Set in the picturesque village of Upper South Wraxall, a measly 7 miles east of the city of Bath and approximately half an hours drive down some small country lanes from a flight of 29 locks that run along the Kennet and Avon Canal is The Longs Arms pub.
Head Chef and Landlord Robert Allcock describes his cooking style as Modern British with emphasis on showcasing the best ingredients each season has to offer, in simple well balanced menus. In 2014 it was voted the 25th Best Gastro Pub in the UK at the Budweiser Budvar Top 50 Gastropubs Awards and according to the pubs twitter page, voted by its peers to be the 32nd Best Pub in the World. A holder of Michelins’ BiB Gourmand for the previous 3 years and a recipient of Trip Advisors’ Certificate of Excellence in 2012, 2013 and 2014, right from the word go, this was looking promising for a good lunch out with my partner after a walk along the canal earlier that morning.
Upon arrival, we parked the car in the pubs’ “large” car park located around the side of the main entrance, in which there were already 5 or 6 cars parked, with room for another 5 or 6 small to medium sized vehicles. We wandered in through a side door across the car park from where we had parked.
We informed the bar staff we had arrived for our 2pm reservation, one which was made only a matter of hours previously after a short and quick exchange of emails (this only adding the ever growing expectation) regarding their opening hours due to it being the Christmas period. We were pointed towards a 2 seater table which was ready and waiting.
A couple of minutes had passed when a jug of complimentary still water with half a lemon and lime submerged in it was delivered to the table, immediately before our drinks order was taken. There was a good variety of drinks on offer, in particular cask ales, all except under the Rosé Wine section, in which there was only a single choice available. This annoyed my partner slightly, but seeing as it was this or something else, she opted for the wine.
A short time later, having decided on what we would like for each course, the friendly waitress appeared to take our order once again. Something I particularly liked, was that next to the food menu, was a column recommending an ale to accompany each dish, which I would have taken part in, if it weren’t for the fact I was driving.
Between our order being taken and the first course arriving, we were given complimentary freshly baked Poppy Seeded rolls which went down very well with the accompanying butter.
Less than 10minutes had elapsed when the starters were delivered to the table. For me, Crab Thermidor, Apple and Basil. For my partner, Jerusalem Artichoke Soup and Parsley.
Not having had Crab before, I was both both excited and apprehensive at the thought of the dish,the excitement building ever more when it was placed in front of me. I have to say, it was beautiful. The taste of the Crab was present without being overpowering and the small pieces of diced Apple added a refreshing element, acting almost as a palate cleanser before the next mouthful. I cannot speak for the Artichoke Soup, but given the empty bowl at the end of the course, I think it can be safely assumed it too was very enjoyable.
Up next came the mains. Being a lover of Pork Belly, Crackling, Mash and Black Pudding, when I saw all these individual elements in a single dish on the menu I instantly decided that this was the dish for me. Unfortunately this was not to be, as it would appear that indeed there are many people like me who also enjoy these things which lead to me being informed they had run out of the Pork. Luckily, whilst eyeing the menu before our order was taken, I had spotted the Twice Baked Cheddar Soufflé with a Watercress Salad, Crispy Potato and Walnuts, so after another very quick skim over the menu I decided to give it a go, my partner deciding on Turkey and Gammon Pie, Chips and Peas. They appeared, once again in what felt like a blink of an eye. I noticed two things about this dish very quickly. Number one, the unmistakeable smell of Cheddar and number two, the orangey pink dressing around the plate. If I’m honest it wasn’t the prettiest looking plate of food I’ve ever seen, but on taste this was quickly forgotten. The Soufflé was light and fluffy sitting on the watercress and walnut salad. If I had to criticise this dish at all, I would say that it could have perhaps been presented better and not being a fan of nuts I would leave the walnuts out. Despite this, I can however understand what they bring to the dish.
Last but not least and for me, the highlight of the meal, came the desserts. Valhrona Chocolate and caramel tart, peanuts, salted caramel and banana ice cream. Not mentioned on the menu, were the dried pieces of red fruit and pieces of honeycomb. From a presentation point of view it looked like a piece of art and boy did it live up to how it looked. With the rich dark chocolate, salted caramel and the honeycomb it was as intense in flavour as it looks. When combined with the banana ice cream and the dried pieces of fruit the tart was elevated to a whole new level with the tart becoming less rich than it was on its own. As previously noted, I am not a huge fan of nuts, so when my other half pointed out it had nuts in it, the friendly waitress told us they could easily be removed which was done without any hesitation. In my opinion it was so good that it rocketed to the top of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten. The individual scoops of Mango Sorbet, Apple Pie and Liquorice Ice Cream was too the best ice cream (and sorbet) my partner had tasted.
In summary then, The Longs Arms serves a high standard of food, with fast and friendly service, in classic country pub surroundings set in an idyllic location.
If the proof really is in the pudding, this place has absolutely nailed it and is definitely worth a visit for anyone wanting a first class lunch, dinner or pint.