Muddy reviews: The Bathurst Arms
With a fairytale riverside setting, 5-star organic rating and a wildly fabulous circus-themed tipi (you heard us right), The Bathurst Arms is fast establishing itself as a front-runner feast-and-stay destination in Glos. We swung by this candy-coloured Cotswold inn for the afternoon to see what the fuss was about.
The Bathurst Arms has always felt like it had that ‘something special’ about it. With its idyllic setting on the River Churn, pole position in the Cotswold-chic village of North Cerney, and bonbon-pink facade, it has a lot going for it. But on previous visits (pre-2020) it had seemed lacklustre, and to be honest, unloved. Fast forward a year and how different things are, because all that changed when new director Jordan Pelly took over the pumps last July.
Despite the quite frankly unimaginable challenges of re-launching a pub in the middle of a global pandemic, Jordan and his team have given this locally-beloved inn the TLC it really deserves. With acclaimed chef Michal Wlodarcyk heading up the kitchen, this place has been totally transformed from the one I remember, and one thing’s for sure, there’s a definite buzz around the Bathurst now.
Just a few months ago the pub unveiled its latest star turn – a 24-foot circus-themed tipi for alfresco drinking and dining. It’s the funkiest of spaces with garlands, wagon wheels, top hats and life-size zebras all strung from its big top! Infact, the entire outside space has been re-landscaped and gravelled making it all look and feel much more welcoming, with large, rustic picnic tables in the garden and a refurbed, fresh, open plan look inside the 17th century coaching inn itself.
In a year that has seen hospitality forced to reinvent itself more times than Madonna, the Bathurst Arms seems to have really nailed what people want – top quality, locally-sourced food (more on that shortly) at reasonable prices, with a really cool alfresco option.
The feel of this place is rather akin to a mini-Daylesford or Thyme. Since Jordan’s team took over it has really upped its game, with a laser-sharp focus on an organic, field-to-fork experience. The menu is 95% organic, and it recently become the first pub in the UK to be awarded five prestigious stars for ‘Organic Served Here’ food by the Soil Association Certification.
Not only that, on the day we visited Jordan was understandably thrilled to have just been awarded a AA Rosette for Culinary Excellence – high accolade indeed. The kitchen uses homegrown produce from the pub’s own allotment across the road in the village (we saw staff going back and forth with baskets packed with frondy veg), and what they don’t grow comes from Riverford Organic, (‘not cheap but worth it’ according to Jordan) as well as hyper-local farms such as Purton House Organics, Abbey Home Farm, Daylesford and more to keep the carbon footprint small.
We’d come for lunch on a Saturday afternoon – clearly peak time – yet despite being full outside, and still getting walk-ins from passing dog-walkers, famished cyclists and families, the vibe and atmosphere were relaxed and staff were really attentive, constantly checking if we needed refills. Dogs are extremely welcome here too, with our waiter bringing snacks and water for him when we arrived without being asked, which was lovely.
Scoff & quaff
We opted to eat in the circus themed tipi (how could we not?). Seating around 30, with a distinctly Greatest Showman vibe it’s a really cool place to share a beer with friends or have lunch or dinner out of the elements.
The reinvented menu here really shines. We were given a (disposable) sheet with a mouth-watering selection of tapas-style modern British street food – a curated selection of seasonal ‘small plates’ (which weren’t actually that small at all). Championing seasonal ingredients is something Jordan is clearly passionate about, chatting at length about growing up on his own grandma’s allotment and the inspiration that gave him.
It’s really easy to order with the menu recommending ‘two plates or more per person’ as a guide. We started with Kalamata Olives (3.50) and Lynwood & Co Sourdough with Berkeley Farm Butter. I loved the local-ness of this (a Glos bakery) and the bread and butter were incredibly delicious.
I went for the Fish Tacos (£9) which were feather light crispy shells of heaven, wrapped around the most amazing explosion of zesty flavours.
For my second plate I had the Cornish Hake, Foraged Sea Vegetables, Wild Garlic and Fish Sauce (£11.50). This was an outright winner of a dish. With the fluffiest of fish you can imagine, I really couldn’t fault anything. The presentation was spot on, clearly plated up with love and attention by the chef, with the quirky addition of ‘foraged sea vegetables’ and a wobbly green jelly which gave it a real ‘what’s that?!” Michelin-style frisson.
