CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

Restaurant review: The unconventional Convent

PUBLISHED: 16:00 23 October 2014 | UPDATED: 12:42 04 December 2014

Katie Jarvis thinks there are some restaurant sins to be confessed, but redemption might not be too far away for this promising venue

Listen… In fact, I’m begging you. Please read right to the end of this piece.

Thank you.

The thing is that this review of The Convent in Woodchester starts with some sins but, once forgiven, there is a hint of paradise. There are also awkward habits that need to go; but, on the plus side, the bread and the wine are pretty good.

Look – I’m not being facetious or disrespectful here. It feels both slightly incongruous – but also thrilling – that a former home to the abstemious Franciscan order of Poor Clares should now house a private members’ club/music/literature-venue/restaurant – a centre of hedonism and epicureanism. I can’t help but contrast that with the nuns’ austere lifestyle, walking chilly, echoing stone corridors lit by shadow-casting (I’m guessing here) candles. And wouldn’t a belief in the afterlife make you more scared of its ghostly corners? Especially if you were one of the five nuns eventually left in this meandering building that now accommodates hundreds without batting an eyelid? Well, there was certainly a fear of men. Rumour has it that the postman had to deposit letters with the discretion of a jewel thief. And my dad once pulled in to the convent to let another car pass, only to be chased away by an irate nun. Happy days.

Anyway. The convent’s sheer size is obvious as we make our way from the (relatively small) car park to the entrance. We’re led to the door by divinely-inspired guesswork (it’s certainly not obvious which way to go); a guesswork also employed by staff. I press the door intercom, to which a vague and disembodied voice replies, “Yes?” “I’ve got a booking for the restaurant?” I query. “Oh!” says the voice, with an air of mild surprise. “What do I press to let them in?” Clearly a Novice.

“Would you like a drink before dinner?” asks the nice girl on reception, taking us down to the amazing bar area, which houses a niche where a more saintly figure once stood. “Yes, please!” we say. “Well,” she replies, incredulous, “you’ll have to be quick, then, because your table’s ready and we serve in 15-minute slots.”

So we turn tail and head straight to the restaurant (open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, currently), which turns out to be a startlingly unnecessary precaution, owing to the fact that there’s a 45-minute wait for our starters. As we wait, we’re entertained by the regular passing of delicious-looking bar snacks, heading for the band (Sarah Jane Morris and the African Project), who are playing in a ticketed event this evening.

Now. The only route from the kitchen to the rest of the Convent appears to be straight through the restaurant. Apart from the fact that, after 20 minutes or so, I’m having to stop Ian ravenously grabbing and eating a passing snack (and, after 40 minutes, ravenously grabbing and eating a waitress) the problem is this: the restaurant floor is exposed wood. On the plus side, somebody has clearly asked the sensible question: ‘What would be the noisiest footwear one could wear, while carrying bar snacks through a restaurant of diners?’ But then – and this is a mistake anyone could make – having identified that footwear, and asked the subsequent question: ‘Should we ban it or make it compulsory?’ They went – in my view – for the wrong option. And they were so nearly there!

At one point, they clearly threw in the suggestion that someone carrying food while oddly wearing Morris-dancer bells would create additional noise of an interestingly different nature. Again, they went the wrong way on this!

The truth is, it just doesn’t make for stress-free relaxation. “I’m pretty sure I left the gas on,” I say to Ian. But he’s too absorbed in sudden anxiety about his latest tax return to answer.

The food is good; that’s true. Not stunning, but good. (We’re promised the menu in advance by email but it never arrives.) They source as much as they can from their kitchen garden, which is great. Ian has Kentucky rabbit with sweetcorn salsa, chilli sauce and lime to begin; I, a beetroot tarte tatin with salad. Both are nice but, after such a long wait, take about 27 seconds to eat. Ian’s Wagyu sirloin of beef with truffle mash, carrots and greens is pretty good; again, my Cornish plaice and watercress puree is but a fleeting glimpse of the sea. We dessert on a very nice apple and blackberry pie and a hot chocolate fondant. But – what do you think about this? – the £35 set menu boasts four courses, the final one being petit fours and sweetmeats. Forgive my being an ingénue, but wouldn’t you think this includes a coffee? Nope. We’re charged an extra £2.50 apiece for an Americano.

So – therein some of the sins. But. BUT. Strangely, I like The Convent. I really like it. I like the oddness of it. I love the fact that they’ve taken a behemoth of a building on – which is hugely courageous. I like idea of music and literature events. I love the creepy quirkiness of the endless corridors. Our corner of the dining room smells alarmingly of damp – but why wouldn’t it? Kudos to the owners for tackling something that could have been lost, ere else. And I think it’s going to be good. One day soon. Very good.

I have to mention the downsides – I wouldn’t be doing my job otherwise. But I’m glad I went. In a nutshell, there are some things you’ve just got to experience at least once. Obviously, death is one of them. But I’m trying to lift the mood a bit here.


Restaurant ratings

Ambience: 8 (6 for comfort, 10 for originality)

Service: 6 (lovely waitress; too long a wait)

Food: 7

Value for money: 6


The Convent, Convent Lane, South Woodchester GL5 5HS, 0330 2232 707;

Our restaurant reviews are completely independent. Katie arrives unannounced 
and pays for her meal.

This article by Katie Jarvis is from the November 2014 issue of Cotswold Life.

For more from Katie, follow her on Twitter: @katiejarvis


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Cotswold Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Cotswold Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Cotswold Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Food & Drink

Mon, 13:09

Veganism is the latest food trend to hit the Cotswolds but it’s something we can all enjoy a bite of

Read more
Mon, 09:13

Alleviate the stress of hectic Christmas preparation and endless shopping trips with a festive afternoon tea in one of these gorgeous Cotswold settings

Read more
Friday, December 7, 2018

Find a fabulous gift for everyone with Whatley Manor’s monetary vouchers.

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The hotel in Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire is offering free lunch or afternoon tea for the first ten that book for December 19

Read more
Monday, December 3, 2018

A perfect gift where rest and relaxation is required.

Read more
Monday, December 3, 2018

Applications are now open for a new competition that will give people from Gloucestershire the chance to see their food and drink products or ideas appear on supermarket shelves across the county

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Dark and chilly winter evenings are perfect for huddling in the corner of a country pub with friends, catching up over beer and supper. The Cotswolds have cosy pubs aplenty – here are 12 of our favourite places to go...

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

The most famous Bangladeshi restaurant is celebrating an anniversary

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Amid the season of turkey and tinsel Whatley Manor are throwing in a festive curveball, an evening of lobster, fizz & fries!

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Wine Wednesday’s with Vintopia of Tetbury.

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Festive a la carte menu launches in Grey’s Brasserie from 26th November.

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Whether you’re after something for an adults’ stocking filler, a little something while you slave over the turkey dinner or a tipple to enjoy with your festive party guests, we pick 9 drinks from the Cotswolds you need to try this Christmas

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

If we can continue to show our support for talented and industrious jam-makers like these, we might just pull our favourite preserve out of the sticky situation it’s supposed to be in!

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

‘If its autumn in Gloucestershire, then it must be time for Apple Day when we celebrate cider’

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search