5 North Street, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire GL54 5LH.T: 01242 604566
You know what it’s like when you’ve wanted to eat somewhere for ages, but you never seem to get round to it?
And then finally you get there, you eat and you think: what a waste of time.
I feared this might be the case with 5 North Street, a small, slightly wonky restaurant in the small, slightly wonky Gloucestershire village of Winchcombe.
North Street has had a Michelin star for several years and that counts for a spectre of assurance and expectation, whatever your views on the little red book.
When I heard about the place several years ago, I thought: “Yes, that would be interesting. It’s in the Cotswolds, so Liz Hurley might pop in, maybe in that dress, and that would make a good intro.”
But I needed an excuse to head so far south of the M42 comfort blanket.
The opportunity arose when I stayed that way, sort of, at the stately Lords of the Manor, in that area of Notting Hill by Stile known by Liz and her chums as The Slaughters.
But the chef there, damn him, force-fed me scallops and stuff. I was water-boarded with fine wines. So I had to cancel lunch the next day. North Street went south.
Time passed; the guides came and went; No 5 remained, pulling in the plaudits. One day, I said, one day...
The opportunity knocked once more when I stayed overnight in Cheltenham. I re-booked for lunch the next day in Winchcombe. Unfortunately, I ate quite a bit in Cheltenham (I think a pattern is emerging), “quite a bit” equating to an eight-course tasting menu for lunch and a three-course dinner. That night, I drank someone else’s claret but as he was a stockbroker I felt no guilt. But the next morning, I did feel... hmm... is “stuffed” inelegant?
Still, I couldn’t bail on North Street, not again. Sometimes you’ve got to take one for the team and that’s what I did, after a light breakfast (“No eggs or sausage, please”).
Winchcombe is a bit north of Chelters, 10-15 minutes by Range Rover. With my Skobbler sat-nav, purchased as an iPhone App for £1.49, the journey took me about an hour-and-a-half. The Skobbler informed me I had arrived when I was 600 yards away, in a car park. I gave up and walked.
When I arrived at the restaurant, situated in a small, double-fronted building, I made a key observation: one table was occupied. I felt a bit squiffy. Was this going to be one of those “what a waste of time” times?
In a sense, yes. Because I am kicking myself I wasted so much time discovering North Street. It is a great restaurant, just my thing, and hopefully yours. You could take your mates there, or your mum, or Liz Hurley. There is really good, honest cooking with nice, informative service and no flannel. I totally recommend it.
The beamed dining room seats 28 and is traditionally English, but with warmth, not haughty chill.
The £28 three-course lunch menu looked great. Squab pigeon or Cornish plaice to start, chump of lamb with girolles and port sauce or mackerel with pasta for main, followed by duck egg crème brûlée and raspberry sorbet or cheese.
Having finally got to North St, I thought I’d up the ante. It gets a little confusing here because there is an à la carte but it is spilt into three set menus, costing £40, £45 and £50. You can mix and match between the menus and they’ll sort out the damage at the till. What did I fancy? Frankly, all of it.