Just a short drive west of Cirencester, The Ragged Cot, owned by Stuart Hanson, is a stylish destination gastropub with rooms. Having started life over 400 years ago as a sheep-cot, the rag stones were at some stage re-modelled to build a small dwelling. By the mid-17th century it had developed into a busy coach house which was still popular during World War 2, and much frequented by the RAF personnel stationed nearby. In more recent times, and with considerable sympathetic modernisation and extension, it has achieved its present welcoming incarnation.
To the left of the bar the original part of the inn remains a cosy, intimate area, ideal for a small private party, whilst the main dining area is a much more recent build and elegantly continues the atmosphere of the old whilst embracing contemporary design. Guests sit at stripped hard wood tables in a variety of sizes and designs and on chairs which also differ considerably, but with a continuous theme of leather running throughout. Two sides of the dining room are given over to glass doors which look out onto a well-tended paved area with wooden seats, parasols and large planters of flowers, all inviting a relaxed pre or post meal drink.
Elsewhere the walls sport an eclectic mix of decoration, from a highly polished Rolls Royce vintage aircraft engine case over the large fireplace, to stuffed trophy animal heads and an early slot machine. Shades of charcoal through to pale grey and biscuit pick out and compliment the natural colours of the stonework and create a beautifully relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy good food.
The Ragged Cot is contemporary style mixed old-world charm, and an excellent inclusion on a visit to the Cotswolds. Its proximity to Gatcombe Park ensures a healthy mixture of tourists – who can stay in one of the comfortable nine rooms – and regular locals amongst its clientele
A recent addition in the SHED lounge, which offers comfortable seating and lighter bites for those not wanting a full meal.
In the main restaurant, Chef Thomasz, in line with the kitchen’s philosophy, sources produce as far as possible locally, with a good choice of fish. The menu offers a wide range: six starters (from £4.50 to 7.25), mains (From £15.95-£16.95), Cot classics, including burgers, char grilled streaks
(£21.50 to £25.96}, two salads, five desserts (£5.50- £6.95) and a cheese boards.(7.50)
Fine Dining Guide visited for an early evening midweek dinner in late July. The main restaurant which has forty covers became busy very quickly, reflecting its popularity. (There is space for 25-30 in the bar area with a maximum of 180 in all areas including the terrace seating.)
Restaurant Manager Sam Neal was welcoming and informative, overseeing the front of house service with understated efficiency. Kosmina, who looked after our table did so with charm and courtesy. Such service makes all the difference, especially if the food dies not live up to expectations. Happily this was not the case as we found the cooking accurately timed, well balanced in flavours, textures and well presented.
A starter – a partial deconstructed version of a classic – saw succulent prawns paired with batons of Granny Smith apple, a combination which gave a lively freshness with soft and crisp textures. A well-made Marie Rose sauce was served separately so as not to overwhelm the main ingredient. Roasted fennel added a mild aniseed note and delicately dressed leaves completed this attractively presented dish.
Ham hock and black pudding terrine was an accomplished porcine treat. Moist, succulent and well seasoned, its richness was balanced by a home-made spiced chutney of tomato and plum.
A main course of pan friend breast of local chicken wrapped in bacon was moist and packed with flavour. Spinach and Dauphinoise potatoes proved suitable accompaniments, whilst the whole dish was lifted by a rich port and chorizo reduction.
Another main course, a 10 oz Sirloin steak from the grill, was accurately timed to a medium rare and well seasoned to accentuate its flavour. It was also good to see the fat well rendered, something often neglected in lesser establishments. Triple cooked chips were a model of their kind, crunchy on the outside and soft in the centre. Roasted tomatoes, button mushrooms, and beautifully crisp onion rings and mixed leaf, completed this generously portioned main course. Only the mild pepper corn sauce, which needed more punch, stopped this dish from being perfect.
Desserts maintained the high level of cooking. Refreshing lemon and blueberry sorbets were smooth textured and balanced in acidity and sweetness.
Chocolate and fudge mousse was light and not too rich, the fudge balancing the chocolate. Homemade shortbread had a buttery richness and crisp texture.
Overall, The Ragged Cot, both in terms of quality of food and service, soars high above the average quality of food led inns. Fine Dining Guide hopes to return, possibly for an overnight stay, to maximize the opportunities for lunch, dinner and breakfast!