When the Old Stocks Inn in Stow-on-the-Wold announced the arrival of Ian Percival as their new Head Chef, Adam and I were intrigued. Ian has a first class pedigree, having previously been Head Chef at The King’s Hotel in Chipping Campden, so we felt it was safe to assume this fabulous hotel kitchen was being passed over to a safe pair of hands. You can only imagine then, our delight when we were invited to check out Ian’s new menu.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with The Old Stocks Inn, it’s a modern British boutique hotel set in the heart of the Cotswolds. It manages to be effortlessly cool whilst remaining true to its British country roots, which really is no mean feat. Having enjoyed the food previously under Wayne Sullivan’s leadership, Ian’s arrival simultaneously evoked excitement at trying new dishes and fear that the approach might change.
Thankfully, having arrived on a wet Saturday evening, we were relieved to find that Ian is a superb fit. His menu has retained some old favourites, such as the pork loin, tweaked with his own touches, but he has also introduced some quirky British dishes too. Adam’s eye was immediately drawn to the smoked ham hock starter; super meaty but balanced perfectly by sweet apricot purée, hints of earl grey, sharp apple matchsticks and some crispy brioche. He said he’d happily eat this again and again. High praise indeed from a rather particular Mr L.
Three courses are always a bit of an uphill struggle for me, so I chose to keep it light with a spring vegetable soup accompanied by a crisp, vibrant pastry garnish. Adam wasn’t quick enough to try it but I can happily confirm it was silky, well seasoned and full of flavour. Perfect for a wet, almost Autumn, evening!
Old Stocks Cocktails
You might remember that we previously visited the Old Stocks for a cocktail making masterclass. Keen to check out the rest of Pete’s menu, I ordered a ‘Six Appeal’; a fine cocktail showcasing Bristolian Six O’Clock gin. The drinks selection is broad and fun, so you’ll undoubtedly find something to suit. Ever the gent, Adam had drawn the short straw as designated driver. The choice of soft drinks goes much further than the standard coca cola though so it was a thumbs up from him! Next time, I’m going to persuade him to stay over.
Moving onto mains, I immediately plumped for a rib-eye steak, having spotted that it was Martin’s Meats award winning longhorn beef. If you’ve not tried Martin’s longhorn beef before, it’s worth making a special effort as the flavour is spectacular. Served medium, the steak was succulent and came out drenched in a delicious bone marrow and parsley butter. A side of chilli lime fries could have done with a touch more lime to counter the heat, but I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to spice. They were decent chunky fries though, with a crunchy outer shell. It made a pleasant change from the often anemic offerings elsewhere.
Surprisingly, there is no burger on the menu which you may have noticed is frequently Adam’s go to dish. Instead, he plumped for stone bass, served on a bed of summer vegetables with lightly roasted jersey royal potatoes. I don’t tend to order fish but I might be more inclined next time; it was perfectly flaky, with crisp skin and a beautiful, citrussy sauce to marry it all together. I barely got a look in, so it was definitely a triumph. It gets bonus points as it made for a very Instagrammable plate too.
First prize for presentation has to go to the desserts though. Adam chose a strawberry mousse dome, enveloped in a thin layer of jelly, topped with elderflower granita and adorned with little chalk-like sticks of crunchy meringue. It looked exquisite and tasted even better. Unsurprisingly, I indulged my sweet tooth with a super rich dark chocolate tart topped with a delicate cocoa tuille. Alone, it might have been too much. A sharp passionfruit coulis and sorbet cut through it though to make it the ultimate dessert for me. My only complaint? It ended too soon.
In addition to those two sweet treats, Ian has also carefully crafted a signature Parma Violet pannacotta. Sadly, my mind still flashes back to the little sweets that, for me, taste like soap. I might be braver next time; I am sure it is just as delicious as the rest of Ian’s spectacular creations. We’ll no doubt be returning soon, so I’ll let you know whether Ian changes my mind about Parma Violets!