The New Inn, Coln St Aldwyns, Gloucestershire, is a typical amalgam of hotel, restaurant cum village pub - quite appropriate for a 400-year-old country inn that has always been all things to all people.
Owners Brian and Sandra-Anne Evans have built up a strong local support after winning their campaign to save the site of the New Inn from redevelopment in 1988.
Today's campaign is to win over cautious locals to the New Inn's dining room. Their secret weapon is Tony Robson-Burrell. Having hung up his whites 18 months ago as head chef at Charingworth Manor, Chipping Camden, he went on to supply chefs with speciality ingredients. But he returned to the stove on 3 January as New Inn's head chef.
Last week, 300 meals were served in the bar and 60 in the dining room. But Robson-Burrell plans to turn this around by the summer.
Five choices per course are offered on both bar and the £17.50 set-price, three course table d'hote menu. The bar menu offers traditional dishes; the dining room, modern British.
Robson-Burrell has lightened up the regional dishes on the bar menu, although the emphasis is still on wholesome food and providing value for money. "Local farmers want lots of food," Robson-Burrell says.
For the bar menu, he has transformed a recipe for an old English spinach tart from a 16th century cookbook. He uses plenty of nutmeg, layered with gruyère cheese in a shortcrust pastry with finely chopped herbs and garlic. A small jug of hollandaise sauce is served beside this starter (£3.95).
Steak and kidney pie (£6.25) is made from diced neck of beef, which is slowly braised with carrot, onion and mushroom, ox kidney and a suet pastry, and steamed for an hour and a half. It is served with the liquor and braised red cabbage. "I'm really into braising. Faggots are so popular they've appeared on the special menu every day," he says.
He also cooks braised lamb shank with chunky vegetables, deglazed with port for a "bang" then braised for six hours. Daily specials include venison bangers and mash (£5.50) or breast of chicken with homemade noodles. "They're selling really well," he adds.
Robson-Burrell also cooks new interpretations of old-fashioned English puds. He does a version of a Bakewell pudding, which appears as Griottine cherry and almond tart with Jersey cream (£3.80). Cherries are soaked in kirsch and he uses a frangipane base. He also serves a brandy-snap basket filled with homemade ice-cream (£3.80).
Sunday lunches, Robson-Burrell says, "are like a rugby scrum", with more than 100 meals served. The roast forerib of beef and parsnip purée (£5.50) was a sell out.
All this with a total kitchen staff of four - himself, a sous chef, (who'll be joining during the first week of March), a pastry chef and an NVQ apprentice. "We can do it easily as long as the mise en place is there," he says. Out front, there are two bar staff and two waiting staff. "The owners always help out. It's a close-knit family, really."
The New Inn, Coln St-Aldwyns, Cirencester, 01285 750 651