Rosa Smith heads to her recently re-opened local to experience their mouth-watering new menu
I hadn’t been living in the area that long when we noticed that the dull green render which covered our local pub was suddenly being stripped off, revealing the attractive original stonework underneath. A quick Facebook search and a conversation with our neighbours later and we learnt that The Blaise Inn was being taken over by new owners, with the promise of a sleek new look and food that went above and beyond the usual pub grub.
We couldn’t wait to try out The Blaise once it re-opened, fresh from its makeover, at the end of November, with food served from the beginning of December. But between the Omicron pre-Christmas panic, and all the other commitments that the festive season poses, it wasn’t until the final week of January that we managed to bag ourselves a table for a full sit-down dinner – and it was worth the wait.
Previously more of a drinking haunt, former Executive Chef at Harvey Nichols Cabot Circus, Louise McCrimmon, and her husband Ian, along with their neighbours Nicola and Peter Gilbert decided to give their local pub a fresh lease of life after the previous owners decided to retire at the end of 2021. With Louise’s reputation for excellence following her 12-year tenure at Harvey Nichols, good food and style seems inevitable, and if the crowds that I often see through the windows as I drive past are anything to go by – the new team seem to have cracked it.
Step inside, and its clear that the interiors have recently seen a generous lick of paint, with fresh furniture, lighting and all the trimmings. But, much like the pub’s sophisticated new signage and logo, there’s nothing pretentious here, only the promise of good things to come, served up in a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
We headed through the busy dog-friendly bar area into the adjoining restaurant, where, as a native Cotswoldian I ordered a Cotswolds Dry G&T while my partner opted for a pint of Fortitude courtesy of the Bristol Beer Factory. One glance at the menu, and the home-baked cheese straws under the ‘Nibbles’ section immediately caught our fancy (an excellent choice) while we perused the rest of the options. Offering a generous selection of classics with vegetarian and vegan options, I opted for the goat’s cheese, butter roast pear and hazelnut salad to start, while my partner chose the chicken liver parfait with cornichons, apple chutney and melba toast. Both were delicious, the goat’s cheese was mild and perfectly accompanied by the flavours of the pears and hazelnuts, while I’m told the parfait was creamy and the melba toasts excellent.
For our main course, after much deliberation over the likes of seared onglet steak and slow roast belly pork, we both ended up going for the salmon and hake fish cakes, served with spinach, cucumber and dill sauce. Full and flavoursome, the fishcakes were also light enough to allow for a side of hand-cut chips (!) while the spinach and cucumber brought a freshness to the dish. Pretty full by this stage, we managed to find room to share a white chocolate and rhubarb trifle – a classic made interesting and delicious, before we called it a night.
With its proximity to Blaise Castle and the surrounding 650 acres of parkland, The Blaise Inn is in prime position for the ever-changing tides of walkers and families looking for drinks and nibbles after a day out, but its community atmosphere and seasonal menu are sure to also create a loyal following. As they say, the proof is in the pudding, and as we mentioned that we can’t wait to go back and try their delicious-looking Sunday roasts, the waitress mentioned that they’re already fully booked for the next few weeks. Word gets around.
While the flavours and look are fresh and modern, in many ways The Blaise Inn, much like its exterior, has really just been stripped back to its origins – a real village pub at the heart of a community, offering moreish food and drink.