The eagle-eyed among you, may instantly be wondering why a blog that concerns itself with Cirencester and the Cotswolds, is writing about a pub in Lacock. It is a fair question. Lacock itself is located in the heart of the Wiltshire countryside and while it is not far from Cirencester, it is still a stretch to think of it as near the Cotswolds, even if everything is relative.
The answer is twofold, really: firstly it is such a nice place that we can’t help but feel compelled to tell you about it; and second, believe it or not, The Sign of the Angel in Lacock, markets itself as “located in the National Trust village of Lacock, on the edge of the Cotswolds and only a short distance from Bath.” For those two reasons, I ask you to go with me on this.
This Easter weekend was not the friendliest, weatherwise, but there is something about the Brits that compels us to do something, come a bank holiday weekend. One of those days must be spent doing DIY/the garden/spring cleaning (delete as appropriate); there must be a big family meal; and there has to be an outing of some sort. This was our outing, and we could not have picked a worse day, but we were rewarded by our lunch destination.
To say we were all ready for food is a blithe understatement. I have no idea what it is about just sitting in a car that makes you ravenous but I can attest to the truth of this phenomenon. So it was, first with great interest, and then with great pleasure, that we read the menu. There are some menus, that when you read them, you just know (barring a major upset) are a sign of good things to come. I could have happily eaten everything on there. There is a set lunch menu from which you can choose your combination of courses, or there are some lighter lunch options.Between us we ordered a decent cross-section.
It was only once we’d ordered that we took stock of our 14th century surroundings. They were quite something, and it is easy to see why Lacock is a perennial film or TV location both inside and out. There were nooks, there were crannies, beams that bowed so low they were a hazard to anyone over 4 feet 6. The garden looked a picture, even in the rain, and must surely be quite something when the weather lets it. There are fireplaces – thankfully complete with fires when we were there, doors that looked older than the last two centuries combined and a maze of different spaces, all with tables full of expectant or satisfied-looking diners.
Which brings us back to the food which, when it all came, had the air of a banquet and was entirely in keeping with the renaissance-era surroundings. The prawn cocktail salad (a main course portion) was served on a long, rectangular slate set into a wooden base that looked for all the world like a sled. In terms of visual impact, it could not be faulted, and tasted every bit as good. The prawns, grilled and juicy, were lavishly dressed in a mildly spicy cocktail sauce with sun blush tomatoes, olives, a griddled baby gem lettuce and some melba toast. My blade of beef was meltingly tender and surrendered to the merest hint of pressure from my fork. Coupled with a pea risotto some steamed celeriac – refreshingly not mashed, for once – and a smoked garlic jus that might possibly be the most intensely savoury flavour I taste all year. I am quite easily given to food hyperbole, but even allowing for that these two dishes were sensational.
And it did not end there. To continue on the sublime meat theme, one of our junior number had a minute steak with chips – a pub classic, but in this instance taken to the next level. The thin slices of steak were beautifully presented with some mushrooms and some chips. While the steak was proclaimed delicious, it was the chips that drew what can only be described as rave reviews. They were a similar success when accompanying the pork chop with black pudding, Chantenay carrots and a port wine sauce. I think we all cleared our plates quite quickly, but that one was hoovered up with relish. Thankfully, it being Good Friday, one of us had the grace to have fish – a beautiful filet of salmon, served on some pearl couscous flavoured with lemon, samphire, and a yoghurt dressing.
The portions were not small by any means, but they did leave room for dessert, for those of us still needing a little finishing off. From first seeing eyes on the menu – I did this before even entering, getting soaked all the while but not minding in the slightest – I had had my eye on the apricot cheesecake. However, the blood orange steamed pudding with a citrus caramel, rhubarb sorbet, and vanilla custard was also too good to resist. We decided to share. The apricot cheesecake was a deconstructed affair that looked stunning, with both the creamy, almost-salty mascarpone and the sweetly tangy apricot sorbet providing a vivid contrast against the matt black glaze of the serving plate. The scattered oat crumb brought the ensemble together, providing texture and substance. The pudding, altogether more subtle in appearance on its pristine white oblong plate, was no less of a picture. The pudding was soft and light, a perfect foil for the blood orange on top and the zing of the rhubarb sorbet and the velvety smooth custard. And then that citrus caramel – such a beautiful way to complete the palette of flavours.
Being with children, we worried slightly that the food might be too sophisticated for the younger ones but we needn’t have. All plates were emptied, and the faces of both young and older at the table told a story of happy, sated appetites. After such a feast a walk around the village would have been ideal, but the Good Friday weather had other ideas. As it was, what we did see of Lacock – which was not a lot – was done mainly through the rain-splattered car windows. This is a shame, but really we had no alternative – the weather and an injury to one of our party put paid to any sightseeing “on the edge of the Cotswolds”. We will go back though.