Review: The Bull at Fairford
"Desserts are solid, with a dangerously indulgent banana and toffee ‘Eton mess’ the best choice for really making sure that your blood sugar crash sends you into a glorious stupor."
Situated between two roads amongst the winding lanes and Cotswold stone of Fairford, an hour from central Oxford and just across the border into Gloucestershire, The Bull is, despite first impressions, deceptively large. The pub’s pretty High Street entrance belies the sprawling expanse within, including a front bar, restaurant and private dining areas, and 21 bedrooms. Taken on by Sebastian and Lana Snow in October 2016, The Bull has been stripped of its carpets and wallpaper to reveal gorgeous exposed beams and flagstone floors. The couple, who also run the show at esteemed Cotswold boltholes The Five Alls at Filkins and The Plough at Kelmscott, have used their expertise not just to bring a new look to The Bull, but also to implement a new menu, brigade of chefs, and overall attitude.
The first thing to note here is the wide variety of clientele, from locals enjoying a post-work pint to ‘destination’ visitors enjoying a weekend in the country. The bedrooms are fabulous – winding staircases lead to coaching inn-style rooms, tastefully decorated and with lavish bathrooms. The beams and muted blue colour scheme continue from the dining area into the bedrooms, creating a charming continuity.
After dropping off your bags in the bedroom, head down to the front bar, where an extensive selection of local cask ales and craft beers are on offer alongside an impressive selection of wine, including a substantial offering of organic and biodynamic wines – some of which are very good.
The lighting in the dining room is low, and the atmosphere heady. The menu is fairly large – choose from a substantial main menu, a selection of pub classics including devilled kidneys and Kelmscott sausages, and stonebaked pizzas cooked in a separate pizza kitchen. The star of the latter is a seafood pizza (£12) adorned with huge mussels in the shell, which is worth the visit alone.
Excellent preparations of seafood continue onto the menu proper. Highlights of the starters include a wonderfully delicate tuna carpaccio (£8.75), dotted with coriander and avocado and coated with lime and ginger dressing. For the winter months, go for a smooth and moreish ravioli of crab and brandade spiked with chilli and coconut (£8).
Onto the mains, and calves’ liver and bacon (£18) is generously laid upon a thick and crispy bubble and squeak, with all that meat and salt cut through with sharp pickled beetroot. A double Gloucester soufflé is very heavy, but also enormously satisfying and remarkably good value (£10).
Desserts are solid, with a dangerously indulgent banana and toffee ‘Eton mess’ the best choice for really making sure that your blood sugar crash sends you into a glorious stupor.
Sebastian, alongside his head chef Piotr Skoczen, has created an ambitious menu full of rich ingredients and balanced flavour profiles – as you ascend the staircases back to your room, it’s impossible not to be charmed by this excellent country retreat – Fairford is blessed.
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