The Kingham Plough – Kingham – Oxfordshire

The Cotswolds is one of the most beautiful parts of England and is a delightful area to visit at any time of the year. Its rolling hills and woodlands give shelter to chocolate – box thatched medieval stone-built villages, fine looking historical towns, outstanding churches, stately homes and stunning gardens. Many unique features originate from the use of the distinctive Cotswold honey – coloured Jurassic limestone. Encompassing an area across six counties, most notably Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, the Cotswolds includes many beautiful small towns & villages such as Kingham.

Kingham is a delightful village once chosen as Country Life’s ‘England’s Favourite Village’, yet it has a main line train service to London, which is only 90 minutes away! The station is about a mile outside the village centre. The village has a large open green and some elegant 17th & 18th centuries stone and thatch cottages on its northern perimeter.

Kingham is a honey – pot destination for foodies. The British culinary scene has developed immensely over the past 20 years and Kingham has been central to that growth in the Cotswolds with its highly-rated pub restaurant, The Kingham Plough and the annual Big Feastival held at Blur bassist Alex James’ local farm playing a central role. Nearby attractions include Jeremy Clarkson’s Diddly Squat Farm, The Rollright Stones and NT Chastleton House Estate. Chipping Norton, Stowe on the Wold and Bourton on the Water are all just a short drive away.

I was lucky enough to be staying at The Kingham Plough which was previously owned by Heston Blumenthal-trained chef Emily Watkins for twelve years. Emily became chef/owner at The Kingham Plough at just 28 years of age, having previously worked at Ristorante Beccofino in Florence and The Fat Duck in Bray. Emily was one of the winners of the Great British Menu. She sold the restaurant to new owners experienced hospitality operators Matt and Katie Beamish in 2019.

When we initially arrived at the Plough the pub was heaving with diners and the car park was completely full, so we decided to go for a walk around the village. It was a pleasant walk, the village having many attractive residential properties, a delightful church, village hall and another pub/restaurant, The Wild Rabbit which is now part of Lady Carole Bamford’s nearby Daylesford Organic organisation.

Matt and Katie have  refurbished all of the Inn’s shared spaces and provided a new outlook for the bar, restaurant and a fresh modern upgrading of the six bedrooms. The Plough is, I thought, much bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside. This 17th Century Cotswold stone pub is all low beams, oak panels, a couple of warm open fires and original flagstone floors. I have since discovered that Matt and Katie have also taken on The Milton Hare at Milton- under- Wychwood, much to my surprise in 2020?

The six rooms are spread across the main building and an annexe. I was staying in room six, one of two larger rooms in the annexe, accessed from outside the main building up a flight of wooden steps directly above the archway to the rear car park. The first thing I noticed was there was no separate shower room! My wife and I were treated to a beautiful roll-top bath. An open bath in the main area of the bedroom is not to everyone’s taste but we were very happy to enjoy a splash of decadence.

Natural light entered the room from four small skylight windows and a glass pane in the door. The toilet unit was in a small room off the bedroom. We had a super – king size plush bed with a huge number of cushions and pillows. A single chair, dressing table, wall mounted television and big wooden chest at the foot of the bed made up the rest of the room. Vibrant colours mixed with neutral hues and there were some very good-quality Bramley products, which you could buy to take home with you! The obligatory Tea and coffee, freshly baked home-made biscuits made for an excellent welcome after our long journey. No fridge in the room so fresh milk is delivered every morning so we were set up nicely for the weekend.

We sat and enjoyed a pre meal drink in the delightful bar before taking our seats in the restaurant. The bar is a pleasant space in which many diners were enjoying bar meals. The bar has a chic rustic vibe with two open log fires at either end, finely decorated with a range of good quality wooden tables and chairs. The bar is at the front of the Plough and has pleasant views of the open green. There were a wide range of tap beers available, Cotswold Pils, Amstel Bier, Staropramen, Birra Moretti, Guinness, Stowford Press Cider, Hooky, Prescott Brewery Hill Climb and Wye Valley Brewery Butch Bach. I opted for a pint of the local Hook Norton Brewery Hooky, a well – balanced amber ale. My wife chose a traditional Lemonade.

During the evening I noticed several people come in off the street, not only to eat in the restaurant but to sit and enjoy a drink with friends at the bar. It is obviously still very much a local for the community as well as a fine place to eat. The bar stools are the perfect spot for enjoying a drink and reading the newspapers or quietly glancing out of the window for a spot of `people watching`, from time to time!

Many pubs in this area would have included a long bowling alley but over time they have either been knocked down and or redeveloped and turned into dining rooms as is the case at The Kingham Plough. The restaurant walls were covered with an eclectic mix of prints including Marc Chagall, LS Lowry and Henri Riviere and there was a large historical pub sign of The Kingham Plough. The ceiling was very high with lots of wooden beams and the room was split by a temporary screen at one end so the room could be used to cater for smaller private groups of diners.

The Plough has established a long reputation for fine dining over time, producing dishes which demonstrates fine culinary skills, flair and imagination. The ploughs restaurant kitchen team guided by Head Chef Ashleigh (Ash) Farrand try to source as much of the fresh produce they use at The Kingham Plough from local producers whenever possible. Most of the cheeses, eggs, fresh breads and quality meats come from the farms and villages in the local Cotswolds region.

