The Old Thatched Inn
"Whoever complains that a chocolate torte is too rich? Wimps, that’s who."
By Jack Rayner
As I crept my way through narrow, winding and downright dangerous Buckinghamshire lanes on my way to The Old Thatched Inn, I found myself completely lost. I pulled over to ask a passer-by for directions, and the response came: “Oh you’re going to the Old Thatch? It’s just down this road. It’s a really lovely place. So lovely. Have a nice meal.” A glowing recommendation from someone in such close proximity was a good omen, and unless the management are paying off everyone in a 5-mile radius, the residents of Adstock seem to hold their local in high regard.
They might have a point: The Old Thatched Inn is lovely. The living room-esque sofa and table arrangements to the back of the bar room are a bit odd, and a little too inviting – I’d imagine after a couple of bottles of burgundy I’d have trouble leaving, and perhaps that’s the point – but the extensive and reasonable wine list more than makes up for it, with several perfectly serviceable bottles under the £20 mark.
If you’re more of a beer person then the pub stocks several real ales alongside the usual big brewery stuff – when I visited they stocked the excellent and newly-rebranded Razorback from Hampshire’s Ringwood Brewery, which is worth the visit in itself.
When passing judgement on a restaurant or gastropub, it seems rather pointless to order a garlic-studded camembert, considering how difficult these things are to get wrong. On the other hand, well, garlic-studded camembert, so my first course disappeared in a haze of runny cheese and warm ciabatta. The décor here is pleasant without being fussy or trendy, and the staff are helpful and pleasant whilst stopping short of being overbearing or showy.
Onto the mains. Offering three fish specials is a sure-fire way to win over this reviewer, and I went for the hake, which came steaming and falling apart over a thick layer of roasted peppers, Provençal potatoes, tenderstem broccoli and caper berries. Thick Spanish chorizo, which tends to be overpowering in this context, brings a smoky warmth to an otherwise light and delicate dish. There is a simple chicken breast, accompanied by tomato pesto, huge parmesan shavings and tiny orzo pasta grains, alongside an 8-hour slow cooked beef blade and the usual pub classics.
This is not the most ambitious menu, but where many similar gastropubs slip up is in their attempt to impress their guests with bold flavour combinations, unusual ingredients and forays into Asian cuisine, which is rarely executed in the way the chefs hope. Where The Old Thatched Inn comes into its own is in the kitchen staff’s ability to over-deliver on the menu’s promises, with uncomplicated descriptions that give way to fresh, well-presented meals in generous portions. This is clearly a place that takes pride in its craft, and is all the more enjoyable for sticking to its guns and not over-egging the proverbial pudding.
Talking of puddings, the small details continue onto the bottom of the menu, with the pub’s homemade honeycomb featuring regularly. I opted for their banana bread with a caramel sauce, which somehow manages to satisfy without pounding you into thick, starchy oblivion. My dining companion had a chocolate torte which was significantly less manageable, but whoever complains that a chocolate torte is too rich? Wimps, that’s who.
After returning to my senses, it was time to leave, and I felt a twinge of sadness that I don’t live more locally to The Old Thatched Inn. This isn’t a gastropub that breaks any serious boundaries, but if you ever find yourself hungry and in the area (or even if you’re quite far away and only mildly peckish), give the place a visit. Very good.
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