From the Bottom, the tops
PUBLISHED: 12:54 19 June 2013 | UPDATED: 12:59 19 June 2013
Good ingredients, good cooking, good portions, good ambience, and a bill that won't break the bank - just about everything is right at the Golden Heart
Ooh, I have such a nice place to tell you about this month. A place that not only details where it gets its meat, but also informs you about the prizes said-meat has won. AND the portions are so good that it’s best to avoid self-generated movement after eating.
(Helpful hint # 1 – why not arrange for Parcelforce to be there to collect you afterwards? Though do NB: the earliest you’ll arrive home is next day; and, if you go missing in transit, you may only be entitled to £25 compensation. It’s your decision).
We’re at the (interestingly-possibly-double-body-part-name-inspired) Golden Heart at Nettleton Bottom, sitting at a table near the roaring open fire, over which resides the menu blackboard. There’s an eclectic collection of other guests. (It’s quite Stroud, in that respect.)
“Good Lord,” intones a posh fellow diner, reading through today’s dishes. “Grilled goats on toast.” This does seem surprising – we all, momentarily, try to picture the accompanying orange and cranberry dip served in a skip with the goats lowered in by crane. But after thinking things through, we all mentally insert the word ‘cheese’ and decide to smile, understandingly, at any stressed-looking member of staff with chalk on their hands.
The rest of the menu is more commonplace, but only by comparison. There’s water buffalo steak, swordfish, and ‘an exotic taste of crocodile, elk, water buffalo and llama’. (Which a helpful guest, tucking into it at the table next-door, tries to describe to us. “What’s the crocodile like?” we ask. “I’ve no idea which is the crocodile.” “Oh… so what’s the llama like?” Pause. “Which do you think is the llama?”)
There’s a curry special tonight, which looks amazingly good value. Or there’s the blackboardful of treats, such as devilled whitebait (Ian’s choice), crayfish and prawn cocktail, beef and red wine pie, warm black pudding salad and poached egg or coriander sausages. On a separate board, the meat’s credentials are listed: ‘champion and reserve champion lamb carcass from Texel breeders’ show at PJ King, Brookthorpe’; another lamb that stole the show at Cirencester market; and Angus beef with a double-first in Greats from Oxford. It feels remiss not to applaud it, as it exits the kitchen. Certainly, the kitchen should be applauded.I love this unusual touch.
Anyway. I begin with a simple and creamy baked Camembert with rosemary and honey – so yum. Then we both pick bubble and squeak with honey and chilli-glazed sausages. It’s such bliss to sit, stuffing ourselves with comfort food that’s simple, tasty, beautifully sourced and nicely cooked. The only other meal I’ve had out this month was in Aberdeen (the sort of Scottish destination that makes you realise how close Liverpool is), where the cooking was problematic. We were staying with my father-in-law, who relies on Aberdeen council-supplied frozen meals which, according to the literature, contain one recommended portion of vegetables a day, IF YOU’RE LUCKY! How outrageous is that! So, to get their five-a-day, elderly diners must spend the next few hours grazing in fields.
As a treat, I decided to do my father-in-law some home cooking – brownies (as a healthy alternative to deep-fried Mars bars) – only minimally held back by the fact that he has no weighing scales. “I’ve got this,” he said, amiably, brandishing a gadget for weighing suitcases. (Perfect, say you fancied ditching all clothing and taking, instead, a maximum hold-allowance of chocolate brownies on a Ryanair flight. In all other respects, to be frank, this gadget lacks the subtlety required for ingestible amounts of cake.)
Instead, I have no alternative but to weigh the ingredients by staring mystically at them and hoping that the intuitive side of my brain can cosmically distinguish 150g of flour. (Never an adherent of alternative practices, I do nevertheless feel faith-weighing could have a future.) We sit eating the oddly resultant goo, while watching a continuous Sky series of transmissions detailing Horrific Plane Crashes That No One Survived, complete with dramatic re-enactments and realistic screaming –“But with every second, their chances of survival are decreasing”. It’s what you do in Scotland.
(Helpful hint #2: if there’s any vague sign ice of on the wings, or your captain consistently looks like a jobbing version of Gregory Peck, then for god’s sake don’t wait to ask questions. Use the safety slide immediately.) Happy days.
But I digress. Clearly, the Golden Heart has weighing scales; we tuck into treacle pudding and a New York cheesecake. (Nice, but not up to their excellent and very reasonably-priced savoury standards.)
So. If you want a really good pub experience, ingredients proudly and beautifully sourced, a menu that combines the traditional with the exotic, good portions, a true English ambience, and a bill that won’t break the bank; follow your heart to Nettleton Bottom. Really good stuff.
• The Golden Heart Inn is at Birdlip, Gloucester GL4 8LA, 01242 870261, www.thegoldenheart.co.uk