The head chef is a Barron and his restaurant reigns supreme in the Queen of the Cotswolds. But can the Painswick Hotel conquer the AA? John Greenwood investigates.
The restaurant at Painswick Hotel is finding that a little positive press coverage can go a long way. Since the hotel was awarded the title of Country House Hotel of the Year by the Good Hotel Guide last month, reservations have been flooding in and media attention has doubled.
Head chef Kevin Barron is hoping that the coverage, which includes a review in the Sunday Times, will not only do wonders for turnover but will also be a springboard towards more accolades - in particular, a third AA rosette. "We deserve to be noticed," declares Barron, who joined the Painswick eight months ago. "You know in your heart that the food you do is as good as other places that have three AA rosettes. But we'll keep plugging away, and I'm sure it will come."
The 38-seat restaurant's location in a Palladian rectory in the historic Cotswolds town of Painswick, known as the "Queen of the Cotswolds", has always made it a popular place for Londoners, Americans and Japanese, who enjoy fine dining during their trips to picture-postcard England. But, since winning the Good Hotel Guide award, more locals have also been coming to the restaurant, pushing covers up to about 10 for lunch and 15-20 for dinner on weekdays, with the restaurant full at both lunch and dinner at weekends.
The daily set menu costs £27.50 for four courses, but most guests opt for the à la carte menu, which is overhauled every two months. This pushes average spend up to £33, excluding wine.
Barron describes his style as "classically French based, with modern twists and innovations". But he uses as many traditional English ingredients as possible, both to support UK suppliers and because of the superior flavour. "Our fish is from Brixham in Devon, and we buy West Country cheeses, ducklings from Hereford and partridges from the local shoot."
The best seller among the five starters is the trio of duck - roast foie gras, ravioli of livers, terrine pressé with sauternes jelly (£8.95) - while one of the most popular mains is a braising of local pork, cider potato, and stuffed Savoy cabbage with an apple-scented jus (£18.50).
Barron's personal favourite from the five main course options, however, is the rump of Cotswold lamb with pease pudding and lamb samosa and a honey-and-rosemary gravy (£21.50). He explains: "We roast the lamb in rosemary marmalade with a spoonful of pease pudding on the top, and serve it with a samosa made of lamb trimmings and couscous, with pan-fried lamb sweetbreads and girolles scattered around."
Soup of local strawberry with five-spice lemon verbena, panna cotta and praline wafer is a top seller among the five desserts.
A selection from the menu at the Painswick Hotel
Pan-roasted scallops with aubergine purée, herbs salad and tomato parcels, £8.75
Vine tomato essence with Cornish crab won ton, basil and cucumber, £8.50
Somerset goats' cheese tart, herb crème fraîche and red wine shallot dressing, £5.50
Pavé of sea bass, leek and bacon risotto, stew of young vegetables, oyster cappuccino, £18.50
Fillet of Angus beef, duxelle of mushrooms, seared foie gras and oxtail rosti with Madeira sauce, £22.50
Pan-fried Cornish turbot, crab ravioli, asparagus and petit ratatouille, with shellfish emulsion and dried tomato, £19
Acacia honey parfait, warm vanilla rice pudding and caramelised orange, £5.50
Peach tart with peach-and-basil sherbet and white peach custard, £6
Chocolate assiette of hot chocolate pudding, milk chocolate mousse and white chocolate sorbet, £6.50
Painswick Hotel, Kemps Lane, Painswick, Gloucester GL6 6YB. Tel: 01452 812160. Fax: 01452 814059. Web site:www.painswickhotel.com