Desperately seeking a hideaway? LAURA ROWE was – and she reckons she’s found the perfect escape in this newly renovated former coaching inn at Bradford-on-Avon
We all have those days, right? When the office has been killer, the thought of cooking your own dinner is repulsive, and all you want, actually, is a quiet spot in which to hide, get good food brought to you – and then, just as swiftly, see it cleared away. I’d had one of those days. Worse than those days. And, as luck would have it, I’d booked a night at the newly refurbed Timbrell’s Yard.
The first thing that makes this place great is that it’s out of town, in Bradford-on-Avon – a 30-minute train journey from Bristol, and a mere 11 from Bath. Cue immediate shoulder drop, and relaxation mode set in. Bradford’s as pretty as Wiltshire towns come – indeed, The Sunday Times named it as one of its best places to live in the whole of Britain, thanks to its “old weavers’ cottages, magnificent merchants’ houses” and “scenic mix of one-off shops, cafés and pubs with alfresco
tables by the river”.
Timbrell’s isn’t like much else in the town, though. Having only reopened back in March, after a £1.5 million cash injection from the same people behind The Swan in Wedmore and The White Hart in Somerton, it’s a pub and then some. The chilled out drinking area – a mix of metal, wood, exposed brick, open fires and Aztec fabrics – leads through to the restaurant, an open-plan affair that wraps around the kitchen, meaning that you can see the action from most spots. I like this – no fighting for tables with pint drinkers. (They deserve their place too, after all.)
The restaurant is amazingly spacious: there’s no elbow jostling with neighbouring tables, and double-height ceilings and tall windows overlooking the river, church and lush treetops beyond give a real feeling of size.
The food is relaxed and hearty but contemporary too, taking flavour inspiration from around the globe – that would be thanks to executive chef Tom Blake (ex-River Cottage) and head chef Ricky Ford (ex-Gary Rhodes). The service, too, is pleasingly chilled, as directed by former Bath gastropub (The Chequers) GM, Jon Hutchings.
And then there are the rooms… There are currently 14, although Jon explains, as he shows us to ours, that there are already plans for an extension, such is their popularity. They are all effortlessly stylish – the Sienna Miller of bedrooms. Kate Moss without the cray cray. There’s no view, as such, through the windowframes, just a wash of green and the gentle tinkle of the water below. No phones ringing, no sirens or horns; just nature.
But back to the food – as that always helps calm me. There are ‘little things’ for £3.75 each, which we tucked into while we pondered the menu. Namely: a chorizo sausage roll with fennel seeds and an apple slaw; ‘popcorn’ (also known as lightly battered) cuttlefish with paprika mayo; and amazing cauliflower and smoked Dorset red croquettes with a truffle aioli. (For the latter, think cauliflower cheese made naughty.)
For starters proper, he, Bonnie Tyler, placed dibs on the smoked Downland ham hock terrine (£7) with a violet potato salad. Ignoring the potatoes (this variety is floury and for appearance alone, and has no place on any plate, as far as we’re concerned), the terrine was well-seasoned and partnered with crunchy piccalilli. My Dorset crab on toast (£10) was, admittedly, pricey, but tasted saline-fresh, with its lemon, fennel and rocket salad. Spot. Hit.
The one stress of the evening came in deciding mains – they all read well, from chargrilled Cornish hake with Jersey Royals, grilled spring onions and crab sauce (£18) to a Ruby Red burger with Westcombe Cheddar, truffle mayo and chips (£12.50). We settled on slow-roast pork belly and crispy smoked pig’s cheek (£18) for him, though, and herb-crusted rump of spring lamb (£17.50) for me.
The former – sticky, fatty and moreish – came with the softest potato and nettle gnocchi with roasted carrots that even root veg-hater Bonnie gobbled hungrily, along with a vibrant orange gremolata. And my dish – seriously pink and juicy on a comforting bed of fregola (that’s giant couscous), with peppery radishes, roasted cherry tomatoes, herbs and a garlicky crème fraîché sauce – was similarly devoured.
Puds weren’t perfect, but could be forgiven as they were still good. A chocolate tart (£6.50) had a sneaky layer of salted caramel between the smooth ganache and buttery pastry base, but its partner of honeycomb was just tipping over to burnt. My custard tart (£6.50), with its heady dusting of nutmeg and gorgeous buddy of stem ginger ice cream, tasted delicious but was overset – I like mine to wobble with as much cheek as you can get away with.
All-in-all, though, a refreshing little pocket of chilled-out calm with quality at its heart. Isn’t BoA lucky?
TIMBRELL’s YARD, 49 saint Margaret’s street, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire BA15 1DE; 01225 869492