Halleujah! KATHERINE MACALISTER is in heaven with a menu full of originality

Menus have become so predictable I can list their contents in my sleep, read them with my eyes closed and guess their contents from home. Risotto, scallops, pork belly, 28-day aged steak, blah blah blah.

So my first thought on being handed the short Wednesday night menu at the Kingham Plough was ‘hallelujah’. Finally something to blow away the cobwebs and wake up my tastebuds, something tantalising and intriguing. Something original goddamit.

The Kingham Plough isn’t earth-shatteringly inventive in a Heston Blumental way, because the dishes are all seasonal and use local produce, but just the idea of the chilled Buckland Manor tomato and cucumber soup with Daylesford basil and crisp sourdough (£8) was enough to whet the tastebuds. It gave me hope that someone who still had some original ideas was beavering away in the kitchens.

Not that I should be surprised, because The Kingham Plough has been making a name for itself and winning awards and accolades as fast as Andy Murray’s serve for six years now thanks to chef-owner Emily Watkins.

And yet, despite its Cotswold location, upmarket clientele and notoriety, it’s remarkably unpretentious. A milk machine sits in the courtyard where the locals can fill up their own pints while others sit, drink and chew the fat in the courtyard outside. Inside is a similar story, the cheerful waitresses nattering away to the barflies as they mixed us the most delectable Bloody Mary I’ve ever had. We put it down to the quality of the tomato juice used, but maybe there’s a secret ingredient in there somewhere.

It seems that everything the Kingham Plough does, it does well, from the drinks to the bread, the service to the food, the simplicity but utter professionalism shining through without detracting from the friendly atmosphere.

In fact, I would have been happy with the Bloody Mary and the cereal bread alone, that is until I was handed the menu and realised our culinary adventure had just begun.

The gazpacho style soup arrived with the tomato and herbs nestled in the centre of the bowl and the soup in a jug that was then poured on in a wonderful, cool, foamy haze. It was quite something. The crisp duck egg with hot smoked duck leg, baby artichokes and girolle mushrooms (£11) was equally as sumptuous, followed by a special of lamb’s liver with broad beans, mash, peas and bacon (£14) which was a lovely, stout traditional dish, although the liver was slightly overcooked for our liking. The summer bean casserole with Daylesford feta and baby fennel (£15) sounds heavy but was deliciously light and served with a broth, again the kind of surprising adaption the Plough obviously excels at.

But what I was really waiting for was the Pimms jelly with clotted cream ice cream and vanilla shortbread (£8), because it sounded so perfectly summery. Arriving like a glass of Pimms with sticks of cucumber and strawberries, I scooped off its decolletage and got stuck into the sweet gentle jelly underneath. Cream would have been a better accompaniment but it was still quite wonderful to behold and enjoy.

Him indoors was well stuck into the cheese (£7 for three) by this stage, the Kingham Green and Oxford Isis in particular standing out, but I was fairly oblivious by then, lost in a cloud of satisfaction. As you may have surmised, The Kingham Plough ticked all the boxes for me and long may it continue to excite, embrace and respect the ingredients it uses and the food it serves. Indeed It took Mr Greedy’s most persuasive powers to get me to leave at all. But be warned, I’ll be back, and soon.

  • Kingham Plough Kingham, Oxfordshire.
  • 01608 658327 thekinghamplough.co.uk