Review: The Feathered Nest
Beautiful countryside, a wealth of historic pubs and the availability of local produce of unparalleled quality mean that it’s not difficult, when compared to many other areas, to provide an enjoyable experience at one of these establishments. However, some are plainly a cut above the others, and The Feathered Nest is one of the very best. I’m not going to pretend to practice some sort of journalistic objectivity here – the place is nothing short of spectacular.
Views across the picturesque rolling hills from Nether Westcote towards Icomb and Bledington set the scene for head chef Kuba Winkowski’s preposterously ambitious and phenomenally well executed menu. An alumnus of Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, his cooking displays a level of confidence and artistry that you might expect from Raymond Blanc’s Great Milton flagship, but that blows most of his ‘Cotswold country pub’ competition out of the water.
Kuba air-dries, smokes, cures and ages an entire delicatessen’s worth of charcuterie and fish himself, which is put to use across many of the dishes here. His wild boar prosciutto and rich salamis introduce the tasting menu in remarkable style, but the real highlight from Kuba’s meaty portfolio is the pork rind – translucent, salty and wickedly indulgent, I’d opt to smother all bread with this gorgeous product at any opportunity if my arteries could handle the abuse.
Onto the menu proper, striking presentation and deft balance of flavour is faultlessly demonstrated. A sliver of cured salmon is brought to life with a trio of multicoloured beetroots, dill and caviar. A rich, tender sweetbread carries assertive depth without straying towards becoming overpowering, and an obscenely large scallop is draped with more of that air-dried ham, the flavours elevated with a sweet-sour hit of vinegary escabeche. This is smart, assured cooking laced with just enough of Kuba’s Polish heritage to provide a fabulous reimagining of the ‘modern British’ formula.
This is not cheap food, by any stretch of the imagination, but neither should it be. The kitchen brigade are not attempting to oversell run-of-the-mill produce with ‘modernist’ appearance – some of the ingredients chosen are wickedly indulgent and treated with devoted affection. One of the most memorable courses is a carpaccio of sika venison, capers, parmesan crisp and a 25-year-old balsamic, pulling off a kind of harmony to put the finest Welsh male voice choir to shame.
Given the kind of praise I’m lavishing on The Feathered Nest, you could be forgiven for assuming that the atmosphere is stuffy, the waiting staff overbearing and the process convoluted. However, despite the wizardry going on in the kitchen, this is still a pub and still feels like a pub. Locals chat over drinks in the garden, cask ales are served at an entirely reasonable price, and there is very little in the way of pretention or overbearing self-opinion. A remarkable achievement – if you’re looking to really treat yourself in the coming months, there are few places in the area I’d recommend higher. I’ll be back for more of that pork rind by the end of the week.