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Review: Chequers Inn, Ettington

This 18th century village gastropub is known locally for its hearty fare and elevated pub classics - but what did Muddy think when we stopped by?

THE LOWDOWN

The Chequers Inn sits unassumingly back from the main road running through Ettington, where it’s been since the 18th century. Blink and you’ll miss it – but trust me you’d be missing out. When I arrive on a Friday evening during summer the car park is busy and there’s a steady stream of punters heading through the door – most with their dogs in tow. It’s a pub and restaurant, but there’s definitely more of a casual pub vibe here – albeit done up to a glossy, high standard.

THE VIBE

Inside isn’t huge, with seating for just 38 diners. But there’s also a bar area which seemed popular. It had a cosy feel with a mix of large groups and couples alike, but managed to not feel like everyone had been crammed in – a hard nut to crack.

The interior is charming and botanical-themed with plants everywhere – including the artwork and chair upholstery. Its got a rustic vibe with real wood floors and tables but has that understated Instagrammable chic which so many places try and fail to to achieve.

Outside there’s an absolutely lush pub garden, one of the best I’ve seen (here’s some more I love). It’s huge with loads of different seating areas, from little huts, benches under fairy-lit heated pergolas and separate tables under umbrellas too. There’s ivy winding around the gardens and pretty plants throughout – well worth a shot or two for the ‘gram.

SCOFF & QUAFF

The menu is a simple affair full of elevated pub classics. Expect battered fish, stone-baked pizza, game pie, Sunday lunch, all executed to a high (but unpretentious) standard. Options centre around local ingredients, and change with the seasons.

The drinks menu is the polar opposite, brimming with choice especially when it comes to the spirits. It was great to see some local options like Cotswold Whiskey and Purity ale on there too. There’s a great little cocktail menu but I went for the recommended wine choice of a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – though was intrigued by the description of ‘underlying notes of wet stone and thyme’. Having never tried wet stone, I can confirm it is absolute delicious, definitely order a bottle (or two) when you go.

To start I went for seared tuna served with spring onion and radish salad with a sesame and chilli dressing (£8.50). It was light and moreish with a huge piece of tuna which had been cooked perfectly pink in the middle, just how I like it.

The ham hock, smoked cheddar and caramelised red onion croquettes (£8) were a hearty affair and served with a spicy chorizo and red lentil dip which complimented it really well.

Choices for mains weren’t vast which I liked because sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming. The menu was simple and to the point, but I’d already made my mind up before I got here after hearing rave reviews about the pizzas. Handmade Italian thin crust, with pepperoni and jalapeños – I’m a bit of a chilli head but these were hot! There was a really decadent amount of cheese on top – who’s going to complain about that – and the toppings were plentiful and hidden underneath. It was absolutely huge and I only managed about a quarter, luckily our very helpful waitress packaged the rest up for later for me.

The spiced lamb shoulder with saffron pilau rice and mint yoghurt (£23) was like a really fancy curry – one of us had to have an ‘adult’ meal after I ordered pizza….! The lamb was perfectly spiced and just fell apart. The homemade mint yoghurt was a welcome addition too.

We were both so full after dinner we went to enjoy our drinks outside and have a look at the dessert menu there. It was nearly 9pm but still really busy and people were still turning up – testament to what a great little boozer The Chequers is. So many are closed by that point nowadays.

The waitress recommended the tiramisu so we decided to share pud along with the dessert wine – a Garonelles Saturnes, Lucien Lurton. It was the perfect tonic after a perfect meal. Unctuous and rich but without being really heavy. To be honest, I could go back just for that, an absolute triumph.

OUT & ABOUT

Nearby is Armscote Manor, a 17th Century manor house and celebrated garden, or If you fancy flying the nest there are dozens of beautiful, quaint Warwickshire and Cotswolds villages on your doorstep. They include Admington, Ilmington, Larkstoke, Blackwell, Newbold-on-Stour, Bourton-on-the-Water, Moreton-in-Marsh, Broadway, Stow-on-the-Wold and Chipping Campden. 

Culture-vultures will enjoy Stratford-upon-Avon with five of Shakespeare’s family homes, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and boating on the river to explore. Nearby Shipston-on-Stour, a former working wool town, still retains much of its traditional charm and is home to Cotwolds Distillery where you can go on gin and whisky tasting tours.

There’s lots for nature-loving families to do – Stratford Butterfly FarmHatton Adventure Worldnr Warwick, BirdlandCotswold Wildlife Park and Cotswolds Farm Park, home of Countryfile presenter Adam Henson and Batsford Abortorium.  Heritage fans will love Warwick Castle, English Heritage-run Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan GardensRagley Hall and two nearby National Trust attractions  – Hidcote gardens and Snowshill Manor with its Arts and Crafts terraced garden.

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