Cosy, 650 year old Grade II listed building in parish of Winchcombe where flavours rule
Seemingly tucked away from anywhere and buried deep in the greenery of England is this delightful hamlet of Winchcombe which appeared to have a population of about 200(!) and was very nice to stumble across. The heritage of 5 North St is plain to see and husband and wife team Marcus (Gus) and Kate Ashenford motor on here with a cheery smile as they have been doing for the last 13 years of owing 5 North St. Superb food and personalised service in a wonderful, cosy setting.
The hospitality was warm from the moment I entered and throughout the meal there was a lovely balance from front of house of enjoying thoughts on the food and exchanges with the diner without being overbearing (and no, as usual, I had not revealed I write about food before hand so this was wonderfully genuine to receive). Whilst waiting to decide on the menu, I was brought what I can only describe as Christmas presents as a kid in the form of Welsh rarebit canapes with thinly cut, home made baked bread with olive oil, thin layer of rhubarb chutney and a mix of several cheeses grilled on the top. This was a socker punch of a start and immediately told me that this chef is not interested in fan fare, but just interested in producing things that make the diner happy – and man, I was happy!
Then came the home made white and brown breads that were direct from the oven with unbelievable light crusts and served with beef dripping butter. The owner offered to wrap up any left over bread to take home which was a lovely touch. Hot Jerusalem artichoke soup with chive oil was next and frankly a winner in creamyness, touch of interesting tangy oil in the mix and was followed by the duck, veal sweetbread and quail terrine. If you’re going to have a terrine, I think this is the answer above all others. Such wonderful mix of sweet, sharp and smooth coming from the meats, brilliant guiness jelly and barbeque dressing – it was fun (including the 5 spice brioche pieces) and absolutely superb.
Poussin next and the chicken skin here was a thing of beauty. I enjoyed the thyme reduction and especially the bacon jam to go with this dish. The only thing I found I didn’t need too much of was the mango but I loved the sludgy, sweetness it brought to this dish that was again making this quite a memroable experience. Finally dessert and although I was worried about the fennel sorbet interfering with my affair with chocloate, I found this to work like a charm together. Best aspects on this for me were the rice-crispy-esque base to the chocolate and the poppy tuiles and I so enjoyed the Turkish delight cubes as well which basically sent me back to Narnia on their own merit and again, I thought were a lovely addition to the chocolate.
By now this was a special meal and again the petit fours were all just what you like including the glorious piece of soft fudge and I enjoyed the mint with the white chocolate as something different as well.
This was frankly one of the food highights of the year so far for me and in its very similar style to Le Champignon Sauvage, the chef here seems unaffected by his accolades and wishes to serve the food he thinks his the mark on flavour – and I can verify this is absolutely the case. A fantastic meal, amazing for me to see in action with just Gus himself as the only one cooking in his small kitchen and his wife serving in an more than hospitable manner. You are in local territory here and every second was a pleasure to be a part of.
This place has not seen the last of me and I am looking forward to showing here to others whenever I can.
Food Grade: 86%
Location (Click google logo for directions)