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Muddy does cool pubs – Sign of the Angel, Lacock

It doesn’t get much more period drama than the cutesy National Trust village of Lacock, a Disney-esque haven of cobbles, inns, and ever-present film crews. Let's check out the pub!

It doesn’t get much more period drama than the cutesy National Trust village of Lacock, a Disney-esque haven of cobbles, inns, tithe barns, Regency houses and ever-present film crews. You can almost hear the sound of crinolines rustling down the street, of watch-chains tinkling and bearded men dancing around handkerchiefs as you approach this popular pit stop.

Lacock is so pretty and untouched that it is frequently used as a film set – they shot scenes for Downton Abbey, Cranford, Agatha Raisin and numerous Harry Potters here – and right next to Professor Slughorn’s house (that’s Jim Broadbent in a fat suit to you and me) is The Babberton Arms, sorry, Sign of the Angel. If you can pull yourself away from spotting where Lizzy Bennet met George Wickham (Lacock doubled as Maryton in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice), inside the pub you will find some true muddy wonderfulness.

Sign of the Angel is a warren of cosy low-lit rooms, reminiscent of its former life as a 15th century coaching inn. Upstairs are five en-suite bedrooms, unfortunately not built for chaps on the tall side (watch those beams!) but quirky and charming enough. Downstairs the décor is a mash up of wonky paneling, heavy wooden tables, flagstone floors and ancient stonework. It feels a little quaint with the odd picture of dead pheasants on the wall but with funky lighting and huge groovy fireplaces it manages to pull off that rare combination of traditional yet stylish. Outside the garden folds around a stream with a view out to pasture beyond, and although it is grizzling with rain today I bet it would be the perfect place for cream teas in the sun once spring deigns to arrive.

Revamped in 2015 by brothers Tom and Jack Nicholas, Sign of the Angel champions local, seasonal ingredients, using products from sustainable farmers, growers and butchers to create modern British favourites with a twist. It’s unpretentious, relaxing and, I think, pretty cool.

The menu is small but perfectly formed and after a brief discussion over whether we could order (and finish) everything on it I plumped for a starter of celeriac and wild mushroom lasagna. Unbelievably yum. Delicious shavings of celeriac with creamy onion and garlicky garlic mushrooms in a garlic butter sauce that I could quite happily gulp straight from the garlic jug. And a cheese crisp on top. Who doesn’t love a cheese crisp? Hiding from my breath behind his napkin, hubby went for lobster and king prawn risotto, and while he played spot-the-lobster amongst his rice he muttered in his chef-like way that it could do with a slice of lime to cut through the sweetness before wolfing it down, sitting back with a smile on his satiated face and declaring it to be utter perfection.

For mains I dove straight into the signature ‘Angel’ pie, today’s variety being piggy and chorizo. Miniature dollops of mash, broccoli, peas, baby carrots, pea shoots and a large splash of rich thick gravy finished it off. Delicious, but I felt a flutter of food envy when hubby’s curried chicken platter arrived with bite sized pieces of chicken served in any which way imaginable including a chicken-y mousse-y type thing that he declared divine.

Although by now I had lost the battle with the top button of my jeans and my wobbly bits had well and truly muffin-ed over the top we pushed on towards pud. Ever a cheese lover, I had stilton soaked in port – any opportunity to eat stilton with a spoon – with caramelised walnuts and purple pickle. Double yum. Hubby chose rhubarb bread and butter roulade with custard ice cream and brandy soaked raisins. The ice cream was light and buttery, although he found the roulade a touch heavy after everything he had eaten before. Totally self-inflicted, then.

Sign of the Angel describes itself as a restaurant with rooms, which I would agree with as it is definitely less country pub and more high-end eatery. I’m not sure I’d swing by here with the kids, being fussy eaters and oh-so unlikely to appreciate the money I’m spending on them, although there were young children at the table next to us talking politely in muted voices to their parents. Clearly not mine, then.

In a county where there are more gastro pubs than you can shake a pair of muddy Manolos at, this place is a gem. Less medieval coaching inn, more tasty gastronomic experience. And as we waddle back to the car, having ditched the idea of a walk in favour of a snooze, I would say it is truly dusted by magic, perhaps left behind by Dumbledore himself.

THE MUDDY VERDICT:

Good for: A treat á deux. Also good for tourists on the trail and anyone gunning to be an extra in a television series. If you’re on the lookout for Eddie Redmayne in a frockcoat or yearn to channel your inner Bathsheba Everdene this is the place for you. Great for urban foodies and wine lovers too – every glass we tried was delicious – and as a stopping off point to explore Lacock Abbey and Fox Talbot Museum. Only make sure you do your exploring before you eat because if you’re a piglet like me you won’t be going anywhere afterwards.

Not for: The day before pay day. Prices aren’t quite Sexy Fish but are not to be sniffed at. Probably not the most obvious place for Shoreditch style gurus – it’s a bit quaint and cutesy and you might, in a dim light on a wet grey day, be forgiven for thinking you’d blustered into Anne Hathaway’s Tea Rooms. Relaxing with exquisite food rather than a place to do shots of toffee vodka.

££: On the punchy side of mid-range. Starters are between £6 and £9.50, mains from £17.50 to £21 (top dollar buys you a blade of beef and wild mushroom wellington), with lunch a blush more reasonable. Desserts start at £6 but most are £8 or above. Sunday roasts £20 for 2 courses or £23 for 3. Having said that, the food was delicious and, I think, excellent value.

Sign of the Angel, 6 Church Street, Lacock, Wiltshire SN15 2LB.  Tel: 01249 730230. signoftheangel.co.uk. Open Tuesday-Saturday 10am (for cream teas. Yum!) to 11pm, Sunday lunch 12pm-3.30pm, closed Mondays.

See more Muddy coolness at The Bell at Ramsbury

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Wiltshire