Country dining in style

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After an impressive makeover, The Meynell Ingram Arms at Hoar Cross has become a gastropub on the rise, as Amy Norbury discovered

The Meynell lngram Arms is undergoing something of a renaissance. After half a decade in the doldrums, the once-popular country inn was given a new lease of life when it was taken over by Berkeley Inns, underwent a serious makeover and reopened to great acclaim in May 2019.

Nestled in the picturesque village of Hoar Cross – and counting luxury spa giant Hoar Cross Hall as a near neighbour – the pub has become something of a destination for diners and drinkers looking for anything from a quick tipple after work to a full-blown celebratory meal.

The Meynell’s meteoric rise from the ashes saw it named as Newcomer of the Year at this year’s prestigious Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropub awards, with the judging panel naming the pub a ‘fantastic newcomer to the gastropub world’, which ‘opened with a bang and has continued to wow visitors with its menu and drinks offer’.

Part of The Meynell’s appeal is the range of different experiences a visitor can have under one roof.

The main bar offers a traditional, cosy country pub space, perfect for a country walk pit stop; think open fires, tiled floor, wooden tables and a homely atmosphere.

But venture into the main restaurant and it’s a different story. This beautifully designed space offers a stylish and elegant place to dine, ideal for a date night with your other half, or a special occasion dinner.

Over in Sam’s Bar, it’s gin serves and cocktails aplenty, while the stunning courtyard offers al fresco dining, including private garden pods with cosy seating, which are wired for sound and scream ‘girls’ night out’.

The Meynall offers seasonal dishes.

My colleague and I were invited to sample The Meynell’s bountiful offerings for ourselves, arriving on an impressively busy midweek evening to find the car park packed and the courtyard buzzing.

With fiery heaters creating a toasty warmth whatever the weather, and pretty festoon lighting illuminating the stylish space, it’s no wonder that The Meynell placed in The Times’ roundup of the best UK pubs for outdoor seating and beer gardens.

We made our way inside, and were shown to our cosy table in the main restaurant.

A pre-dinner raspberry gin fizz cocktail – a heady combination of raspberry gin, raspberry syrup and Prosecco – from the extensive cocktail menu went down a treat as we examined the food choices.

As a gluten-free diner, my colleague found she had enough choice, although she was mildly disappointed that there was no gluten-free base option for the pizzas.

To start, I opted for the heritage tomato and mozzarella salad, with prosciutto, herb croutes, avocado and a balsamic dressing, £7.50. A classic combination of flavours, it was a light yet satisfying start to the meal.

My colleague was impressed with her Hebridean smoked salmon and king prawn cocktail with gluten-free bread, £9.50. Fat, juicy king prawns slathered in a tasty Marie Rose sauce, alongside thick slices of punchy salmon and ribbons of crisp little gem lettuce made for an elegant take on a retro classic.

We also shared a delicious portion of – happily gluten-free – halloumi fries with garlic mayo, £4.90.

Onto the main event, and I was won over by the corn-fed Normandy chicken breast with homemade macaroni cheese, baked mushroom and leek, £14.90.

The main restaurant.

Now, when it comes to comfort food, macaroni cheese is right up there for me; unfortunately I’m the only one in my house with that opinion so it’s not something which features on our dinner repertoire at home. Happily, The Meynell’s mac and cheese really hit the spot, with al dente pasta bound in unctuous, gooey cheese sauce and seasoned to perfection. The chicken was also well-cooked, moist and tender; it was certainly a hearty plateful.

My colleague’s gluten-free version of the chargrilled chicken burger, £12.90, was piled with crispy bacon, brie, avocado and sweet chilli dressing and accompanied by chunky chips and house slaw. Another generous portion, it was a pleasing offering with a good balance of flavours.

A side of seasonal vegetables, £3.50, ordered under the pretence of being a bit healthy, was a well-cooked and varied selection although, dare I say it, a little surplus to requirements.

Now, strictly speaking, we were both full enough to give dessert a miss. But in for a penny, we couldn’t resist the lure of the sweet treats, both opting for The Meynell’s signature offering.

The Meynell Mess, £7.50, a Hoar Cross version of the Eton classic, was a dessert and then some. A knickerbocker glass piled high with ice creams, meringue, chocolate brownie chunks, berries, marshmallows and more, it was a powerhouse pud able to satisfy even the sweetest tooth.

At the tail end of an already substantial meal, my colleague and I each manage to make an impressive dent in this behemoth of a dessert before sadly having to admit defeat. Perhaps, with hindsight, this is one dish more suitable for sharing.

In a relatively short space of time, The Meynell has gone from derelict to a stalwart of the gastropub scene.

And whether you want cosy tradition, stylish dining or a party vibe, The Meynell ticks all of the boxes.

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