Restaurant review: Prego? You're welcome!
PUBLISHED: 10:14 24 October 2013 | UPDATED: 10:24 24 October 2013
Katie Jarvis struggles to maintain objectivity at this Broadway Tuscan idyll where the welcome is as wonderful as the food
It’s the pets’ issue, apparently. And therefore, apropos of nothing much, I feel obliged to give you the benefit of my advice, hard-gleaned from years of abuse and exploitation by various pets. So here goes.
1. Never, ever, under any circumstances, agree to look after someone’s guinea pigs. I did once with fatal consequences. In fact, I would like to dedicate this restaurant review to the memory of Sandy and Misty – requiescant in pace – who (I like to think) spawned a whole new dynasty of wild guinea pigs around the Hyde area of Chalford (or, more likely, provided a nutritiously exotic mid-morning snack for the resident Big Cat that people-who-aren’t-at-all-drunk have frequently spotted (probably at 4am, sometimes in double-focus)).
OK. As you asked. A friend (now more of an acquaintance) asked me to look after her daughter’s beloved guinea pigs for two weeks. “Just check them each evening; and, every few days, move their run to a new patch of grass,” she said, with deceptive simplicity. Day Three – Sandy, Misty and I have bonded by now – I move the hutch-and-attached-run to a delightful shaded spot, tuck them up, kiss them goodnight, and leave. Day Four, I am astonished when the run appears empty. So astonished that, after frantic eye-based searching, I actually resort to examining every single piece of straw in the hut in case they’ve turned microscopic. It turns out – and I feel there’s an issue of trust here – that they took advantage of my run-based naivety, spotted a cavity on the new piece of ground and, armed with Davy Lamps and ropes, made a successful bid for freedom. Even now, I weep uncontrollably when I recall the unexpected phone call on Day Five, from my friend holidaying in the Caribbean, which began with a cheery, “How are Sandy and Misty doing?”, inspiring the world’s longest internationally-charged pause.
2. Never, ever, under any circumstances, get a dog that’s more intelligent than you. This is a Big Mistake. Josh, the springer spaniel, and I only play fetch when he’s allowed to throw the sticks and I retrieve them. Even then, he’s humouring me.
“He’s not a real dog,” Ian says bitterly, as we drive to Prego, in Broadway, which has nothing to do with pets. He and Josh have this male-competitive-thing going, which Ian strongly suspects Josh wins.
As a result, he’s driving slightly grumpily, sounding his horn at people who are “doing 32 in a 40 zone” or who even possess a fog-light switch. It’s built on a foolish premise, which I feel obliged to point out.
“Do you think beeping somehow endows other drivers with a whole new skill set?” I ask.
“I don’t ‘beep’,” Ian says, with quiet dignity.
I’m quite excited about going to Prego. The trouble is, I don’t know how objective and disinterested you can expect me to be, especially when the delightful Barry Hancox (co-owner) comes up to me in the restaurant, greets me like a long-lost friend, and chattily tells me he’s off to a wedding this weekend.
“So you can forget about everything!” I say, expansively.
“Oh, no! You never stop thinking about it.”
And then George Davies (also co-owner), whom I think about every time I go into Asda, comes up and greets me and is introduced to Ian, and who - to Ian’s delight - he calls thin. He even pours us a bit of our own wine. Last time I saw him, he told me – in an endearing way – that I dressed rubbishly. It seems a tragic irony that I’m accidentally wearing the same clothes as last time, but with less nice shoes. Aye me.
“You told him to say hello to me,” I say to Barry, afterwards, who looks modest and secretive so I know it’s true and a little part of me dies.
But I love that they’re both there, bouncing round talking to customers, pouring them their own wine. And the place is buzzing – buzzing, I tell you.
We eat spankingly well at this Cotswold Tuscan idyll, with a lamb tortelli and a hand-made ravioli of goat’s cheese (loved this); a sort of meat-feast pizza meat for Ian, and grilled fillets of Cornish lemon sole for me. And then a chocolate torta (Ian’s favourite bit of the meal); and an inventive Italian strawberries and cream: vanilla bean panna cotta, strawberry jelly and a strawberry and basil salad. I absolutely adore this food – great flavours, well cooked (under the guidance of their true Tuscan chef Pietro Di Marco), fun and filling. And, after a remarkably good-value bottle of Shiraz (£21.50), I want to give them at least 15/10 for ambience.
“The tables are quite close together,” says Ian, who is driving back and, therefore, less wine-y. “And if Barry and George weren’t there; or it wasn’t so full…”
So I compromise. But, readers, it’s yummy, in a great location (Broadway High Street) and – if you ask nicely – George will probably tell you why you’re wearing the wrong thing.
As to the pets’ advice, I ran out of room at only two bullet points. Thus depriving you of true-life-experience snippets, such as how to warm a gecko when lightning strikes the house. Email me.
Follow Katie Jarvis on twitter: @KatieJarvis
This article is from the November 2013 edition of Cotswold Life magazine.