The Catherine Wheel, Bidbury
PUBLISHED: 17:59 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:34 20 February 2013
The men behind Barnsley House and the Village Pub have set the Catherine Wheel in Bibury spinning again
The news last month that Tim Haigh and Rupert Pendered had opened a second pub spread like wildfire amongst Cotswold foodies.
Tim and Rupert have "form", you see. They were the team behind The Village Pub in Barnsley, Gloucestershire, which was one of the first and most successful gastropubs in the Cotswolds.
Then they took over gardener Rosemary Verey's stunning house across the road and turned it into Barnsley House - the chic hotel and spa to the stars.
And so the news that they had quietly taken over the Catherine Wheel in nearby Bibury was met with a degree of excitement.
Even more exciting was the fact that they were turning this splendid 15th century pub into a proper village pub rather than a gastropub, although the fact that the chef is Graham Grafton means that this is certainly pub food in a different league to most of its neighbours.
Graham is the executive chef at Barnsley House, but his CV includes time spent in some of the best restaurants in London, with Le Caprice, Bibendum, Chez Bruce and The Greenhouse among them.
Combine Graham's cooking with Tim and Rupert's management and hospitality skills and it's no wonder the Catherine Wheel is such a cracking pub.
Tim says they had wanted to do something different to The Village Pub because it is seen as more of a destination gastropub than simple a local pub for local people.
"We'd always wanted a traditional village pub that catered for the locals offering good quality, home-cooked food and real ales.
"We were frustrated there were so many pubs in the area doing microwaved pub food.
"People love comfort food, school food done well - fish pie, burgers, shepherd's pie, rice pudding etc - and there's obviously a market for both because The Catherine Wheel has been heaving since we opened the doors. It complements what we already do."
A pub which had seen better days but which was still popular with tourists, the Catherine Wheel was one of those pubs where the microwave ruled the kitchen.
When Tim and Rupert took over the pub, they had to get ride of nine microwaves, eight freezers and two deep-fat fryers. Now there is only the one freezer and that's for the ice cream.
Says Tim: "Everything is made fresh, either here or in the kitchens at Barnsley House. All the pasta and bread is made at Barnsley House and we use as much produce as possible from the garden there."
The menu is accessible and affordable, with a well-chosen selection of old favourites and traditional English classics.
Mindful that it's so popular with families and tourists, there are plenty of familiar dishes on there with wide appeal - mushrooms on toast, deep-fried fish and chips with mushy peas and tartare sauce or lamb burger served in a bun, chips, onion and tomato relish.
On the main menu, you'll find potted rabbit, pickles and toast; salt beef stovie with poached hen's egg; homemade fish pie with broccoli; shepherd's pie with seasonal vegetables and treacle tart with clotted cream.
As well as the lunch and dinner menu, the Catherine Wheel also offers a very good English breakfast (between 9am-10am) featuring Eastleach Down pork sausages and bacon, free-range eggs of your choice, tomatoes, mushrooms, black pudding and baked beans with tea or coffee and toast for 10. In the afternoon, afternoon tea is served with a choice of teas, sandwiches, homemade cakes or pastries.
There's a bar menu, too, with Cutler and Bayliss pork pies, homemade pickled eggs, mugs of soup with crusty bread and cauliflower cheese - all under 4.
In lesser hands, such dishes would simply be taken out of a packet and zapped in a microwave but these are pub classics made from scratch by a chef who has cooked in some of the best restaurants in London and the customers have already noticed the difference.
"I think people really do appreciate it," says Graham. "People are too used to going to a pub and being served Brakes Brothers food but we're cooking everything from scratch and using local ingredients and suppliers. It's that simple but most pubs don't even think like that."
Catherine Wheel, Bibury, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7 5ND 01285 740250 www.barnsleyhouse.com