Yesterday it was cold and rainy so the question of lunch assumed additional importance. Not only did we want nice food, but we wanted it in cosy, atmospheric surroundings.
We settled on the Bricklayers Arms. We've often been to this pub, but have previously sat in the beer garden, watching the kitchen staff feed carrots to the horses who live in the paddock at the back and listening to the bumblebees in the hawthorn hedge. It's really, really nice.
I was a bit sceptical about eating indoors - previously when I have walked through the dining room on my way to the loo the atmosphere has been akin to God's waiting room. But the food is fabulous, so I was prepared to set aside my prejudices.
And rightly so. As soon as we walked through the door we saw gorgeous little individual cream and green pumpkins on most people's plates and we were quite determined that whatever was in those pumpkins was going to be our lunch. It turned out to be a daily special of butternut squash and pumpkin soup. Velvety, not too creamy, but absolutely delicious.
They serve really good bread at the Bricklayers - thickly cut slabs of wholemeal or white sourdough, with cute little white china dishes of French butter. It was just the perfect thing with the soup, but I had another course coming and didn't want to overeat myself.
Paul ordered local wood pigeon breasts with field mushrooms in balsamic reduction. The pigeon was beautiful - tender, dark, rich meat, perfectly complemented by the mushrooms and rich sauce. He had some dauphinois potatoes with it and it is not often you see him eat potatoes so happily!
I'd been craving a burger, and while a local pork & sage burger with applewood smoked cheese wasn't at all what I had in mind, it certainly satisfied the craving. The burger was flecked with quite large pieces of fresh sage - absolutely delicious - and the smoked cheese was just the thing. In a perfect world there would have been a couple of slices of onion on the burger as well, but you can't have everything. The chips served with it were hand cut and very nicely browned, but unfortunately the salad hadn't been properly washed and was a bit gritty. Maybe someone was too busy feeding carrots to the horses to care about the finer details?