Ahhhh, the 4th of July – the day that so many of us had been waiting for… the day that UK pubs, restaurants and bars could re-open in a Covid-secure way…
As soon as this glorious news was announced, I immediately began planning a series of culinary dates, the first of which began with a delightful trip to ‘The Bell Inn’, Purton Stoke, Wiltshire.
Just to give you a bit of backstory, you should know that my expectations for this meal were set very high given the fact that ‘The Bell Inn’ shares its menu with one of my favourite gastro-pubs - The Langley Tap in Chippenham…. And boy, were my expectations met!
After sanitising our hands in the porch way and reading a bunch of Covid-secure guidelines on various walls, we were promptly greeted by the host who quickly showed us to a private window-seat, took our drinks order and presented us with disposable menus which of course, is a big tick when it comes to meeting new, Covid guidelines.Likewise, no cutlery or condiments were laid on the table; rather they were presented to us course-by-course in covered serviettes.
After scanning the menu (and pretending that I hadn’t already downloaded the digital version) I mulled over the array of tempting food options, quickly deciding on a starter of ‘Garlic Mushrooms’ and ‘Pork Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Dumplings’ for main. My fellow-mushroom-loving partner Ed also opted for the same starter, and after to-and-froing on his choice of main, finally decided to go for the adventurous‘ Taste of the Wild’ main!
Soon after placing our order with rumbling bellies, our funghi-filled starter arrived, and after taking just a few bites, I noticed that my partner had already cleared his plate which says it all really!
Creamy and garlicky, this simple and delicious dish was a great choice of starter… and not too filling which is a good job because as I expected, two large mains courses with all the trimmings were then shortly served to us.
The pork medallions were beautifully tender, swimming in an indulgent and boozy hunters sauce which not only accompanied the meat perfectly, but what for me was the star of the dish: the crispy stilton dumplings (honestly, they are to die for… and I don’t even usually like blue cheese!)
My partner’s ‘Taste of the Wild’ dish featured three cuts of meat: Venison, Wild Boar and Kangaroo. Having never tried Wild Boar or Kangaroo before, Ed was indeed intrigued to find out what these cuts of meat were like. He found the Wild Boar to be as tasty and tender as the Venison, though he was slightly disappointed by the cut of Kangaroo.Still, the delicious smoked bacon, sweet pepper, spinach, garlic and cream sauce certainly made up for this.
The perfectly seasoned veggies and chunky, homemade chips were also a massive hit, though these filling and delicious dishes unfortunately left us too full to even share a single dessert(and usually there is ALWAYS room for dessert)… when we return though, I will most definitely skip the starter to make room for pud… that Sticky Toffee pudding option is already speaking to me!
So, the final verdict? Our first post-lockdown meal-out was a HUGE success. The venue was traditional and welcoming, the staff were friendly and had set-out safe, Covid-secure measures,the food was fantastic and filling- tick, tick, tick!