This long-standing coaching inn has recently re-opened under the ownership of Ian Rayner and Miles Johnson. Having launched The King’s Arms, in Litton, in February of 2008, the duo are aiming for similar success with The Ragged Cot, snuggled away in the heart of the Cotswolds. This Cirencester establishment is also dog friendly, and hounds of all shapes and sizes are welcome in the bar, restaurant and its rooms. Heading up the kitchen is Kevin Chandler, a head chef with stints at Petrus and Maze under his belt and a love of a meaty menu.
We got our mouths around the evening menu at The Ragged Cot, which boasted a varied clutch of meat, fish and occasional veggie dishes. Meat is right down the head chef’s street here and the menu reflected this passion with offerings such as braised rolled lamb shoulder and pork cooked four ways.
After a little indecision, we opted for the bruschetta of Cornish squid, mussels and chorizo with rocket, shaved fennel and capers, and the Brixham crab mayonnaise with avocado, chili and lime accompanied by brown crab pate on toast. The crab mayonnaise arrived in a cute little pot all of its own, with the avocado underneath providing a decent kick of chili. The accompanying crab pate tasted suitably of the sea and the waitress wasted no time in providing extra slices of toast, to load with the crab mayonnaise. The squid and mussel bruschetta was full of flavour, but didn’t steal the show quite so much, with the squid tasting slightly tougher than it should have.
Our main dishes arrived speedily after our starters, leaving us few minute’s breathing space after our generously sized first courses. The stuffed, slow roast shoulder of pork came with pan haggerty (slices of potato, cheese and onions all packed into a satisfying wedge), braised haricot beans and chorizo. The combination of beans and chorizo was so good, it ended upstaging the pork, even though the sliver of crackling that came with it was stickily good. The braised lamb shoulder meanwhile was cooked until it softly fell apart at the touch of a fork, and came served with courgette caponata and a salsa verde that tasted wonderfully fresh. Having stuffed ourselves with a side order of very good triple-cooked chips as well as the above, we ordered our desserts requesting a 10 minute respite, giving us plenty of time to fuss the dog who had given up hope of any scraps and was starring woefully at the floor, trying to imagine what pork crackling might have tasted like.
The pudding selection had us stumped for a while as the likes of the raspberry & frangipane torte and Alphonso mango baked Alaska cried out to be tasted. In the end, we decided on the jam roly poly & custard and the almond & Maldon sea salt ice cream, with chocolate sauce. The roly poly was a little disappointing being big on stodginess and not so big on anything else, but the almond and sea salt ice cream more than made up for it. “You either love it or hate it”, announced the restaurant manager as he set the bowl down on the table. “99% of people love it though!” We cautiously tried modest spoonfuls of the stuff before moving onto large spadefuls as we fell into the majority category. It’s not often that the words ‘sophisticated’ and ‘peanut butter’ end up in the same sentence, but that’s how it tasted - like a melted Snicker’s ice cream bar that’s been to sent off to a Swiss finishing school - a bit nutty, but very well turned out.
Whilst The Ragged Cot is very much run as a pub with locals frequenting the bar and couples, friends and families turning up to eat, the food served up goes brilliantly beyond standard pub fare. The lunchtime menu offers up the likes of corned beef hash, braised rolled lamb shoulder and West Country mussels with triple cooked chips. There’s also a superb local cheese board, showcasing cheeses from the award-winning Birdwood Farmhouse Cheesemakers, just down the road from The Ragged Cot. If you’re just after a nibble, there are temptations at the bar in the way of pigs twigs & apple sauce at £3.50 (that’s crackling for all you townies out there), and strawberries & cream with a glass of Chardonnay at £10.00. Roasts on Sundays are by no means neglected here, but the menu and the quality of food being plated up is the kind you’d find in a top end restaurant. There are no fancy pretensions making you squirm with discomfort, just skillfully crafted dishes that will get you hooked on a return visit.
Reviewer: Helenka Bednar (with dog in tow)
Address book: The Ragged Cot, Cirencester Road, Minchinhamtpon, Gloucestershire, GL6 8PE. Tel: 01453 884 643.
The Ragged Cot has 7 double bedrooms, 2 master rooms and 1 suite, with doubles priced at £120 and the suite priced at £220. (Prices correct at time of publishing). Dogs are welcome at The Ragged Cot, and sheepskin-lined dog baskets can be provided in each room. Hot water bottles are available on request (for humans, not four-legged friends!), and a night cap menu is available including teas, hot milk and tumblers of whiskey.
For more information, visit: http://www.theraggedcot.co.uk.