Good food on the menu for Sarah Singleton when she vists the King's Head Hotel in Cirencester

THE handsome frontage of Cirencester’s King’s Head Hotel, right in the heart of the town, does little to reveal just how spacious it is.

Step inside the doors and elegant rooms open up, one after another, with exposed wood and stone, galleries of quirky pictures on the wall and nods to the town’s complex history – such as reels of wool, and underfoot, a fragment of Roman floor mosaic.

Go down stone stairways to discover a series of stunning vaulted cellars where meals are served on long tables adorned with candelabra, and lucky couples celebrate their weddings.

You certainly sense the age and history of the place.

Apparently the King’s Head was a coaching inn way back in the 14th century. In Tudor times, it was owned by Robert Strange of Cirencester, clothier and bailiff, and later passed into the hands of the Bathurst family, until they sold it in 1935. Not surprisingly, it is now a listed building.

We have come for Sunday lunch. It is a dreary January day, the grey landscape seeming lifeless, water lying in the fields, hedges still and bare, so it is perfect occasion to step inside this comfortable place.

We are warmly welcomed and invited to choose a table. Water is offered and delivered right away. A huge display of white lilies and tall bare branches stands on a long table, and beyond I can see over a gleaming counter into the kitchen.

The Sunday lunch menu offers two or three-course meals, and you have five choices for a starter, including a winter vegetable soup and soft-shell crab salad with sweet chilli. I opt for a superfood salad of quinoa, pomegranate and spring onion in a raspberry dressing. The dish is perfect – pleasingly light, with an interesting mix of sweet and savoury flavours. The red beads of pomegranate are crisp and fruity.

Six choices are offered for the main course, including butter poached chicken boudin and fillet of seabream. My partner chooses the roast striploin of beef, with Yorkshire pudding, duck fat roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables and red wine jus. I opt for one of two vegetarian options – a nut roast pithivier (which turns out to a nut roast encased in a cap of pastry) with roast potatoes, vegetables and a vegetarian gravy.

My partner enthuses about the beef, which is tender and rare. His Yorkshire pudding is moist and tasty, and we both relish the perfectly cooked vegetables – a pleasingly colourful collection of broccoli, red cabbage, carrots and roasted parsnips. The plates are heaped satisfyingly high – we are not looking for modest servings in a Sunday roast – and gravies are savoury and rich.

The pithivier’s puff pastry casing is crisp and golden, with a rich nut roast filling – more than I can manage and just the sort of weighty fare you need on such a bleak day.

We find four tempting desserts on the Sunday lunch menu, including croissant pudding with rum and raisin ice cream and citrus Anglaise sauce, a cheese selection, and sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel sauce and clotted cream. We choose the chocolate mousse, served with raspberry gel and chocolate soil.

Soon this tantalising dish arrives – a dark curl of cool chocolate mousse, resting on a scattering of the soil, which seems to be crumbs of crunchy, more bitter chocolate, adding a counterpoint to the smooth, decadent mousse. The raspberry gel is contrastingly bright and sharp, shining like a jewel on the plate.

The lunch menu is surprisingly modest in terms of cost, for a meal of such quality and a venue that feels like a treat to visit. For two courses, the cost is £16.95 and for three £19.95 – though watch out for the 10 per cent service charge added to the bill. Not only was the lunch a pleasure, the staff were attentive without being intrusive, and made us welcome from start to finish.

King’s Head Hotel
24 Market Place,
Cirencester GL7 2NR
Tel: 01285 700900

Parking: Market Place or Brewer car parks
Disabled access: yes

Adver Ratings
Food: 9/10
Choice: 9/10
Decor: 9/10
Customer service: 10/10

Price range: Sunday lunch is £16.95 for two courses, £19.95 for three.
Trip Advisor Rating: 4 stars