Restaurant review: No-Bugs Bunny
PUBLISHED: 13:08 20 January 2014 | UPDATED: 15:01 10 February 2014
Katie Jarvis is ready not to like the Wild Rabbit, Daylesford's restaurant cousin. But try as she might, this plan goes horribly, surprisingly wrong. Because she loves it.
“So,” says Ian, glumly, who has flu and consequently thinks the universe is against him. In a truly personal sort of way. “I phoned the Wild Rabbit and said I wanted a table for Thursday. And she said, ‘What date?’ and I said, ‘Thursday!’, a bit curtly. Because if you say ‘Thursday’ you clearly don’t mean a week next Tuesday.”
“Did she snap?” I ask, hopefully.
“No. But there was no warmth there,” he adds grimly, in an ‘I’ve-got-flu-so-everyone-hates-me’ sort of man-way.
“Did she say she was looking forward to seeing you?” I ask, interested.
“No,” he says, almost weeping.
“Well, she probably isn’t looking forward to seeing you,” I point out, fairly. I’m not looking forward to seeing him either because he has a sort of low-level, ‘I’m-not-well,-Kate’ flu that isn’t dreadful but won’t take no for an answer, either. If there were any opportunity, I’d lovingly lower him through a roof on a stretcher; as it is, his doctor has told him to take an aspirin, which just isn’t the same thing.
On the plus side, I’m quite buoyed by the lack of warmth on the part of the person who answered the Wild Rabbit phone to him because it’s:
a) So much easier to write about a bad restaurant than a good one. If you see me eating somewhere and looking ecstatic, avoid it like the plague.
b) I’m not mad on Daylesford – probably for deeply unfair reasons – so I’m ready and excited to not like the Wild Rabbit, its restaurant cousin.
But try as I might, this plan goes horribly, surprisingly wrong. Because I love it. The Wild Rabbit is Absolutely Gorgeously Wonderful. There. You’ve dragged it out of me. It’s been said and can’t be unsaid.
For a start, there’s the décor. It’s the kind of style peasants would choose, if peasants lived in large mansions, subscribed to The Times, and were extremely rich. Otherwise, you’d describe it as the sort of style very rich people choose, who sort of wish they were poor, but nicely so. And maybe only at weekends.
The other utterly glorious thing about the Wild Rabbit is the way all the staff – and there are myriads of them – look so relaxed. I don’t mean they’re negligent or self-involved; that they hang around reading Milton when they should be serving. No, no no. I mean that they’re so untroubled by the sort of fast-moving chaos that can characterise normal restaurants, they actually look as if they’re enjoying their jobs. We’re shown to our table by a chap who looks as if he’s recently graduated with a double first in history of art from Balliol but who counter-intuitively enjoys being in a service industry. Then along comes our waitress, who asks if anyone has told us about the specials.
“It’s a baked partridge. We’ve got five left and we’ve been told to push them,” she confides, in an intimate sort of way.
In any other restaurant, saying this sort of thing to a guest would be Outrageous, and both you and the partridges would demand to speak to the manager. In the Wild Rabbit, it’s simply adorable. In fact, Ian has to stop me ordering all five, just to help the staff out and to add to the joyously pervasive air of contentment.
Instead, we’re brought a basket of warm bread; and I order a rich Jerusalem artichoke soup with truffle butter and a yummy mushroom brioche, which I can’t say enough about. And Ian has a ravioli of hare, foie gras, grapes and morel, which is equally interesting, full of quality and favour, and feels like something Romans would eat. And it’s all brought to the table quickly – not by the same waitress, it has to be said; but I expect the original is off having a spa treatment somewhere, tired out after the exigencies of taking our order. You probably think I’m being sarcastic, but I’m not. I’m so not. I’m loving it – the order; the happiness; the serenity. It’s like being in a Buddhist monastery but with better food and a fully democratic government in Myanmar.
For main course, I have a fantastic pan-fried sea bass with creamed savoy cabbage, lardons and mashed potato – delicately flavoured, beautifully cooked – while Ian goes for the Old Spot pork loin, cheek croquette, toffee apple puree and fondant potato. Honestly, lovely. We are slightly surprised when our sides of hand-cut chips, all seven of them, work out at almost 60p each. They are quite large chips, though. And you don’t get relaxed staff for peanuts, for goodness sake.
Finally, I have a dark chocolate mousse with Tonka bean ice cream, Ian has steamed ginger pudding with lemon verbena custard – both smashing – and then we have a coffee, which comes with a steamingly warm madeleine, fresh from the oven.
It’s not cheap. It’s very not cheap. And there is a discretionary 10% service charge added. (Discretionary? Pah! Ask the history of art chap. That is SO not the meaning of ‘discretionary’.) But who cares. I’m still not mad on Daylesford, but I want to marry the Wild Rabbit and live with it forever.
• Ambience 8
• Service 8.5
• Food 8
• Value for money 7
The Wild Rabbit, Church Street, Kingham OWX7 6YA; 01608 658389; www.thewildrabbit.co.uk
This article by Katie Jarvis is from the January 2014 issue of Cotswold Life
For more from Katie, follow her on Twitter: @katiejarvis