Pot Kiln Frilsham, near Yattendon, Berkshire

Just down the road from Kate Middleton's family home lies this charming inn. But is it fit for a princess?

This is Middleton Country. Our future Queen Catherine was raised in little Bucklebury, three miles south of Frilsham, the village to which the Pot Kiln is a glorious appendage. The pub perches on a spot slightly elevated from the unfolding Berkshire plains all around, and even under loaded, grey skies, greets the eye as a sudden burst of terracotta at the end of a long and curling country-track approach.

It was erected more than three centuries ago as a drinking hole for toiling labourers in surrounding fields, and even now a phalanx of thirsty locals belch at the bar like minor royalty. Outside, dogs chase phantoms, and the charmingly weathered brick walls lining the garden and entrance were fired with clay dug from the pub's entrance. That firing took place in the kiln, now converted into a brewery adjacent to the pub, providing four Berkshire ales on tap. It's all effortlessly idyllic – no wonder the Middletons moved in.

And the Robinsons, for that matter. Michael and Kate Robinson took over this ailing institution five years ago and have transformed it excellently. Mr Robinson has acquired a modicum of fame on television (Saturday Kitchen et al) and is also responsible for a local cookery school, extensive food writing, a DIY hunting DVD, and the sudden improvement in the now Michelin-starred Harwood Arms in Fulham, south-west London.

On the Saturday lunchtime we turn up, this venture is full of young, Barboured families, all conforming to the Middleton Country uniform of being brunette: only one waiter, a lacrosse-thin blond who is a dead ringer for a young Michael York, joins me in defying the prevailing orthodoxy. All the other waiters seem to be 18-year-old males whose untucked white shirts, black jeans and jumpers, invite comparison with walking chessboards. Posh and charming, their service is basically unimprovable.

Boastful taxidermy aside – mounted deer stalk two walls – the interior is simple and confident. Low ceilings, pine tables and peachy orange walls make for a cosy main-room. Stemless Riedel wine glasses and designer silverware convey an understated but rigorous attention to detail. As does the menu, which is short, gamey and autumnal.

At £15.95, the sharing platter is £2 too much, not least because it has two significant flaws: the small portions of smoked grouse breast have a strong flavour but are too dry; and, more inexcusably, the rabbit-and-thyme croquettes are closer to lukewarm than piping hot. Too close, that is – and the thyme is so subdued as to seem irrelevant. Elsewhere on the platter, a ham-hock-and-sage terrine is fabulously biteable, and goes well with a coarse mustard mayo. The spiced apple-and-pear purée is smooth and full-bodied. But the highlight is a superbly griddled ox tongue – smoky in places, and oozing sweet meaty flavour.

A very good Merlot (£5.50) goes well with the exquisitely cooked breast and leg of Berkshire mallard (£16.50), which arrives with griottine cherries – wild Morello cherries macerated in Kirsch liqueur – and sautéed potatoes, which are peppery, soft and eagerly receptive to the generous flavour elsewhere on the plate.

My companion has a venison T-bone steak, one of Mr Robinson's weekly catch; he shoots most of the venison, while sourcing other meats locally. It comes with a stunning horseradish purée and juicy savoy cabbage, a brilliant plateful.

The final triumph is an exceptionally flavoursome rosehip ice-cream, with rosehip syrup and crunchy, buttery almond biscuits (£5.95). The union of contrasting textures and the floral but toffee-like flavour of the ice-cream are magnificent, and enhanced by a pungent Monbazillac dessert wine (2001, £7).

That is good value. But the cheeseboard, £8.95 for a smooth Exmoor Jersey blue, Sussex crumble (pale and hard), and Wigmore (velvety, rich and made from ewe's milk) is, again, just a little too much for a little too little. I therefore humbly submit a thought on pricing for the owners' consideration: this venue could go from superb country pub to contender for the best such institution in England if it were 10 per cent cheaper. I know you're on tight margins, but such a cut would have the punters streaming in. Until then, here's to you, Mr and Mrs Robinson.


Scores: 1-2 stay home and cook, 4 needs help, 5 does the job, 6 flashes of promise, 7 good, 8 special, can't wait to go back, 9-10 as good as it gets

Pot Kiln Frilsham, near Yattendon, Berkshire, tel: 01635 201 366

Lunch and dinner Weds-Mon; closed Tues. Meal for two with six glasses of wine, £130 including dessert and cheese

More posh country pubs

Yorke Arms

Ramsgill-in-Nidderdale, Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire, tel: 01423 755 243

A picture-perfect village in the Yorkshire Dales provides the setting for Frances & Gerald Atkins' faultless country inn with fabulous food

The Old Passage

Passage Road, Arlingham, Gloucestershire, tel: 01452 740 547

It's not just the marvellous setting on the banks of the River Severn that makes it worth seeking out this amazing inn – its speciality, seafood, is some of the finest in the country


Combe Hay, Bath, Somerset, tel: 01225 833 504

This 18th-century inn-with-rooms, set in glorious countryside 10 minutes from the city centre, has spot-on locally sourced food

Reviews extracted from 'Harden's London and UK Restaurant Guides 2010' www.hardens.com

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition