Given its current position as one of the UK’s most popular holiday destinations, it is perhaps not surprising that the Cotswolds has developed an equally strong reputation for fine foods and dining experiences. Whether you are looking to source raw ingredients, fresh fruit and veg or even if you would rather someone else took on the role of creator (leaving you to consume!), the following are a list of Cotswold-based companies providing some truly special foodie delights…
We are definitely past the time when gin was said to be “having a moment” - it has placed itself firmly at the front and centre of our nation’s drinking choices. There are many examples of boutique distillery businesses all over the country but The Cotswold Gin Distillery near Shipston-On-Stour has more reason than most to be proud. Established in 2014, it may be small but has big vision, and takes pride in using local artisanal products to produce its gin including fresh lemon peel and unique herbs. Uniquely, the oils from the former cause the gin to go cloudy on addition of tonic...
In Vino Veritas
Or do your tastes run to something a little more grapeish? If so the Poulton Hill Estate will be of guaranteed interest. Founded in 2010, its 8800 vines combine to produce up to 20,000 bottles of wine a year plus a small sideline in spirits and eaux de vie. Oenophiles will be interested to know that the grape varieties have been picked to complement the soil and climate perfectly; the resulting varieties of white, rose and sparkling wines attract regular acclaim and awards.
Fancy A Pint?
Seeking a foaming frothy ale to slake your thirst? Corinium Ales, located in Cirencester, was originally a daydream during a road trip through the National Parks of West Coast America and, more pertinently, the range of hoppy ales to be found there! Having invested in an 80 litre half barrel brew kit (“Sylvia”) and immersed into brewing as a science, the business formally launched in 2012 when Corinium Ales appeared at the Cirencester Farmer’s Market. Fast forward a few years and output grew to match both demand and their burgeoning reputations. Hence the team relocated to the Old Kennels in Cirencester Park where they first accommodated a one barrel brew kit (“Sylvester”) and then, most recently, the whopping 320 litre two barrel version. Called Silas, since you ask. Although obviously currently only offering take-outs there is also the Tap Room onsite - their very own bar.
And It Was All Yellow...
Is there anything more evocative of Spring and early Summer than the sight of mile after mile of yellow fields of rapeseed? Beautifully vivid, the crop is pressed to produce rapeseed oil; enjoyed by chefs and caterers for its light flavour and versatility. Cotswold Gold is a family business devoted to the production of extra virgin rapeseed oil made using traditional cold pressing methods. This preserves the natural health benefits of the seed, creating an oil naturally high in vitamin E, rich in omegas 3, 6 and 9, and low in cholesterol. This is amber nectar indeed, and what is more, it is also available infused with a variety of natural flavours, from smoked garlic to lemon.
The curing of meat is a preservation technique that goes back centuries as people sought to keep their food edible for as long as possible. These techniques are upheld today into a range of locally-specific produce from the renowned Cotswold Curer. Having produced its first batch of handmade salami in 2011, they began their business out of a love of charcuterie developed during childhood holidays in France alongside their support of the high animal welfare standards practised by many farmers in Gloucestershire. Based in Cirencester, they are able to use locally-sourced outdoor reared Pork from both rare and traditional breeds.They hand make a selection of air dried salamis, chorizos and pancetta, all sold online and, where possible, at Farmers Markets and Food Festivals as well as local Farm Shops and Delis.
More Cheese, Gromit?
Without sounding excessively cautious, TS Eliot’s advice about not committing to a cheese without having first examined it can be sage advice these days; there are a bewildering range of types, flavours and varieties available. So now more than ever it is important to stay local; again the Cotswolds can lay ownership to some big cheeses (sorry!). Alex James (of the band Blur) has become renowned as a cheesemaker from his Oxfordshire farmhouse, and there are many specialised cheese shops and outlets that offer the chance to choose and taste any variety or combination. Going straight to source is always especially satisfying; Godsells Cheese produce a range of hand made cheeses made at Church Farm, in the Gloucestershire village of Leonard Stanley, using milk just from their own herd of cows and one other local farm. All their cheeses are made with pasteurized milk and are suitable for vegetarians. The whole setup is a real family business; even the parents have been co-opted into making deliveries!
Our Daily Bread…
Hobbs House Bakery was established in the 1920’s and they are still going strong; a family business boasting five generations of baking experience. At their bakery in Chipping Sodbury their expert team produce an exceptional range of high quality breads, pastries and confectionery. Born with flour on their fingers, they bring an ingrained passion for baking to work everyday as they ensure that there will be a future for real bread made by real bakers. This is typified by the brothers Tom and Henry, who you may know from events performing as their double act The Fabulous Baker Brothers. These brothers have been bringing the ultimate bread and meat combinations to you since 2012, with a series on Channel 4 and More4.
The list of artisans, workers and businesses in the Cotswolds is literally endless but hopefully the above gives an intro at least into a wealth of opportunities. It seems appropriate to leave the last word to Queen Elizabeth I, who was a woman of iron will and clear good taste. “A meal of bread, cheese and beer constitutes the perfect food”. Hard to disagree…