Menuwatch: The Old Butchers
This family-run, neighbourhood bistro from chef Peter Robinson has taken its seafood-focused offering on the road. Lisa Jenkins orders a takeaway
Peter Robinson's cheffing career spans several decades and the length of England. Working in kitchens since he was 12, Robinson's first role was an apprenticeship at Mottram Hall in Cheshire, while he studied part-time at a catering college in Crewe.
At 19 he made the leap to the capital, working under Stephen Bull and Oliver Peyton at the celebrated Atlantic Bar & Grill in Soho, before leaving for his first head chef role at the Hotel Tresanton in St Mawes, Cornwall, in 2001.
Robinson and wife Louise decided to set out on their own in 2005, buying the Old Butchers in Stow-on-the-Wold. After 10 years of business, Robinson received an offer to take up the head chef role at Bibendum in London, replacing Matthew Harris, who had left after 20 years. The move wasn't one to be passed up, but it left Louise running the restaurant single-handed until May 2016.
Peter says: "Working at Bibendum with Simon Hopkinson was a huge inspiration for me, but being away from home and my family was just too difficult."
The Robinsons will celebrate 15 years at the Old Butchers in July and have developed a strong local following in this time, as evidenced by their barter system with their regular customers. In exchange for meals, guests have been known to bring in produce for the restaurant, including eggs and rapeseed oil from farms within two miles. The couple has also developed strong relationships with local suppliers, including farmer Alan Cox; Bramleys in Cirencester, which supplies fruit and veg; and Johnny Godden of Flying Fish in Cornwall.
Speaking about the inspiration behind his ever-changing menus, Robinson explains that "it's all about the seasonal ingredients". The chef draws on his connections to local farmers and suppliers to make use of ingredients such as turbot, asparagus and English strawberries at the best time of year.
It's all about the seasonal ingredients
The menu is usually seafood-focused, and this has been maintained with the switch to take- away. Porthilly Rock oysters, served with shallot and chilli vinegar (£2.50 each), are a recent addition to the menu that have proven popular. Cornish lobster features at the restaurant all year round, with takeaway no exception. As a main, a half lobster is offered alongside mayonnaise and a house potato salad (£20), baked with garlic butter and served with chips (£22, pictured top), or in a Caesar salad (£18). A luxurious side order of lobster mac and cheese (£8) is also available, while a more casual option is the lobster roll served with chips (£16).
Peter has also ensured that more traditional takeaway fare is covered, albeit with his own spin. "The burgers have been the most popular item on the takeaway menu and the variations have changed every week," he explains. "We buy meat from Lambournes, our local butchers. We started off with just a cheeseburger (£10) and now we have a burger with pulled pork, a surf and turf burger (£14) and this week we have a burger with smoked brisket (£13)."
The offering includes a full range of drinks to take away, with a plentiful wine list featuring Beauvignac Picpoul de Pinet 2018 (£31) and English Gusbourne Guinevere Chardonnay 2014 (£45). Other drinks include a frozen Cotswold gin and tonic (£5.50) and a non-alcoholic peach ice tea (£3.50).
Louise, who grew up with publican parents and attended the Licensed Victuallers' School in Berkshire, usually works front of house, but is currently acting commis chef. Although she's looking forward to reopening, she says the new regulations will have a drastic impact on operations, and expects her multifaceted role to continue: "Everyone will have to help where they are needed. If the chefs need to bring out food and front of house need to wash up, we will all be in it together."
With two-metre distancing, the 55-cover restaurant will be reduced to just 25 covers, so the takeaway menu is "here to stay."
The six-chef team are currently producing 400 items a night, but after reopening they hope to return to numbers approaching 30 for lunch and 80 for dinner. The menu will feature most of the old favourites, but will be a reduced offering.
With their two children already part of the team – Millie works front of house and Barney acts as quality control – the Robinsons are stowed away for the long-term and have certainly put in the groundwork to adapt their business for the future.
Park Street, Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, GL54 1AQ
From the menu
- Steak tartare £8
- Half shell-baked scallops, 'nduja butter £10
- Rump steak burger, cheese, home-smoked brisket, coleslaw, slow-cooked onions £13
- Slow-roast pork belly, chorizo, clams, crushed potatoes £14
- Whole Dover sole, tartare sauce, chips £22
- Lemon posset, English strawberries £5
- Treacle tart, clotted cream £5
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