This popular new foodie pub in the Cotswold village of Kingham was opened by Lady Bamford. Janet Harmer enjoys the tasteful surroundings and gutsy menu from head chef Adam Caisley
Widespread media coverage surrounding the opening in early September of the Wild Rabbit in the Cotswold village of Kingham has brought customers flocking to the refurbished pub with 12 bedrooms.
"We aimed for a high level from the start, and to keep that quality consistently, we really need to recruit three chefs de partie to add to the four-strong brigade," says head chef Adam Caisley.
For the past five years, Caisley has worked as private chef to Lady Bamford, owner of the Wild Rabbit and wife of the newly ennobled JCB magnate Sir Anthony
Bamford. "I worked at Le Gavroche as senior sous chef for more than five years earlier in my career, so working the long hours we're doing at the moment is nothing new to me," Caisley says.
Having built up one of the most renowned organic food enterprises in the UK, with a farm, farm shop, cookery school and four cafés, the Bamford name above the door was always going to attract column inches.
First impressions of the Wild Rabbit - formerly known as the Tollgate Inn - are arresting. Its sustainable design succeeds in being both super-smart and rustic, with scrubbed pine tables, an abundance of wild flowers and comfy sofas making it somewhere customers want to linger.
But this is by no means all about being enveloped in a delightful environment; the Wild Rabbit is a serious foodie addition to the pub landscape of the Cotswolds. From the excellent platter of cured meats served with olive oil, butter and freshly baked breads served soon after you sit down to the platter of cheese dominated by an enormous truckle of Cheddar on a central table, this is a venue which is sincere in its generosity and careful sourcing of ingredients.
Hearty and approachable, as befitting its pub setting, Caisley's food has a solid, classical footing, beautifully illustrated by a starter of roast scallop and Cornish crab cannelloni with crab bisque (£13.50). The intensely rich bisque is created by roasting the outer crab shells and sweating off the main body shell, which produces, says Caisley, "a double hit of flavour", with a splash of double cream and crème fraÁ®che to finish.
Following a choice of five or six starters, the mains offer a selection of six dishes alongside three different steaks - rib of beef for two (£58), 10oz sirloin steak (£24) and 8oz butler's (flat iron) steak (£16.50).
Cooked on the pub's Josper oven - a key feature of the open kitchen - the steaks are proving to be a winning choice among guests, with about 70 sirloins and 100 flat iron steaks sold each week. The steaks are served with a choice of sauces, such as anchovy, herb and shallot; bone marrow and horseradish; bois boudran; and béarnaise.
Daylesford, the Bamford's nearby organic farm, raises the majority of the pub's meat, topped up with additional supplies from Eversfield Organic in Okehampton, Devon.
While meat dominates the menu, there is always one fish option, such as poached brill with raisins and roast cauliflower (£23), and a vegetarian dish, as in beetroot orzo, charred leeks and toasted hazelnuts (£13.50).
When it comes to the selection of five desserts (all £7), the vanilla rice pudding - served in a copper pot and accompanied by Armagnac-soaked and poached prunes and a poppy seed tuile - is the best seller.
The aforementioned British cheese is served as a plate of three types for £8 or five for £12.
The Wild Rabbit's general manager, Rob Barnsley, leads an enthusiastic team of nine young staff front of house in what has swiftly become a popular venue for the area.
Average spend is £35 per head at lunch and £55 at dinner.
Sample dishes from the menu
Starters Artichoke soup, brioche and whipped truffle butter £7.50
Tartare of mackerel, salad of cucumber and squid ink tapioca £8.50
Potted rabbit, tarragon grain mustard and pickled vegetable salad £7.50
Main courses Organic lamb rack, crisp breast, sweetbreads, braised lettuce and girolles £25.50
Organic blade of beef, garden vegetables, herb dumpling and roast bone marrow £18.50
Poached halibut, cockles and clams, celeriac purée £25.50
Desserts Iced vanilla parfait, blackberry and apple £7
Lemon syllabub, gooseberry jam doughnuts £7
Steamed ginger pudding with lemon verbena custard £7
The Wild Rabbit,
Church Street, Kingham, Oxfordshire OX7 6YA