My Muddy ‘plus one’, Mr T, chose the Panzanella of Tomatoes and Sourdough Crisps (v) (£9) which was ultra simple and straightforward, but really tasty.
This was followed by a Lamb Donner & BBQ flatbread with Pickled Chilli and Tzatziki (£10.50). We both loved the presentation of once again – a deconstructed donner! – and the meat was melt-in-the-mouth tender.
I would say that two dishes fills you up easily, but Jordan brought us a third to try as it’s a bit of a menu ‘must-try’ if you want a tip – the Purton Farm Pork Shoulder with Chard, Squash and Apple Jus (£10). So tender, they were moorishly delicious and I was fighting my dining partner for the last one.
I also like the fact that menu has its own exclusive section – for chips. Shouldn’t all pubs have a bespoke chip menu I ask?! What more could you want to go perfectly with that pint of beer on a sunny afternoon. We tried the chunky chips with garlic mayo which were amazing (but thank god they only came in a small basket), and you can ‘add on’ beef brisket, donner and pickled chillies for a total of £8.
There were three carefully curated desserts up for grabs – Baked Hazelnut Cheesecake (v), Chocolate Marquis & Almond (v, gf) and a Rhubarb Crumble & Custard Tart with Berkeley Farm Cream. All three were utterly delicious and I’d recommend them all, but the stand-out favourites for me were the decadent dark chocolate delight, and the crumble tart which I could have eaten 8 of, although I’ll be honest the wedge of cream did beat me.
We were both driving so didn’t get to sample the wine menu but it looked deliciously global, with Pinot Grigios from Venezia to Pinotage from South Africa (ranging from £5 to £10 a glass). Perhaps it would have been nice to see a local wine in there too from our own Glos vineyards, but I did spot one from Kent. And if craft beers or ciders are your thing you’ll be spoilt for choice.
We did see another diner feasting on the cheeseboard – brimming with local delicacies such as Cerney Ash, Truffle Gloucester and Rollright (£11 for three cheeses) – a platter that looked totally delicious and well worth a try.
Whilst we didn’t stay over if you want to put your feet up and explore the area I highly recommend booking one of the six beautifully appointed and recently refurbed rooms. These include a large Super King with Garden View, three King Size Doubles and two Standard Doubles – all with ensuite bath and shower. They can even accommodate dogs if you’re arriving with one in tow.
Out and about:
Seven minutes and four miles away you’ll find yourself in glorious Cirencester, the Capital of the Cotswolds. With its weekly Farmer’s and Charter Market, Bathurst Estate Park, Roman Museum and scores of boutiques and bijou cafes, it’s a great place to explore. Venture a bit further and spend the day at the Cotswold Country Park Beach (the largest inland beach in England). Or, visit the National Trust Roman Villa at nearby Chedworth, the Trout Farm and pretty walks of Bibury or the lanes of Duntisbourne Abbots. And if you want to avoid getting in a car full stop, ask at the bar for their map of three lovely circular walks you can do right from the pub.
Jordan and his team are incredibly welcoming and that ethos filters down when you visit. A fairytale setting paired with a genuinely exciting, seasonal menu means this place ticks so many boxes. The food is the kind of pub grub you would travel miles for – putting the Bathurst Arms firmly on the gastro grid of the Cotswolds. In short? It’s a stand-out star in the Gloucestershire galaxy of great must-visit pubs.
Foodies: the menu is outstanding – seasonal, sexy, and organic. Ladies who lunch: that tipi will look so good on your IG. Families: with its spacious garden, chicken house, ducks waddling past and gentle river to play pooh sticks in it’s a gorgeous Swallow and Amazons setting for kids. Eco enthusiasts: will love the guilt-free grazing with 95% organic food, grown onsite or from local farms.
Ultra traditionalists who insist on an old-fashioned starter-main-dessert combo, or anyone after a formal setting, the Bathurst Arms is laid back, unpretentious and reassuringly rustic at its heart.
If we’d gone for the recommended two plates each, and desserts, the total would have come to £57, without drinks. That’s incredibly reasonable for the quality of food you’re getting.