The Kingham Plough // Chipping Norton // England

In the chocolate box Cotswolds village of Kingham (once voted England’s favourite), the Southwest’s Great British Menu victor Emily Watkins welcomes guests to her cosy country inn, where she cooks with love and attention.

Beyond any doubt, Watkins’s mind is firmly fixed on her choice of produce, which allows her to deliver outstanding dishes through thoughtful combinations, accented by her personal style of heart-felt cookery. Authenticity is important too at the Plough, as everything from the sumptuous butter to the freshly baked bread is homemade.

Watkins’s cooking is complemented by the warm and witty front-of-house service, which does that magical thing of instantly relaxing upon arrival; a great start to your rural retreat.

One thing that is striking about the Plough’s menu is that for an inland country restaurant, its seafood dishes have the same level of creativity and flavour as the dishes that showcase the local meat. Take the razor clam ‘risotto’, with the shellfish served in a rich saffron, lemony consommé, topped with sun-blushed cherry tomatoes from the near-by Daylesford Farm. The freshness of this dish is a perfectly judged, simple pleasure.

Also noteworthy is the sole main, which is not served in the classical French Meunière style, but with brown shrimp two ways. Perfectly cooked fish is first topped with buttery pan-fried shrimps, which sits alongside a shrimp butter that has been dehydrated and turned into a beautiful piece of art on the plate. Hidden within the power is a hint of nutmeg, giving you a beurre noisette kind of effect; very clever. The Jersey royals, asparagus and parsley butter that go with this dish should be ordered for the whole table. Earthy potatoes with crunchy slithers of asparagus all smothered in a delectable coating; that homemade butter is simply amazing.

Pastry from the Plough is also at a very high level. The spring pudding is a luxurious strawberry flavoured base, daintily topped with poached slices of melting rhubarb and sprinkled with a crunchy crumb texture. The buttermilk sorbet is given a sweet and sour effect with a ripple of rhubarb and strawberry; a refreshing and accomplished dessert.

Other excellent dishes include the duck parfait starter and the rabbit Wellington, so you can expect much more than perfect seafood from the Watkins. The Kingham Plough does an excellent job at showcasing British produce through its elevated cooking, setting the standard for similar establishments across the country. A definite PLUS from us – thanks to Emily and the team.

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