The Five Alls
Filkins, near Lechlade,
In a long-ago article on the Five Alls at Filkins I noted that there were two pictures in the pub that explained the origin of its unusual but by no means unique name. Both contained the heads of five figures. One placed Queen Victoria at its centre (“I govern all”), flanked by a lawyer, a parson, a soldier, and a farmer, declaring respectively “I plead for all”, “I pray for all”, “I fight for all” and “I pay for all”.
In the other, the Queen is replaced by the devil — “I take all”.
It is the second version which, from a different artist’s hand, now adorns the sign swinging outside this ancient Cotswold stone pub. The pictures both appear to have disappeared in the various renovations down the years, the latest accomplished by the interior designer Miranda Snow for her brother Sebastian who with wife Lana has since last autumn had charge of this very attractive Oxfordshire hostelry which is a new addition in the Waitrose Good Food Guide, fresh out this week.
The team are celebrating their first anniversary in Filkins with a harvest festival at the pub from 11am to 6pm this Saturday, giving opportunity to sample and buy produce from some of the Cotswolds’ highest quality food and drink heroes, alongside local artisan exhibitors keen to share the story of their products.
Until the move, Sebastian had for four years worked over the county border at The Swan in Southrop, where his chefing gained the gastropub the accolade of Good Food Guide’s 2010 Restaurant of the Year. It was here he perfected his Italian-inspired ‘turf to table’ dishes, making use of the best fresh, locally sourced produce. This style of cooking (Sebastian has an Italian mother) now continues at the Five Alls.
Before the Swan, Sebastian and Lana had run their own London restaurant, the acclaimed Snows on the Green in Hammersmith. “We have never looked back since leaving London,” says Sebastian. “It was the best move we ever made.”
Visiting the Five Alls on a recent Wednesday night, Rosemarie and I were able to make a preliminary assessment of its popularity (a correct one) from the crowded state of the car park. Stepping into its classic bar, we passed through a comfortable lounge area (where a serrano ham mounted on a sideboard awaited the attentions of its carver) and on towards our corner table in the room beyond. Seated here at our stately ‘grandfather-style’ armed chairs we surveyed with approval the blend of colourful rugs, pictures and antique furnishings Miranda has fashioned into such a pleasing whole. Lots of candles and crisp white linen napery add to the impression of things properly done. The courteous attentions of manager John add to the feelgood factor, since these extend, on this muggy night, to the swift delivery of cooling aperitifs: gin and tonic (Hendrick’s naturally) for Rosemarie and dry sherry (best-selling Tio Pepe). Now for grub!
Before describing what we ate, I shall mention some of the impressive number of starters (15) and main courses (11) on the menu that night. Among the former were gazpacho, a crayfish avocado and cucumber cocktail, a salad of rocket, charantais melon, speck and parmesan shavings and globe artichoke with dijon mustard vinaigrette, a retro dish indeed which bought back memories of the 1970s as I watched an example being tackled on the other side of the room. So did the baked Alaska delivered to the table next to us.
Among the main courses I noted cracked belly of Kelmscott pork (hard to get more local than that!), roast teriyaki of creedy carver duck breast, roast new season chump of lamb, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties.
More by accident than design, I selected a pair of dishes Italian in style — a double whammy of pasta, indeed — while Rosemarie successfully sought out more British influence. She began with potted shrimps, a dish forever associated with the seaside and, specifically with Morecambe, where royal warrant holders Baxters have been making them since 1799. She judged them excellent.
I began with one of the two dishes (the other was a goat’s cheese tart) that could have been ordered either as a starter or a larger main course. This was crab, chilli, garlic and parsley linguini with pangretto, the last ingredient (breadcrumbs) introducing a welcome crunch into the otherwise smooth texture of the dish. A certain ‘afterburn’ suggested an element of chilli, too. In quantity, it was so generous that I marvelled how anyone could possibly require a larger main.
To continue I ordered fricassee of rabbit, a delicious and healthy meat that features too little on restaurant menus. It came in tender bite-size chunks with girolles mushrooms, fava beans, tarragon, baby leeks and taglionlini. Perfect!
For Rosemarie, there were two fillets of skillet-roasted plaice, served with brown butter, capers, spinach and a mini ‘bucket’ of chips. The Five Alls has daily deliveries of fish from Looe in Cornwall. Its freshness is evident.
We drank, with great enjoyment, the French house white wine, a light and zippy number made from a blend of grenache blanc, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay grapes.
Inspired by the earlier sighting, Rosemarie chose the baked alaska for pudding and was astonished (but should she have been?) by the sweetness of this meringue and ice-cream confection. Naughty but nice.
I passed on forther food, bringing this excellent meal to an end with a cup of decaffeinated coffee.
And how else to finish this piece but to say: That’s all.
Opening times: Mon-Thurs noon-2.30pm, 6-9.30pm. Fri-Sun noon-3pm, 6-10pm (no dinner Sun). Bar noon-11pm (9pm Sun).
Parking: Yes: on site.
Key personnel: Owner and chef Sebastian Snow with wife Lana front of house.
Make sure you try... potted shrimps (£7), gazpacho (£6.75), crab, chilli and garlic linguine (£8/ £13.95), rabbit fricassee (£18), roast lamb chump (£15), skillet roast plaice (£16) baked alaska (£6.50) and apple tarte tatin (£7). Bar menu: serrano ham (£5), devilled kidneys (£5.50), fish and chips (£13.50).
In ten words: Classic comforts and imaginative dishes make this a special experience.