Eating Out: Slow trip to paradise

MARSH GOOSE; High Street, Moreton-in-Marsh GL56 0AX. Tel: 01608 652111. Open Tue-Sun 12.30-2.30pm; Tue-Sat 7.30-9.45pm. Three-course set lunch pounds 14; average a la carte lunch pounds 25; three-course set dinner pounds 26.50. Credit cards accepted

They've Got the quaint towns, we've got the better countryside. Well, that's what we like to think when we contemplate the Cotswolds from our neighbouring patch on the Northamptonshire/Warwickshire border. As it was, countryside paled into muddy insignificance as the rain chucked it down and junior grizzled. Bad ear infection, the doctor said one sleepless night later, which made me feel horribly guilty about dragging him out to a lunch which he patently didn't want to go to. Still, on a miserable morning, the prospect of a trip to a charming Cotswold town and a fine lunch to boot, is more tempting than the thought of trekking around Tesco. Junior had to lump it, poor little mite.

Off we went in family convoy, granny soon forging ahead. Even in a downpour, the high street of Moreton-in-Marsh is still as pretty as a rain-sodden picture. Even more attractive is the warmth that greets you as you step into the Marsh Goose. The walls inside are a soothing cream to match the bare stone and the objets d'art scattered around are pleasing eclectic, ranging from a fetching iron chicken with "a hairbrush on its bottom" (description courtesy of junior, by now in better form after a sleep and a slug of Calpol) via handsome wall-strung kilim, to reassuring pictures of fruit and vegetables. Rooms lead one into another, giving an impression of space and airiness to what must have been a series of small dark rooms. A log fire crackles in the central space, inviting the chilled arrivals to huddle in well-padded armchairs and sofas. Here we found granny, grinning from ear to ear, having been admirably cosseted while she waited.

This is no dull, old fashioned, Olde Englande sort of hang out. Sonia Kidney (you can't get a much better name for a chef than that) knows how to conjure up a fine combination of foods in what is entirely her own style. Where else would you find "chump of lamb with vanilla, tomato and chervil sauce", "sauteed duck livers with creamed celeriac and aubergine crisps" or indeed the most unexpected "casserole of lambs' kidneys, chorizo sausage and noisette potatoes"? And that last dish is just what I ordered for my first course without a moment's hesitation.

A fabulous combination, it turned out to be too; tender kidneys, excellent spicy chorizo as counterbalance, tiny, melting browned little balls of potato, all bathed in the kind of rich, dark jus that is a pain to create at home. My mother-in-law, who had gamely taken the dishes that I didn't order from the set menu (brilliant value at pounds 14 for three courses), started with a cool mound of smoked haddock layered with lightly spiced tomato and avocado, and topped with tiny, softly poached quails' eggs. Meanwhile, William came up trumps with the perfectly fired scallops, fat and sweet caramelised brown on the exterior, still juicily semi-raw but warm at the centre, served with a diamond of Parmesan-laden grilled polenta, voluptuous strips of roast red pepper and a suitably salty dark black olive dressing. The healthy child loved her cauliflower and rosemary soup, strange companions, I thought, verging on the edge of incompatibility, though not an opinion shared by my daughter.

Our main courses arrived almost an hour and a half after we arrived at the restaurant. This is not the place to come if you are after a swift repast, or even one of average duration. Granny was eventually placated with a lovely stew of veal, zipped into life, as veal needs to be, with a zestful olive, tomato and tarragon sauce. The olive oil mash went well with it, though I have to say I think mash needs butter, and olive oil is a modern affectation that doesn't bring out the best in a pureed potato.

I shouldn't dwell on it, since I was more occupied with my cod, nicely cooked though the skin might have been crisper, served on a sharp aubergine and spring onion ragout. The tartness came from shakes of balsamic vinegar, the flesh of the aubergine stained even darker with the aid of salty soy sauce. It worked well with the mild cod, as a sort of relish, though on its own it bowled in with too much acidity. The resistance of the mess of greens (Brussels tops, were they, or wintry spring greens?) was a bold touch to set against the softness of fish and aubergine. William's brill was slightly overdone, but the anchovy butter sauce and herb crust made up for that four fold.

On a previous visit to the Marsh Goose, I'd been quite knocked out by Sonia Kidney's Pear and Frangipane tart - up there with the gods, I thought - so my choice of pudding was inevitable. It was as good as I'd remembered, with divinely melting, crisp, thin pastry and heavenly tender, fragrant almond filling animated with thin slices of soft, grainy pear. William is a sucker for sticky toffee pudding and pronounced it everything a good sticky toffee pudding should be. Two devastatingly rich white and dark chocolate terrines were devoured by the oldest and youngest members of the party.

Sonia Kidney is very good at puddings. Well, she's pretty good at most things culinary. Still, if you wanted to cut the length of time you spend here, you could skip the last course and make a beeline to the Marsh Goose's small shop next door. It is mainly stocked with useful and/or snazzy kitchen equipment, but also does a nice line in wicked tarts and puddings to take away (not to mention an excellent selection of wines). The empire doesn't stop there, either. If you want a less formal setting for the Kidney delights, then head a few miles further on to Paxford, where they've taken over the pub to great local acclaim. If anyone can lift the standards of pub food, this team certainly can. Let's just hope you don't have to wait half an hour for every pint.

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power