The Wild Duck at Ewen – Restaurant Review
The Wild Duck at Ewen
by Paul Howard
The Wild Duck is a quintessential Cotswold country inn. Dating from 1563, it is found near to the source of the River Thames, at Ewen, just three miles from Cirencester. Having recently walked along the River Thames national path from source to sea I was keen to return to this area and discover more about it — and the Wild Duck provided the ideal base for our two-night break.
The Cotswolds, much of which is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is a tourists’ delight. This unspoiled countryside is a place of soft honeyed limestone walls and ancient buildings, open skies, rolling meadows and beech woods, dotted with captivating villages and market towns. Alluring river valleys give plenty of opportunities for romantic rambles and nature watching, while the sheer variety of the terrain and miles of tracks make it a walking, cycling and horse riding dream.
We were looking to stay at a characterful and traditional English pub that would provide a friendly and relaxing atmosphere with good food and comfortable rooms — and the Wild Duck did not disappoint.
Located at one end of the tranquil village of Ewen, the Wild Duck was our gateway to exploring he Cotswolds. It seems buried in the deep countryside of a by-gone age, yet easily accessible from motorways and with direct rail links to London, Cheltenham and beyond.
“Peace and quiet”
From the outside, the Wild Duck is welcomingly picturesque, with a unique clock overlooking the entrance. By opening the imposing old oak front door and turning left you step into the delightful Post Horn Bar, a visual treat. The walls are colour-washed a deep red, twisted oak beams are festooned with hop bines and the original small rooms have been opened up by revealing their half-timber framing, so providing a spacious feel while retaining all manner of more private nooks and crannies to sit in. Rusticity is what the Wild Duck is all about; ceilings are low, floors uneven. An Elizabethan open fireplace provides cosy warmth in winter and country-style furniture complete the decor. Those with canine companions will be pleased to find it is also dog-friendly.
Being independently owned, there is plenty of real ale choice, including three beers made by their own micro-brewery. Indeed, their Duck Pond, Ewen Oil and Golden Duck ales are uniformly excellent brews. On fine afternoons and evenings the beer garden, an enclosed courtyard, offers a sunny alternative for drinking and alfresco dining. Shaded by an old apple tree, the inner walls covered in ancient wisteria, this is a verdant hideaway.
The Wild Duck has twelve en-suite bedrooms and the doubles all have four poster beds. We stayed in the Chinese Suite, a charming superior first floor double room with exposed beams and whitewashed walls, furnished to a good standard with Chinese-themed fittings including a leather sofa to sprawl on. The four-poster bed proved very comfortable and ensured a good night’s rest, as did the country silence — peace and quiet is not something you can take for granted when staying in a busy pub.
“Bursting with autumn fruit”
The food is hearty and wholesome and the dining experience is refreshingly relaxed and unstuffy. By good fortune we had arrived on Steak Night, which is a very popular mid-week promotion, as every table was occupied during the course of the evening. The offer was steaks for two and a bottle of wine (an Italian merlot) for £25.00. There is a wide choice of steaks, sauces and accompaniments plus other menu options for those feeling less carnivorous. This was of quality and value, the locally sourced meat came sizzling and rare as ordered, a watercress salad added a little pep and the service was both friendly and speedy. Just the ticket after a long drive!
There is so much to see and do in the Cotswold’s that it’s wise to have a plan. A gentle sunny evening ramble from the Wild Duck down the Thames is a must-do. It helped work up an appetite. Herons and Egrets are plentiful here and you may even spot Kingfishers darting from riverside perches. Nearby is the Cotswold Water Park, comprising some 150 lakes for outdoor recreation such as sailing, fishing and cycling. Several lakes are also established nature reserves. Setting a 10-mile radius to explore, we decided to visit some of the local market towns and villages, often reached by single tracked roads with hedgerows bursting with autumn fruit.
Cirencester and Chedworth have their Roman ruins to investigate. Nearby Bibury is one of the most beautiful and certainly one of the most photographed villages. On then to unspoilt Tetbury with the nearby Royal Gardens at Highgrove, transformed by Prince Charles into an organic haven. If you have more time, towns such as Stow-on-the-Wold, Cheltenham and Bath need no introduction. All are within easy reach for days out.
Back at the Wild Duck, the full menu for our second night’s dining comprised an eclectic collection of hearty pub favourites. Using locally sourced produce it offered plenty of choices to mull over. The meat comes from Highgrove and the fish from Brixham. In my opinion the Wild Duck should make more of such good provenance.
In flickering candlelight we sat at an old pine table enjoying the generous starters. Garlic mushroom bruschetta looked attractive on a wooden board with plenty of parmesan, fresh rocket and balsamic drizzle. Home made Thai fish cakes were delicious. For main courses, we chose two pub perennial favourites — chicken breast wrapped in Parma ham and a large portion of Scampi. Both were excellent. A bottle of bone dry and refreshing Picpoul de Pinet matched well. It also demonstrated that the wine list is thought-through. Meanwhile, fellow diners were sharing stylish mini-plates that garnered appreciative comments – Tapas in the Cotswolds. Desserts are classic British, rib-sticking and appealing – Eton Mess, sticky toffee pud and ice cream all feature. However, we opted to keep things local with excellent plates of various cheeses washed down with glasses of Ewen Oil.
In short then, the Wild Duck offers an unpretentious escape from modern life. It is also an ideal base for exploring the Cotswolds. We would have liked to have stayed longer and look forward to returning. I’ll be checking their website for special deals on rooms and food.
The Wild Duck Inn
Tel: 01285 770310