Christopher Gray enjoys some robust and tasty food at The Plough in the lovely village of Kelmscott

The village of Kelmscott has long been a place of pilgrimage for admirers of the Victorian designer, craftsman and poet William Morris who lived in its manor house from 1871 until 1896.

He called Kelmscott “a heaven on earth” and who are we to disagree?

On matters of interior design he famously observed: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

That said, I fancy he might have regarded with approval the tasteful renovation in simple rustic style by Lana and Sebastian Snow at the 17th-century village pub, The Plough, which they bought in March.

It is a place I have known since the 1970s. When I last wrote about it in 1991, the pub had been renamed the Kelmscott Inn and was run by a couple previously in business offering holidays in horse-drawn caravans.

The Snows are well-known on the county’s restaurant scene. The Five Alls, their upmarket operation in nearby Filkins, hits the spot for a celebrity clientele that includes Kate Moss (she lives nearby) and the local MP, David Cameron.

I first experienced Sebastian’s skills in the kitchen when he had charge of the Swan at Southrop, which was the Good Food Guide’s Restaurant of the Year in 2010. Before that, the Snows ran Snows on the Green in Hammersmith.

As Sebastian said in an article for Weekend, the aim at The Plough is for a more traditional, pubbier approach than at Filkins, “so we are not competing with ourselves”.

How well they are succeeding was at once apparent to Rosemarie and me on a first visit for a midweek lunch. The day was a Wednesday, when the manor is open, and The Plough was full inside and out.Sensibly, we had reserved a table in the restaurant whither we were speedily conducted. Not so fast, though, that we didn’t have chance to observe the cosiness of the bar, and note hand pumps supplying three beers (Doom Bar, Butcombe Bitter, and the Plough’s own beer brewed by Hook Norton).

From one of the tables rose the appetising, unmistakeable aroma of devilled lamb’s kidneys, readying the taste buds for what was to come from chef Matt Read’s kitchen.

Both a bar and restaurant menu are operated, with customers welcome to choose from both.

The first features snacks like devils on horseback, hogs pudding scotch eggs and half a pint of prawns, sandwiches, burgers and ploughman’s lunches, and such specials as Caesar salad, Kelmscott sausages and mash and cottage pie with peas.

From the second, you might start with pressed venison terrine or onion, sage and cheese tart, continue with plaice goujons, lamb hot pot or crisp duck leg, and finish with blackcurrant gin and tonic sorbet, chilled rice pudding or white chocolate cheesecake.

We saw quickly what we fancied, and were able to give waiter George our order in minutes of sitting down. By then we were already tucking into the home-baked brown bread with treacle crust.

My starter of dressed Cornish crab proved excellent. There was lots of it, beautifully fresh, and served on toast with slices of ripe avocado beneath.

The Oxford Times:

  • Tasteful renovation: William Morris might have approved of the look

For Rosemarie there was a large bowl of juicy Fowey mussels in a wonderful broth of West Country cider, tarragon and leeks. Though this was the smaller £7 version of the dish, the quantity was more than generous. The size of the £13 version (with chips) could only be guessed at.

I supplied assistance, though knowing mussels were a principal ingredient (with monkfish, salmon and samphire) in the fish stew to follow, which was enlivened by garlic croutons and the delicious tang of sage.

Rosemarie ate a succulent pie of chicken and bacon, heavily flavoured with tarragon, with a single shrimp peeping out of the all-embracing shortcrust pastry as the fish do in starry gazey pie.

She finished with a gooey chocolate pot, while I had three cheeses (Cornish yarg, Reblochon-like Baronet and Royal Basset Blue, with oat biscuits featuring, I guessed, more of that treacle.

We drank the perky house white. Just fine.

THE DETAILS
The Plough, Kelmscott, Lechlade, GL7 3HG. 01367 253543
theploughinnkelmscott.com

Food served: Mon-Thurs, noon-2.30pm, 6-9.30pm; Fri/Sat noon-3pm, 6-10pm; Sun noon-7pm.
The people: Owners Sebastian and Lana Snow, chefs Sebastian and Matt Read, manager Tileri Charles-Jones
Do try: dressed Cornish crab with avocado (£7.50), Fowey mussels in cider (£7), monkfish, salmon and mussel stew (£18), chicken and shrimp pie (£16), three cheeses with oat biscuits (£8) and chocolate pot (£6).