A couple of months ago I was invited to The Churchill Arms in Paxford for one of their monthly food & drink pairing evenings. I must say, when I visit places like this I realise how little travelled I am in the Cotswolds, and am excited that I still have so many lovely places to visit. The Churchill arms is about 30-40 minutes away from Cheltenham, but boy is it worth the visit. Set in the small village of Paxford, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s just a local pub for people who live in the area to go and visit. But the food is to die for. My friend and I were totally surprised by the incredible food that is coming out of the kitchen, chef Nick Deverall Smith is a hidden gem and I urge you to get out there and try his food!
This place is the perfect, cosy country pub. It’s a relatively small place, with fireplaces and a really lovely little bar. They have rooms there where you can stay too. We had been invited specially for their wine & food pairing evening, which meant that the place was buzzing with locals who had booked their tickets to this monthly event. It was lovely, you could tell that the community were really proud of their local, and happy to welcome us in to join the fun. I could see that on another evening, I would really enjoy curling up with a glass of wine and some home cooked comforts.
I could not believe how great this was. I’ve been for some lovely meals over the past few years, but this was one of the best. My friend who had joined me on this occasion said it was the best meal she’s ever had! It was a set menu, which often makes me nervous as I can be a fussy eater as we all know, but I had nothing to worry about!
First of all, we were brought an appetiser which was an arancini ball – this is an absolute winner in my books as it’s one of my favourite things ever! It was bursting with flavour, covered in a lovely crisp crumb and filled with perfectly cooked risotto.
The starter was “Evesham Asparagus with Egg Yolk Ravioli” paired with “Vermentino & Chardonnay, Toscana IGT, Tenuta Montechiesi and Cabernet Sauvignon Regio”. This was the only part of the meal where my fussy eating came out, as I asked for mine with no egg. They delivered, now I’m not usually a huge lover of asparagus but it was cooked beautifully and full of flavour – and checking out my friends meal I could see that the egg was cooked equally as well. Generally, unless it’s paired, I’m rubbish at drinking whilst I eat. I know that sounds odd, but I don’t often enjoy the taste of wine with my food, I usually stick to water and drink when I’ve finished my meal. This was an exception, and it was clear why the wines had been put together with the food.
The main course was an absolute treat. We had “Cotswold Lamb Rump, fragrant cous cous and hummus”. Once again, lamb not being my favourite meat, I was nervous. But I had nothing to worry about, the flavours that Nick had used in this dish were totally different to anything I’d had before, the meat was tender and melted in your mouth, and the different textures that came through from the meat, to the hummus, to the cous cous merged together to create an absolute sensation. A dish I never would have ordered in the past, if you go to the Churchill arms and this is on the menu I would urge you to try it, even if it doesn’t sound like your cup of tea. The meal was paired with “Albarino Esencia Divina, Rias Baixas, Adegas Gran Vinum and Rioja Reserva DOC”. These red wines were smooth and succulent, and worked perfectly with the rich meat, and light fragrant dish it all came with. This was probably the one and only time I’ve ever enjoyed lamb, and it totally blew me away.
The final course, which to me was an absolute showstopper, was “Strawberry Pavlova, elderflower custard” served with a dessert wine “Fragola, wild strawberry liqueur”. The first thing to note on this dessert was that it was absolutely beautiful, almost an upgraded version of Eton mess (one of my absolute favourite summer desserts). It looked like it had been sculpted! And once again, upon eating it, you realised how much of a genius this chef is when it comes to flavours. It was beautiful, and something I’d definitely be in a rush to come back for.
Faultless (which I often struggle to say). It was a lovely, relaxed service, especially considering they had a full house! Milton Sanford Wines were on hand to not only serve the wines, but give us a personal explanation of where they came from and why they had been chosen, it was lovely to see how passionate the sommelier was, and how much knowledge he had on the wines. The staff in the pub were friendly, attentive, and discreet. They were quick to attend to our needs, whilst standing out of the way to let us enjoy the evening. The food was served in a timely manner, and our glasses were kept topped up (the only sad thing was that Claire and I could only taste the wine as we both had to drive later!). At the end of the meal, Nick came out to speak with me and he was so lovely. Extremely down to earth, very proud of his cooking and his pub and one again, beautifully relaxed. His food was top notch, and the mixture of flavours, relaxed pub atmosphere but exquisite fine dining food was something you could see he really cared about.
Price and Rating
It’s approximately £15-£20 for a main meal, but we are talking upmarket pub food here. They do serve some of your traditional pub classics, and then on top of this there are a number of British dishes with a twist. This place is an absolute treat and worth every penny. They have an event on the first Wednesday of every month, which change each time, so worth checking out what’s going on and get down there to try out some of their beautiful dishes!