Christopher Gray enjoys an excursion to a revitalised Cotswold pub via a local brewery...

Ever one for killing two birds with one stone — sorry dickies! — I was eagerly compliant when Cotswold Brewing Company boss Rick Keene followed up his invitation to a brewery visit with the offer of lunch afterwards at the Plough, in nearby Cold Aston.

That’s ‘nearby’ the scene of Rick’s business operations on the outskirts of Bourton-on-the-Water, and not quite so nearby Oxford. But this notably beautiful part of Gloucestershire is so frequently visited from here that it seemed to me a good idea to suss out a decent place to eat in the area.

The Plough calls itself “the perfect pub for pooches”, by the way, which certainly adds to its appeal for me. Others would find this amounting to a black mark. Best, then, to flag up the claim straightaway. Cold Aston is not a village, I think, that I had previously visited. It also greets the world sign-wise as Aston Blank, a name well suited — the one a swanky car, the other a big bank boss (Victor) — to the general air of affluence in the properties it contains.

I gathered from the Plough’s exceptionally friendly owners, Nick and Laura Avery, who are locals, that its residents are much involved in the world of racing. So their bar is an ideal place, I’d guess, to earwig in pursuit of a tip.

Until last May this would not have been possible, for the pub stood closed for two years. Nick, who works in office renovation, and teacher Laura tried to buy it early in this period but their offer was considered risible. They had the last laugh, though, when the seller rang up to ask: “Does that offer still stand?”

A year of meticulous renovation has produced the wonderful place that exists today, with a combination of ancient beams and handsome stonework in the best British pub tradition. A fascinating section on the Plough’s excellent website ( charts the course of the work.

After a tough hour of beer swilling at the brewery, Rosemarie and I arrived at the pub with a taste for something different. Had it been evening, I would have tried one of the interesting range of gins (perhaps Williams Chase). Instead, the fruity Colombard (La Courtine) hit the spot for both of us.

Rick, bucked by the news that his creamy stout was now the Plough’s best-selling beer, celebrated with a pint of it. Cotswold Spring (no relation) Stunner and Stroud Brewery’s Budding were the real ales available, with Timothy Taylor’s Landlord “coming soon”. Amid animated chat with the Averys, I failed to notice what Tania Corbett, who handles Cotswold’s public relations, was drinking.

To eat (our orders having been taken at the bar) we moved to an attractive restaurant area and a table bathed in sunshine from an adjacent window.

Rick’s choice was from what is called the “lighter bite” section of the menu. ‘Lighter than what?’ one wondered, imagining perhaps a Desperate Dan cow pie, for his minute steak ciabatta with Stilton, horseradish and caramelised onions looked a dish of trencherman size. Here, though, was a trencherman to deal with it.

I headed for the main menu and a starter — could I resist? — of devilled lamb’s kidneys, tender and richly flavoured, on toast.

Rosemarie had the soup of the day, carrot and coriander, which she enjoyed despite noting evidence of the elderly state of the vegetable in the stringy bits that survived the blender.

She followed up with the steak and mushroom pie (more mushroom than steak she said in atypically atrabilious mood), while I had the wonderful whopper of a Gloucester Old Spot pork chop, with cider-braised peas, leeks and bacon, and mash, you can see beside it. It was splendid.

Tanya had two starters and skipped on a main. First was a smoked bacon potato cake with poached egg and butter sauce, and then the elegant salad. This was a special of thin slices of home-cured Asian Beef served with a delicious Thai-style sauce and sesame seeds.

Rosemarie gave the thumbs up to sticky toffee pudding, but the rest of us passed on sweet things. A trio of excellent cheeses (Bath soft, Godminster organic cheddar and Oxford Blue) were sampled by all.

The Plough
Cold Aston, Northleach
GL54 3BN
(01451) 822 602

Food served:  Tues-Thurs, noon-3pm and 6-9pm; Fri/Sat, noon-3pm and 6-9.30pm; Sun, noon- 5pm. Kitchen closed Mon.
Parking: In village streets
Key personnel: Owners Nick and Laura Avery, chef Damion Ryan
Make sure you try the... Minute steak ciabatta with caramelised onions, horseradish and Stilton (£7.50), devilled lamb’s kidneys on toast (£6.50), smoked bacon potato cake with poached egg and butter sauce (£7), Gloucester Old Spot pork chop, with cider braised peas, leeks and bacon (£13.50), pie of the day with buttery mash and vegetables (£12), The Plough 7oz steak burger with tomato relish and skinny fries (£11), sticky toffee pudding and clotted cream (£5.50), cheese board (£8),
In ten words: Fine food, drink and company in lovingly restored village pub.