review by Carol Waterkeyn
Nestled in West Street near the bridge, the thatched Old Cottage Restaurant was once four cottages that were built more than 600 years ago. At some point in their more recent history they were converted to make one building and this configuration has become a restaurant in more recent times.
The current owners, Paul and Tricia Harper, have been at this beautiful location for 28 years. The interior is welcoming, with inglenook fireplaces and several small rooms used for dining, and the Mill Stream bar is said to date back to the 13th century. Upstairs are two holiday apartments that can be rented for the weekend or week; and prove a very handy location for visitors.
We were recently invited along for a meal, so Mr W and I visited at the end of October, before things got too busy with Christmas dining. Paul Harper was chef that day and his enthusiasm for good food, and then cooking it, clearly shows.
I would say this is mainly British food at its best. As well as steaks, lamb and chicken on the menu, there was quite an impressive selection of locally shot game (by the owner), and fresh fish. Vegetarians have choices too, and special diets can be catered for. There’s also a children’s menu for family outings.
I’m so glad we arrived hungry. We decided to try three courses each from the comprehensive selection on offer.
Being a large menu, it took us some time to make our choices. Eventually Paul and I selected starters of Crispy duck salad, and Artichoke hearts with melted cheese and toasted almonds. Paul was choosing from the à la carte menu and I was selecting from the fixed-price one, which is excellent value at £18.50 for two courses, and £22.50 for three. The crispy duck was declared ‘yummy’; it was served coated in hoisin and sweet chilli sauce served on a bed of crunchy lettuce with spring onions. I had thought the artichoke hearts sounded really interesting. I’ve only ever seen them in Italian restaurants before. They were in a rich cheesy sauce and the toasted almonds gave a satisfying crunch. For our accompanying drinks we chose a glass of red Shiraz and a white Pinot Grigiot. Both were at the perfect temperature.
We were already impressed by the food, and we still had main courses and desserts to follow.
Paul doesn’t often get treated to fillet steak at home, so his first choice was Medallions of fillet steak with Stilton and cream, a crunchy salad and twice-cooked chips.
In contrast, I liked the sound of the Chicken cooked with garlic, rosemary and black pepper. I had so nearly chosen King prawns wrapped in bacon, which sounded equally delicious. Without exaggeration, I can tell you this was the moistest, tastiest chicken I have ever encountered. The secret’s in the cooking, according to the other Paul – the owner and chef. It was served with creamy Dauphinoise potatoes and fresh vegetables – a lovely melée of lightly al-dente vegetables. Mr W commented that his fillet steak was perfectly cooked and he enjoyed the surprisingly subtle flavours in the blue cheese sauce.
Onward to desserts, and while my husband chose Bread and butter pudding served with vanilla ice-cream, I went for the lighter option of Duo of fresh fruit sorbet with garnish of fresh fruit. The bread and butter pudding was excellent apparently, and the sorbets were amazing. They were mango and lemon, which correlated together particularly well with the strawberries and blackcurrants that accompanied them.
Feeling rather full, we thanked our hosts for a truly delicious meal. I am sure we will be revisiting in the not-too-distant future.
This family-run restaurant is open Tuesday to Saturday, both lunchtimes and evenings, and on Sundays from 12-2.30pm. It is advisable to book at weekends. They can accommodate wedding, birthday and other parties. The Old Cottage also provides bespoke catering for events large and small, should you require.