparingly enough so as not to overpower the fish.
Rounding off the meal was a coconut and strawberry tart. Ever had one of those? No, me neither. But it was delicious – and indicative of a chef who’s being given the freedom to create new things.
The Barleycorn Inn,