The Bell & Cross is apparently set to be named Worcestershire’s Country Pub of the Year by the Good Pub Guide.
So I quietly popped by for lunch to see why it has once again been (deservedly) rated so highly by one of the industry’s leading awards bodies.
The 19th century pub is off the beaten track and probably best reached from Birmingham via the M5 J4.
For the second time in two years, I fell foul of a horrible, unadvertised traffic nightmare on the A456 dual carriageway just past the M5 J3.
On the bright side, if it takes an hour to get to the Bell & Cross from Five Ways you are totally ready for excellence.
The pub has several delightful small rooms to choose from and we sat in the cosy front one.
I was surprised there was only a choice of four ales, including two common brands.
A pint of lesser known Enville White (£3.65) had a bee logo on the glass and it slipped down like nectar. From the lite bites menu, I had a ‘farmhouse confit duck rillette’ – like a meatier pate – that was soon overpowered by the excellent pineapple and cracked pepper chutney, served with green leaves and French baguette (£6.25) with a truly splendid side of French beans, shallots and parmesan (£3.35).
My wife, Collette, tried the marinated asparagus with bocconcini mozzarella, sun blushed tomatoes and basil salad (£7) – all excellent except the bread was too hard.
You don’t get many chips as a £2.95 side dish, but they’re fab.
Though nobody asked ‘how is everything’ (a modern curse when your mouth is full), I like to assume it’s because there’s no need when you are this confident in your food. But service was a touch slow despite our announced delays and my wife found there was no soap in the ladies’ loo. A small oversight, but one which should never happen.