Not for the first time in recent weeks we found ourselves eating at a different location to the one originally intended. After initially making our way to a recently re-opened pub we were told there would be a 45 minute wait for food, this wasn’t a major issue so we settled down with a pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord and a glass of Rosé. After the 45 minutes had expired we were told that we had at least another 20 minutes to wait so we made the decision to jump into the car and head over to the Boot Inn in the nearby village of Shipton Bellinger.
As we walked through the porch and into the pub, a plaque above the reception area next to the bar caught our eye. It read “Arrive as strangers, leave as friends”. A trifle clichéd perhaps but based on our experience pretty close to the truth.
Midway through our drink at the bar we were taken through and shown to our seats. Low lighting produced by imitation candle lights made for an intimate setting at the table. The food choice here is massive – there were not one, not two but THREE menus to pore over. The regular menu is itself physically large and awkward to handle when there’s one each, drinks and a comparatively small table. On top of that we were given another, thankfully smaller, menu consisting of the Chef’s Steaks and Specialities from the grill. Just when you think the decision on what to have is going to be hard enough they chuck in the daily specials board for good measure!
We ordered our starters and mains and when I asked my partner if she would like any sides the waitress told us with what we’d ordered we wouldn’t need any. I loved the waitress’s honesty but in hindsight this should have set the alarm bells ringing given that neither of us could be considered trenchermen!
A sizzling platter of King Prawns and Chorizo Sausage signalled the arrival of the starters. Hot in both senses of the word, the prawns were cooked to perfection, accompanied by a mixture of peppers and onions with the chorizo sausage adding its signature smokiness.
The soup of the day, Cauliflower and Stilton, was my choice of starter. Mostly smooth apart from a few florets of cauliflower, the soup packed the familiar intense taste of stilton but a more concentrated flavour of cauliflower would have brought a better balance to the dish. Still not a bad effort by any means.
My main course of Moroccan Lamb was one of the daily specials. I’ll say this straight away – there was A LOT of food here. So much so, that when I had reached my limit, I was asked if I would like to take the rest home. I duly obliged and it was enjoyed as a snack the following day. The fact I was prepared to take it home should speak volumes. The lamb was cooked so well it made my knife pretty much redundant as it fell through each slice. Surrounded by a wonderful selection of vegetables and Moroccan potatoes the dish was crammed full of flavour and a great example of hearty home cooked comfort food.
Chicken Fajitas were the choice of main for my partner. I think it’s fair to say that the guys at The Boot are not in the slightest bit parsimonious when it comes to portion sizes. A sizzling platter of chicken and peppers arrived at the table, quickly followed by a plate that held two tortilla wraps, cheese, a cucumber, tomato and an array of leaves plus the traditional accompanying sauces of guacamole and sour cream. Either more wraps or less filling may have been a good idea, the amount of filling and lack of wraps lead to some rather messy, undignified eating.
For the first time in a very long while I declined dessert, even after I was again given the option to have it to take away. The fact that they suggest the option of take food away and have suitable containers readily available suggests that it could be a regular occurrence. If this is the case then it’s probably due to their portion sizes and may not be needed if they were slightly smaller. My partner spotted one dessert in particular, the Jaffa Cake Cheesecake, although we saved it until well into the next day before we felt able to consume it. The cheesecake itself was a delight, a superb buttery biscuit base topped with a beautiful, silky smooth cream cheese. If it had been left there and just served as a Cheesecake all would have been well, very well in fact. Unfortunately, the addition of the words ‘Jaffa’ and ‘Cake’ made it slightly less impressive than it should have been. A few pieces of Jaffa Cake scattered on top and not a lot after that left me with the taste of disappointment in my mouth. A shame as it had started out so well.
At £71 for a meal that didn’t include a dessert for myself, 5 other courses that for the most part were just good pub grub and 2 glasses of wine, it seems a little over-priced. The staff are truly wonderful and I make no bones about that. Our experience wasn’t bad but on this occasion at least the food was massively outshone by the service.