Out of the Valley: A lazy Sunday afternoon G and Tea

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[dropcap type + “circle”]W[/dropcap]e all love a weekend away. You look forward to it all week, finish work early on a Friday, throw some things into a bag and head off for the weekend-destined to be back home and curled up on the sofa in time for Countryfile on Sunday evening. Job done. Back to work on Monday refreshed but slightly jaded (oh…ok…is that just me?)
But a Sunday night away just seems slightly more indulgent, a little bit naughty and not something that many of us seem to do and yet it’s such a good idea. You have Sunday to get ready and travel, Sunday night away-dinner and drinks even on a school night-and then while everyone else is getting up and going to work on Monday you can enjoy a leisurely hotel breakfast, read the paper and miss the traffic. A perfect start to a short week. (smug…me? yep!)
At The Cotswold Plough in Clanfield, this Sunday getaway idea has been going on for some time and very successfully, so when we had the chance to visit this weekend we couldn’t pack our bags fast enough and booked a Hendrick’s Gin Afternoon Tea, dinner and bed and breakfast and it was fabulous.

Staff told us that Sundays are one of their busiest days and it is easy to see why. This friendly, cosy, family owned hotel that dates from the 16th century has nailed the perfect package. Customers can drink gin, blend gin, learn about gin and enjoy the beautiful Gin Pantry containing hundreds of different gins, as well as sample the hotel’s culinary delights at dinner, stay the night in a comfortable, spacious room and enjoy a truly perfect breakfast the next day. I mean really…what’s not to love? (Oh and did I mention there’s gin…quite a lot of gin)

For us it was The Hendricks Gin Afternoon Tea-a selection of sandwiches, scones and cakes and a teapot full of cucumber G&T poured into delightful china cups. Served in the atmospheric portrait room, we spent an hour or two sipping gin, nibbling the delicious cakes and sandwiches and chatting, catching up and relaxing. It was a perfect lazy Sunday and as Inspector Morsel, my long-suffering dining companion pointed out, dinner and an overnight stay were both essential to his optimal enjoyment of the whole lazy Sunday experience.
We tasted brownies, delicious macarons, coffee cake, a divine light as a feather lemon sponge with raspberries and bite sized sandwiches-all good and beautifully presented-but for me the scones stole the show. Warm, light and very moreish served with lashings of clotted cream and strawberry jam. Perfect. Inspector Morsel had not been entirely convinced about eating cake and drinking gin at the same time, but he did surprisingly well and soon got over his initial concerns, powering through to polish off most of the cakes, sandwiches and at least two scones.

Obviously we needed a lie down and a disco nap after all that so we retired to our spacious room to rest and ready ourselves for dinner which was extremely good.
The Plough prides itself on its approach to dining and says: “Our food is made strictly for the heart, body and soul. Hearty, Gutsy, Plucky and really good fun to eat solo or to share, is the kind of food that simply cooked creatively showcases Great British produce.”
Despite our over indulgent afternoon, by 7.30pm we were quite peckish so bread and olives were ordered and dutifully consumed along with a saffron gin and tonic. This was closely followed by our starters and the Wookey Hole cheddar soufflé was the best I have tasted in a long time. Hot, fluffy, light and so flavoursome. It was heaven on a plate. Often a go to favourite of mine that ends in disappointment, on this occasion it was a triumph. Inspector Morsel tucked in to a rare roast beef salad which he really enjoyed and we washed all that down with a couple of glasses of Picpoul De Pinet.

Onto the mains and it was always going to be the slow roast pork belly for Inspector M-well it was Sunday after all. This came with apple puree, dauphinoise potatoes and green beans with a port jus and was very acceptable. I had the roasted butternut squash tart which was a delight. An array of tasty and perfectly cooked vegetables-leeks, wild mushrooms and purple sprouting scattered with pumpkin seeds, pomegranate, sunblushed tomatoes and a mixed leaf salad. The base of the tart was a crisp as you like puff pastry that was the perfect foil for the vegetables. Divine and very filling.

In fact portion sizes here are generous. I noticed our fellow diners ordered the battered Cornish haddock fillet and others had burgers and the plates were positively groaning so healthy appetites are clearly encouraged.
Our over indulgence got the better of us so we skipped desert but I have no doubt that the vanilla rice pudding, apple and cinnamon crumble or cheese selections would all have gone down well had we not had such a substantial afternoon tea!
Although less than an hour from the Cherwell Valley, we did feel as if we had travelled much further and been away far longer than one night. The team who run The Plough are excellent-friendly, helpful and welcoming. Our accommodation was good-a spacious room with a large ensuite and a view across part of the garden. Independent hotels are so good at making you feel so welcome and we did feel we were staying with friends. After a superb breakfast we checked out and headed home taking in a walk to the source of the Thames on the way and a very good light lunch at The Tunnel House Inn which is also highly recommended.
We may have only stayed away for one night but it has set us up for the week-lazy Sundays at The Cotswold Plough-highly recommended!
The Cotswold Plough
01367 810222

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