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Review: The Bower House, Shipston-on-Stour

The Bower House

The Bower House

I love a place that has its own ambience. Something deliberate, done well enough that you can really soak up the atmosphere. I am bored to bloody tears of “oh look, reclaimed floorboards walling. Oh look, scaffold tube and copper pipe as furnishing and lighting.” You get the feeling there must be catalogues for this stuff by now! Just as there are presumably catalogues for the “Cotswold gastropub look” or the “modern British fine dining look” (aka 50 Shades of Taupe).

The Bower House has atmosphere. Seen from outside on a winter’s night it looks classy and inviting, one room peacock blue with tiles, the other burgundy and wood, with shining brass complementing both. One room has an open wood stove, very inviting on a night like this! Service is excellent. A glass of wine gets forgotten until we prompt them, but then a complementary glass of sticky shows up later by way of apology. That’s how you win repeat customers.

The menu is decided and clear too: it oozes French-influenced classics from every pore.

Duck

Duck

My starter of duck liver pate with a fig and prune chutney was superb. Lovely sourdough toast, crisp and soft at the same time. The pate smooth and rich, lurking beneath a shining clear jelly of dark chestnut-coloured umami. My only possible complaint was that this would have been plenty as a main course! Maureen’s mussels were also a mighty portion, but mighty good too, served in a soothingly earthy celeriac broth that was just bang-on with the plump shellfish.

My main was a jolly single-minded affair. Mountains of devilled veal kidney with a saffron risotto on the side. Again, splendid pairing. The risotto was sinfully rich and gooey, the rice still having bite, the saffron pronounced and sunny. The kidney was gently cooked, the gravy tangy and sweet. For myself, I like my devilled dishes to have a very proper KICK and to be honest that was lacking. But since I loved the whole plateful, I’m really spltting hairs! Maureen’s roast duck with sprouts and black pudding was also a fine dish, tied together by an excellent gravy. There was zero attempt to gussy-up or garnish these dishes, and I liked that.

Veal kidney

Veal kidney

I couldn’t resist trying the tarte tatin, even though I was already stuffed to bursting. They’ve twisted the classic; a disk of properly nut-brown and buttery pastry with a whole roasted apple on top, along with dark caramel sauce. After such a feast I really appreciated the reversal of the fruit-to-pastry ratio, and it was still 100% a tarte tatin in flavour and pleasure.

I love what they’re doing at The Bower House. There are not enough good restaurants out there keen to offer you simply superbly cooked classics, served in a convivial atmosphere with some decent wine. I think I’d drag people here in preference to the score or so of perfectly fine gastropubs in the vicinity, just for the sake of something different! You should drag yourself here too, next time you’re in the Cotswolds or tooling along the M40 and in need of a good feed.

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