Whether you want to cook or be cooked for, a trip out to Edington is well worth your while, says LAURA ROWE
There can’t be many villages where you have a cracking pub, brewery and farm shop all on your doorstep. But does Edington’s promise of good food and beer deliver? That’s the difference between attracting locals out of convenience, and encouraging the city folk to do a spot of destination dining. It’s got to be good to make you travel 40 minutes from Bath or 60 from Bristol, right?
Well, it was. Impressively so. The pub came first – 250 years ago, to be precise – and was originally called The Paulet Arms after the Lord of Edington Manor, Harry Paulet, who opened it in 1750. It was a place for weary travellers to stop for a pint and a meal on their way to Salisbury Plain. More recent passers-through will have known it as The Lamb, and in 2010 it reopened, as we see it today, as The Three Daggers (so called because of the original inn sign, and the Pauley family coat of arms).
The pub is cosy and dark – the sort of place you want to curl up in on a Sunday afternoon with a pint of ale and the supplements – and you can either eat here or round the back, where we parked, which is a touch lighter thanks to some tall windows overlooking the green.
There are three menus, if you count the fairly expansive specials board, but each sticks to the same driving principle – locally sourced ingredients cooked simply. Thankfully, the menus aren’t bogged down with the relationship status of each animal (“it’s complicated”), but the staff are happy to tell you the provenance of every single ingredient if you are interested – and if they don’t know, they pop into the kitchen to find out for you.
We dipped between the main menu and specials, although the Scotch egg and sandwich/mug-of-soup combo from the snack menu was hard to resist. Captain Annoying (yep, he’s back, and still annoying) tucked into bubble and squeak with oak-smoked streaky bacon (£6.75). The rasher was super crisp, while the potato and cabbage cake beneath groaned under the weight of a perfectly poached free-range egg and tart hollandaise sauce. It tasted good, although the squeak could have been more caramelized.
My devilled lamb kidneys (£6.25) came almost swimming in a carmine sauce, prickly with just the right amount of heat – which would have been fine had there been more of the delicious fig and walnut brioche to mop it all up, but sadly there was only a thin slice alongside yet more crispy bacon and a bed of wilting rocket. A minor quibble, though, given how well the kidneys were cooked.
In such a setting it’s hard not to have the obvious dishes – like the Three Daggers bacon and cheese burger with cucumber chutney, coleslaw and triple-cooked chips (£12.95), steak and kidney pudding (£13.75), calf’s liver and mash (£15.25) or Stokes Marsh Farm rib-eye steak with fat chips and béarnaise sauce (£21.50) – but I chose a special instead, the venison fillet (£17.95).
The naturally lean meat was rudely rare – juicy and full of flavour, the sort that makes you salivate before you even attack the beast with a knife. Its accompanying white bean purée was a bit of a let down, purely because there wasn’t enough of it – just a trendy smear – but there was plenty of the bitter chocolate sauce to take my mind off it. Vegetables were exceptionally seasonal – the cavolo nero and purple sprouting broccoli must have been some of the first out of the ground this year, and the addition of sweet chestnuts was just right.
The Captain went for ‘chicken two ways’ (£13.75), which turned out to be exceptionally tender chicken thighs that had been stuffed with spring onions and ginger, and sticky, sweet chicken wings. (You don’t get to make meat that juicy without knowing what you’re doing. Clever chef.)
The fondant potato was a bit bland for us, but a molten bowl of macaroni cheese (£4.50) on the side more than filled our carb quota for the day. Unlike many a traditional mac ’n’ cheese, this dish was not laced with cream, but had instead been made with a blend of Coastal Cheddar, Bath Blue, stock, mushroom ketchup and then finished with cream cheese. The result was definitely lighter and less hip-sticking than the sort I make at home, but whether or not that is a good thing you will have to judge.
I could have easily skipped dessert – I’m starting to think my current near-daily three courses for lunch is a tad decadent – but not once I’d seen the menu. Cap’s roly-poly pudding (£5.50) with vanilla custard was one of the best examples of the classic English dessert I have ever tried – a proper crust giving way to a soft, sugar sponge and tart jam, all topped with an ambrosial vanilla custard. I half expected Samuel Whiskers to poke his head above the kitchen window in proud appreciation. And my new-season rhubarb tart (£5.50) felt properly homemade – puff pastry topped with sweetly sour rhubarb and sweetened marscapone.
On the way out, the farm shop across the car park, opened last April, has such a great range of fruit, veg, wine, ales and Easter eggs that I could easily have stocked the fridge for a week. A great pub, with a homely menu and an exceptional farm shop and brewery. Told you it was worth travelling for.
✱ THE THREE DAGGERS, 47 Westbury Road, Edington, Wiltshire BA13 4PG; 01380 830940; www.threedaggers.co.uk