This one-time rural boozer near Cirencester is full of rustic charm and too-good-to-miss gastro-pub inventions.
There’s a seriously quiet charm and beauty to the wooded and canopied lanes and hillsides around the Sapperton valley. And hidden away in a clearing near the Sapperton Canal Tunnel is the famed Daneway – once a hidden secret of a watering hole for local drinkers in the know and now a jewel of a country pub worth visiting as much for its food as its sylvan setting. Once cottages for the overseers of the construction of the Thames & Severn canal, the period inn had a refurb fairly recently which spruced up its interiors but not the the point of taking away from its low-key charm. A terrace and lawn offer perfect perches for ramblers, day trippers or those who just want to idle away the afternoon in the sun or the evening to the sway of trees – broken we’re told by the hoot of the occasional owl.
A series of knocked-together, 18th-century cottages offer a warren of nooks and crannies and cosy fireplaces set against fresh white cottage walls and surrounded by a bric-a-brac collection of tables and furnishing that just want to keep you cocooned. Outside, it’s a sun trap for those who want to enjoy the bucolic charm of the Sapperton valley. There’s a magnificently carved fire surround in one of the rooms with a wood burner in others to keep punters snug and warm in the winter. All just right to linger over a drink after a woodland wander and pour over the delights of the menu.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Not every pub can deliver gastro, and not every gastro joint can do pub. The Daneway has nailed both: classic pub grub with a gastro twist. Owners Poppy and Marcus (the latter a super-talented chef and erstwhile butcher) are also at the helm of Cirencester’s The Four Seasons Meat Company, and meat is certainly a highlight (though veggies, there’s lots on the menu for you too – see my dish below). But if you do like meat… well, the dish chosen on our visit by the eldest Mudlet was heaven! A perfectly charred and pink Barnsley chop (the lamb from Poppy’s dad’s farm) was marinated in lemon and herbs and cooked on charcoal, conjuring up flavours that transported you to a Greek island with its Mediterranean grill flavours. Good job it was a hefty slab as Mr Muddy and I demanded forkfuls.
However, mine and Mr M’s dishes were equally accomplished. A Malaysian coconut lamb curry took his indoor’s dreams of a curry and a pint to new levels: he said it hit just the right contrast of sweet coconut with spice, with fall-away rice and warm naan.
My eyes were popping out of my head when my theatrical Espetadas (a Daneway special) of Mediterranean vegetables and halloumi arrived. Basically an Iberian brochette of colourful grilled morsels of courgette, onion, pepper and grilling cheese threaded on to a frame that looked like super-long kebab needles twisted and sculpted in Joan Miró-like wire threads – and they tasted as good as they looked.
We’d limbered up for these star performances with starters of smoked salmon – thick slithers of gently smoked fish sourced from the excellent Coln Valley Smokery in Northleach.
And seasonal asparagus with a poached egg and parmesan shavings.
The Mudlet manfully took on pudding (Mr M and I having no space left in our middle-aged bellies) opting for a brownie, which was perfectly executed, warm and melting its companion ice cream and strawberries. He proclaimed it the best brownie he’d ever eaten and he’s had quite a few in his 16 years.
We all liked the idea of the Wednesday steak night where you pay £1 per ounce of sirloin and £1.50 an ounce for fillet. With cocktails at just under £8 a pop, it’s a bargain and you know the steak is going to be incredible, cooked as it is over that magic charcoal grill.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Families – lots of space for youngsters to run around in – woodland ramblers looking for a long lazy lunch after their exertions, lovers of open-grill food.
Not for: If you like your pubs interior-designed to the hilt, this probably won’t press your style buttons. It’s an everyday pub with super-duper food that knocks a lot of posher looking public house’s food out of the park.
The damage: For the quality, this is great value. Starters hover around the £6 mark, mains between £10 and £20 and puddings are £5.95.
The Daneway, Dane Ln, Sapperton, Cirencester GL7 6LN. Tel: 01285 760297. thedaneway.pub