Bring me warmth any day, that feeling of being wrapped up in a cosy blanket, armed with a hot water bottle and a hot chocolate.
As we made our way to Ye Olde Dun Cow in Colton, near Rugeley, on a cold, autumnal evening, I was hoping that such a visit would leave me with a warm glow inside.
The interior was certainly homely with beams on the ceiling, old brickwork, traditional pictures on the wall and a warm bar area.
Staff were also courteous, offering a warm welcome as we were taken to our seats.
Having ordered drinks, we looked inquisitively at the menu which offers one course for £14, two for £20 and three for £25. There are additional supplements on certain dishes.
For starters, I was both tempted and intrigued by ‘Dun Cow Smokies’ which were flaked smoked haddock in a creamy cheese sauce, topped with mashed potato.
But in the end, I was swayed by the specials board, which had king prawns in a garlic and parsley butter sauce.
The prawns were beautifully cooked, rich in flavour with moist, medium-firm flesh.
They were perfectly complemented by the buttery sauce and, to top things off, the dish came with three pieces of bread which meant I was able to mop up some of the remaining delicious flavours on the plate.
My dining partner, Amy, decided to choose a seasonal special and plumped for the pear and parsnip soup, which was served with a hearty piece of fresh bread. It may sound like an odd combination, but it’s working on the principle that if it grows together, it goes together.
The parsnip makes for a beautiful creamy texture and the flavour tempers the sweetness of the pear perfectly to stop it ending up too saccharine – even if you don’t think you like parsnips, it is worth trying this if you find it on the specials board as I think you would be surprised how nice it can be.
The mains offered a variety of options but I was keen to enjoy a warming dish which reflected the time of year.
I opted for an ‘open’ chicken, smoked bacon and mushroom pie, which was topped with puff pastry.
This ‘deconstructed’ pie was a real crowd pleaser because, where pies are concerned, I am not a massive pastry fan and am all about the filling.
I was not disappointed as I enjoyed large chunks of chicken in a creamy sauce where the smokiness of the bacon really came through.
The pastry on top was perfect and my meal was complimented by delicious chips and a well presented dressed house salad.
Despite being a meat eater, and in spite of the steady stream of beer battered fish being swept past our table, my partner wanted to try the roasted butternut squash for the main.
This was a hearty meal, with half a butternut squash stuffed with spinach and roasted vegetables, topped with a tomato and chilli sauce. That added kick of chilli meant this dish was warming on a dark autumn night. The sauce complemented the butternut squash so well that you certainly didn’t miss the meat.
The meal came with a side of salad or vegetables (she chose a salad thinking it would be lighter but ended up with an extremely generous portion that could almost have been a meal in itself), and a choice of buttered new potatoes or chips (she opted for comforting buttered new potatoes).
This was an excellent and filling vegan meal, and Ye Olde Dun Cow does have some good vegetarian and vegan options on the menu.
Other offerings include homemade broccoli and stilton tart served with a cheese sauce, while you can also order butternut squash, spinach, chick pea and coconut curry, served with boiled rice.
By this stage, I felt more than satisfied with my evening’s meal but, well, you have to make room for a pudding don’t you?
Options included glazed lemon tart, served with a mixed berry compote and Baileys crème brulee, served with shortbread biscuits.
I might have resisted temptation had I not seen a mixed berry cheesecake delivered to another table in the room.
This was off the specials board and it came neatly presented, along with a small jug of cream and sugary coating.
The cheesecake was light and fluffy, melting in the mouth and the biscuit base added to the wonderful textures on the plate. Although I was already feeling full prior to eating dessert, the cheesecake didn’t remain on my plate for too long.
Everyone loves a crumble, and Amy is no exception. There is debate about the texture though – should it be all crumbly and crunchy, or should there be a bit that soaks up the juices and goes a little soggy too?
If you’re on team crunchy, Ye Old Dun Cow will get your vote.
To round off the seasonal theme, she opted to have the apple and plum crumble, which was served with a vanilla ice cream made down the road in Barton. The fruit was piled high and retained its texture while still being immersed in a jammy compote.
There was a slight seasonal spice to the fruit – she said it was ‘like eating autumn’.
That summed up the evening for me – food that was warm, homely and hearty, perfect for the season, but it also had a touch of elegance about it and dishes were presented well.
What was also interesting about our visit was that, spurred on by the popularity of a temporary shop over the lockdown of 2020, the hotel now has The Cowshed – a fully functioning village country shop – adjacent to their premises.
This is stocked with everyday essentials including fresh bread, fruit and veg as well as store cupboard staples and those extra special treats such as chutneys, biscuits, beer, wine and chocolate.
It means Ye Olde Dun Cow is a real teaser – enticing you inside with delicious, wholesome food and then showing even more tantalizing offerings on the outside – the perfect way to stock up for the winter.