STEPHEN WEBB saddles up and rights out to the Cotswolds, where he finds a great spot to fill his boots

THE Hare in Cirencester is one of those nice, relaxed dining experiences, where clearly diners and parties of all ages and sizes are made to feel welcome and who quickly settle into the convivial atmosphere.

My wife and I were seated in a nice position which was not too noisy, but were able to feel the buzz of a busy night out. We were next to a table of two couples who were chattering away about, it seems, all sorts of inconsequential things. Not that we were eavesdropping, mind.

Then my wife smiled and subtly indicated for me to turn my head – behind me were three generations of a family, merrily enjoying a game of cards between courses.

It was a pleasantly bustling Friday evening with an atmosphere of smiles and laughter.

It was a shame then that that was slightly tarnished when pretty much the first thing our waitress told us was that the risotto, the salmon, the mash to go with the bangers and the sticky toffee pudding were unavailable.

Oh well, not to worry – there was plenty more to choose from.

To start, I had crispy Cajun squid (£6), which came with fresh tomato and Upton Cheyney chilli salsa. The squid was well seasoned, though a little on the chewy side.

My wife had sweetcorn fritters with alioli for her starter. She said they “looked pretty” on their little slate, and that the large smear of alioli “packed a bit of heat”.

On to the main courses. Now The Hare has all the appearance of a typical Cotswold pub/restaurant and indeed that has been the case in its previous incarnations. But a glance at the menu will take you further west than Cirencester – no, not Stroud; more like Texas, actually.

The menu is headed Voodoo-Q Smokehouse & Grill, with the sub-heading Masters Of The Bark Arts. And that’s not a spelling mistake. The “bark” helps to give The Hare’s dishes a bit of bite, and uses wood chips to smoke its meat.

“This is what we do!” the restaurant proudly declares in the section on the menu headed From The Smokehouse – “All of our smokehouse dishes are slow-cooked and oak-smoked in-house, served with seasoned fries, homemade pickles and slaw.” Well if that doesn’t get the juices flowing after a busy week’s work, then I don’t know what will.

So, tuning in to the American vibe, I chose a hot dog. The menu says the hot dogs are “Angus & Oink Kielbasa sausage, smoked on-site, served in a Hobbs House bakery dog roll with seasoned fries, slaw and homemade pickles (make no mistake this is an epic meal)”. Mm, I’d question that last bit.

From the hot dog selection, I chose The Coney Island (£8), which came with “classic American toppings” – white onions, home-made ketchup and dog mustard. It was very nice – it was meaty and smokey, the chips were crunchy and well seasoned, there was plenty of favour all round. But I wouldn’t call it epic, and I could certainly have done with a bigger sausage – this one looked a little forlorn in its bun.

My wife chose the smoked brisket (£12), which came with fries, slaw and home-made pickles, the latter being basically pickled cucumber discs.

It all looked a bit like a burger to me, and she didn’t disagree – but she devoured it with gusto and said she enjoyed it.

Dessert, dear? Go on then, she said, and couldn’t resist the peanut butter brownie (£6), which came with salted caramel ice cream and butterscotch sauce. “Yum,” she said, with the spoon still in her mouth.

I was in the mood for sticky toffee pudding, but that not being an option tonight, I selected waffle, ice cream and maple syrup (£6), which was as stodgy and warming and satisfying as an STP would have been, I am sure.

The service was friendly and unhurried, with plenty of smiles all round on a night that was getting busier by the minute.

The Hare won’t offer fine dining by any means, but the food and the service are good. Hop on over – you never know, the sticky toffee pudding may be back on.

The Hare

3 Gosditch Street,

Cirencester GL7 2AG

01285 658957

Parking: Public car parks a short walk away

Disabled access: Yes

Our ratings:

Food: 7/10

Choice: 8/10

Décor: 7/10

Service: 8/10

TripAdvisor: 4/5