Restaurant review: The perfect Spot
PUBLISHED: 15:33 22 July 2014 | UPDATED: 15:54 22 July 2014
Never mind the shrieks of protest from Ruby the puppy. Katie Jarvis’ Monday night trip to Dursley is rewarded with an excellent meal and a bill that doesn’t bite
We’re about to go out to the Old Spot, Dursley, and that means Ruby, our new-ish cocker spaniel rescue puppy, will have to go into her cage. She’s yet to learn the cause-and-effect equation: x: the-extensive-chewing-of-anything-that-dangles-or-is-useful-in-the-footwear-line = y: a-damning-lack-of-trust-on-the-part-of-your-owners. She has been to puppy-training classes, but only on a recreational basis. So far, the most measurable result has been a lifelong friendship with a fellow spaniel puppy. They bonded over a shared tolerance towards bladder-control issues.
Ian loves Ruby and spends many-an-evening throwing a ball for her across the field, which he then obediently – though often bad-temperedly – scampers off to retrieve as she sits watching with huge interest. His love is shallow and aesthetic. As a former red-head himself (the colour has died back to less head-turning hue), he was deeply disappointed when none of our three children emerged titian. Thankfully, the recessive genes resurfaced during a call he made to the animal shelter, resulting in a full-blown ginger puppy. Sadly, though, Ian and Josh – our elder-statesman spaniel - suffer from personality clash. Ian suspects everyone of favouring Josh over him; Josh suspects Ian of being the main barrier to more liberal fridge access.
Ruby goes into her cage, uttering such emotionally-wrenching laments that Jonathan Miller phones to offer her an unprecedented five-season run as Dido. “I can’t go out,” I weep to Ian, who explains that, in fact, I can. (His tolerance levels dropped dramatically somewhere between the sixth and eighth ball last night.)
We’ve picked the Old Spot mainly on the recommendation of a friend, D. He loves the place, and we love him. His stories are legendary, particularly the one about entertaining two Middle Eastern business contacts. He thought they’d like Gloucester Rugby, where he often meets all his mates. Although he appreciated their unexpected affection in both holding his hand throughout the game – a common Middle Eastern piece of etiquette - it was one of his more awkward sessions at the Shed.
By chance, it’s a Monday. While many restaurants are closed, this is the one evening the Old Spot does serve full meals (otherwise, generally, they only serve food at lunchtime). When I ask the chap on the end of the phone for the menu, he cheerfully reads it out: “Only just got it,” he says. “The chef goes round the markets, deciding what to cook, so he’s just this second handed it to me.” It’s £14.75 for two courses; £17.75 for three – amounts so reasonable that Ian, Patron Saint of Optimism, concludes it must be rubbish.
But the three of us (Miles works in a kitchen so this is a busman’s holiday, but he’s generously agreed to accompany us on the basis of a free meal) troop off there anyway. Points of interest include an epic opening of a skylight by waitresses, due to a slightly-alarming smokiness in the kitchen. And a few lapses in service – the wine dallies languidly and they seem to have to send to Colombia for our coffee. (All of these mitigated by Miles, snapping, “Be nice to the staff,” every two minutes, on the basis that he empathises wholly with them.) But apart from that, this place is truly marvellous. Marvellous, I tell you. The food is plentiful, good quality (my cheeseboard, with no supplementary charge, is from Godsells, some of the area’s best artisan cheesemakers), and simple but delicious. And they bring us bread, as part of it all. There are three choices per course: we try the chicken liver pate with red onion chutney; the glazed goats’ cheese on dressed salad; and the roasted vegetables with sweet chilli drizzle to begin. Not ground-breaking, but nonetheless delicious and satisfying. To follow, the boys have the tender, perfectly-cooked 8oz rump steak with herb mash, spinach and red onion jam, while I try salmon and leek in pastry with a very pleasant lemon and dill cream sauce (there’s a veggie pasta alternative), before finishing with a blueberry cheesecake and ice cream, and my superb cheeseboard.
Plus, of course, this is a pub where the real ales are legendary, including offerings from Uley Brewery, down the road, (whose most famous brew, Old Spot, was created for Frocester Beer Festival. As a one-off, no-one bothered much about specific measurements. So when it won a surprise first prize at the Great Western Festival in Bristol, there were desperately furrowed brows as they tried to remember exactly how to produce more.)
I rarely give 10 out of 10 in any category, but it’s hard to know how a business could offer better value without specifically aiming at bankruptcy. Fantastic.
When we return home, the doggy squeals tell of utter, delirious joy, full of ecstatic Hallelujahs. “Look,” we tell an eager singer spaniel, “let’s just wait and see how the Dido performances go.”
Value for money 10
Old Spot Inn, 2 Hill Rd, Dursley GL11 4JQ, 01453 542870; www.oldspotinn.co.uk
Our restaurant reviews are completely independent. Katie arrives unannounced and pays for her meal.