Head Chef at The Kingham Plough – Ashleigh (Ash) Farrand

Ash started her career at just 15 years old at English country estate Ellenborough Park, Cheltenham. She moved up to the kitchen, thoroughly enjoying her time on the pastry section. Ash then moved to The Slaughters Inn, Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire as Sous Chef for two years before finally finding a home as Head Chef at the Kingham Plough. She heads a passionate kitchen team, who produces a daily changing menu and are forever championing the best of local Cotswold produce.

We visited the Plough on a Sunday evening and most of the tables were taken. The restaurant can accommodate about 120 covers which had easily been exceeded at lunchtime and was doing very well the evening we visited. Restaurant orders end at eight on a Sunday evening so I would recommend you book in advance and get there early!

There was a wide range of nibbles on the menu, many of which appeared for a second time with my choice of starter! Although I chose not to indulge in either the Porthilly Rockhill Oysters, Kentucky Fried Cod Cheeks or the Paddock Farm Pork Pie on this occasion I found the choice and range of nibbles extensive.

I settled on the Salt Pig Charcuterie Board with Pickled Chilli, Large Marcona Almonds, Mammoth Gordal Olives and sourdough bread as my starter. My board included a good variety of cured meats including Italian style Prosciutto, Salami, Spanish chorizo, Pepperoni and Saucisson sitting comfortably alongside the almonds, Peppers, Olives, Farmhouse Butter & Sourdough. I was having to be careful not to fill up too soon! My wife chose the Pan Roasted scallops in a half shell, Nduja Salami paste and cauliflower puree. She expressed her delight at the presentation and quality cooking of her scallops but was disappointed that one shell contained two scallops whilst the other shell just one! She said the shells looked unbalanced!

When I came to choosing my main meal my choice appeared limited! I do not eat beef so five of the available choices were ruled out so I explained this to our excellent waitress Tamsin and said I would have to choose the Fish & Chips because I didn’t fancy a Ploughman’s Board, Caesar Salad, Tarte Tatin or the other two fish options. There was no chicken, lamb or pork on the menu. Tamsin returned soon after and said that the Head Chef Ash had told her to ask me if I would be interested in some Pork Belly which she could make available.

It was a wise decision to change because the Pork Belly accompanied by a terrific Truffle & Parmesan Mash, Confit Onions, Celeriac Savoy & dark sauce was simply delightful. I could easily have licked the plate clean! It was wonderful! My wife chose the 12 hour Braised Blade of Beef which also came with the tasty truffle mash, celeriac, onion, celeriac & lardons. She had no complaints describing her meal as a real pleasure to the senses.

We chose an Argentinian `Los Haroldos` Malbec wine to accompany our meal. It was the perfect choice, a classic, rich, intensely fruity wine which complimented both our Pork & Beef dishes.

For dessert, we were spoilt for choice but after much indecision I went for the Warm Frangipane & Plum Tart, Blackcurrant Sorbet, Honey Glazed Plum & Almond Brittle. It was everything I thought it would be. An attack on my sweet tooth! My wife chose the Chocolate & Coconut Delice, Miso Caramel, with a large scoop of Salted Caramel Ice cream.

I must admit to trying some of my wife’s meal too and I thought both were beautifully cooked and presented to the table. Our dining experience in the Plough was one to remember, not least because of the young staff who were all exceptionally welcoming and helpful with humour & some interesting conversation. The Award-winning food combined with the personal and attentive service helped create a superb dining experience.

After our meal we retreated to the bar area to enjoy a quiet coffee., which was a very pleasant space in which to end a wonderful evening.

Breakfast was worth getting up for too, the menu listed a wide choice of options including Greek Yogurt, Granola, Berry Compote, Smashed Avocado, Chilli Flakes, Royal or Florentine Eggs Benedict or Coriander & Poached Eggs on Toast! The choice seemed endless. I opted for the full English Breakfast. The two Cacklbean ‘Burford` Poached Eggs displaying a delicious, dense golden dark yolk that reminded me of the eggs that I had eaten in my youth. Two slices of Crispy Paddock Farm Back Bacon, Pork Sausages & Mushrooms & Local Black Pudding served with warm toast which I was pleased to see arrived when the breakfast was served filled the plate. My wife was very pleased with her Cured Salmon & Scrambled Eggs on Toast accompanied and with lashings of as much Hot Tea as we could handle ensured it was a great way to start our day.

So, what can you expect at The Kingham Plough? I would not hesitate to recommend the Kingham Plough if you are planning to visit the Cotswolds or simply passing through. Why not stop and experience their superb food and hospitality, you will not be disappointed. The overall Kingham Plough experience was very enjoyable and satisfying. All of the staff whether on reception, serving at table or at the bar presented a smart, professional, and efficient service. The hotel offers excellent overnight accommodation options, superb restaurant meals and excellent table service in a wonderful location.

I simply loved it!

Disclosure: My visit to The Kingham Plough was courtesy of Matt & Katie Beamish for bridgetstottpr.co.uk. The views and comments expressed are as usual my own.