Over the past couple of weeks I have had to make the trip from Gloucester to Oxford far too frequently in order to visit the John Radcliff hospital. This is a journey of about one and a quarter hours each way on a good day when there isn’t much traffic – inevitably it therefore usually takes longer.
I have mentioned in previous blogs that travelling is not something that fills me with enthusiasm. However, there are a number of excellent looking pubs along the A40, so my mood was improved on Sunday by the though of stopping for a traditional Sunday roast.
But where to stop? Of course, the internet is your friend on occasions such as this, so we did some research. Oh dear. Once again, my regular reader(s) may have seen my previous blog ‘when is a pub not a pub?’ bemoaning the loss of good pub grub in favour of posh restaurant food, and perhaps it should have come as no surprise that, despite their traditional exteriors, the pubs in this posh Cotswold area fall into this category.
Looking at the plush websites you are confronted with pictures of beautifully displayed creations on large white plates drizzled with jus. All very nice I’m sure, but we were just looking for a big slab of meat, some nice roast spuds and plenty of veg and gravy; these did not appear the sort of places to offer this.
But wait… what’s this? The Frogmill. Blimey, I haven’t been there for years. According to the website it offers two courses for £9.95, the sample menu gives a choice of three roasts and it serves real ale. It looks like it should be just the job, so we booked a table.
The Frogmill is undoubtedly a superb building: a large rambling place in beautiful honey-coloured Cotswold stone. However, as we pulled into the car park at 1:30, alarm bells started ringing when there were only 2 other cars there.
We crossed a quaint little brick bridge over a babbling stream toward the bar. Further alarm bells should have started ringing when the sign directed us to the bar and brasserie: ‘brasserie’ all too often being translated as ‘overpriced and pretentious’.
On arriving at the bar, however, it seemed very nice. The staff were welcoming and friendly and the bar boasted two local real ales, which were in superb condition. We were then shown to our table – we need not have bothered booking as we were the only ones there. Uh-oh.
The menus were brought over and we eagerly perused them. Ah, obviously an oversight: there’s no Sunday lunch menu. No, explained the waitress, we don’t do that any more. ‘But the website…’ I said. Oh, that’s out of date – it hasn’t been updated since the place was taken over in March.
March!? That’s 8 months ago; surely someone should have updated it by now!
This is not good – we were tempted in by the price and the choice and were now offered the benefits of neither: if you want a roast there’s only beef and that’s £13.95. Clearly we had been lured in under false pretences and I felt like I was being mugged. Of course what we should have done is walked out at this point and cut our losses, but I was hungry so we ordered.
It turns out that at the Frogmill £13.95 only buys you the children’s portion. It was beautifully cooked and very tasty, but most of the cost obviously goes on the artistic ability of the chef to stack the two diminutive roast potatoes and the small selection of vegetables in the middle of the plate and drape them neatly with the slice of beautifully medium-rare beef.
When offered pudding we declined on the basis that we didn’t really want to re-mortgage the house, and we set off on our way feeling unlikely to return.
This is a huge shame given all that is right with the place. On the way out I noticed a sign with an e-mail address for feedback, so I have shared my concerns with them. You never know, it may do some good. On the other hand, maybe this is just par for the course in the Cotswolds and I just have to get used to it. If this is the case, at least be honest and don’t lull me into a false sense of hope and optimism with a misleading website.
Meanwhile, if anyone has any A40-based recommendations for next Sunday I’d be grateful to hear them.