January 19 2019

News story/review: The Wheatsheaf, Corston – now under new ownership

A couple of weeks ago, Mr Pig came home with a block of Taleggio* in his rucksack (as one does.) How best to utilise it? Ask Twitter.

Amongst all manner of suggestions (including one involving Jacob’s Crackers) came a combination that really whetted my appetite. “Tagliolini, Taleggio and truffle…. mmmm,” said chef Scott Lucas (@69thecraftychef, should you too be in search of imaginative uses for top-quality random ingredients.) “Sounds great,” I responded. “But I’m a bit low on both Tagliolini and truffle. When are you going to come round to PG HQ and rustle it up for me?”. “Better yet, why don’t you visit the Wheatsheaf and I’ll make it for you,” he said. Now there’s an offer I couldn’t refuse – so I didn’t.

And so it came to pass that, last Thursday evening, Mr Pig and I made the 20-minute journey along the A36/A39 to the pub that you really can’t miss if you’re driving too/from, say, Bristol Airport, because it’s pretty much the only landmark on a long stretch of field-lined landscape.

Now it has to be said that the Wheatsheaf hasn’t enjoyed a great reputation of late – previous owners allowed the pub to slip into unloved/unkempt territory, eventually attracting dire warnings largely revolving around the “avoid at all costs” theme. But times have changed, and new owners have already done enough hard work to turn the pub’s disreputable reputation around; it’s now the bright, friendly, welcoming beacon of scrubbed-up cheerfulness that a pub in such a location should always have been.

If you look closely, it’s clear that the refurbishment is still a work in progress – a fair few fixtures and fittings need updating in order to meet contemporary expectation approval, and the new owners are yet to stamp their personality on the overall look of the place. But in essential country pub terms, it’s already got it all going on: a nicely lit, well stocked bar acts as a focal point twixt cosy little snug to the left of the entrance and separate dining area to the right, complete with open fires and a squashy (or rather, Chesterfield) sofa chill-out zone towards the rear. Meanwhile, staff are super-friendly, dogs are welcome and the menus… ah, the menus; this is, of course, why we made the short journey from urban thrum to pastoral calm.

Scott only came to the Wheatsheaf hob a short while ago, but he’s already added a fair few foodie flourishes to the menus. While fish and chips, steak, Ploughman’s Lunch, etc are all present and correct in terms of the kind of grub one would hope to be served at a pub, the devil (or rather the food angels) are in the detail here: the fish and chips come with tartare hollandaise; the steak on the main course on the evening we visited was a whopping 10oz rib of beef; the cheese in the Ploughman’s is Wookey Hole Cave-aged Cheddar. There’s soused Glitne halibut on the starter selection, alongside carpaccio of beef and and blow-torched mackerel fillet and, amongst the mains, Guinea fowl is served with cavolo nero, chestnuts, Bath Blue cheese sauce and fried sourdough bread, while Gilt Head Sea Bream comes with mussels, celeriac and cider sauce. Ham, egg and chips are taken out of the 1970s retro category by smoking the gammon, replacing hen’s eggs with duck eggs and serving it with a pineapple chutney, and guinea fowl caesar salad holds major promise. Prices are distinctly down-to-earth, though; this is definitely the kind of place that you can decide to dine at on a whim rather than holding out (and saving up for) a special occasion.

Those who have been keeping up at the back won’t be expecting us to give the full lowdown on those actual menus because we were, of course, on a Taleggio/truffle promise. Any my goodness, that promise was lived up to in full. Starters of bruschetta based on (I’m guessing, going by one of those starter descriptions) fried sourdough and lavishly drizzled with truffle oil was pretty much the poshest, foodiest version of cheese on toast that I’ve ever encountered; the Tagliolini, Taleggio and truffle (our raison d’etre, if you like) was silky, luxurious, dreamy, creamy, harmonious dolce vita on a plate; a dense, rich slab of chocolate heaven came accompanied by ice cream glazed with truffle honey. Our meal was, all told, the most treatsome, soporific feast that we’ve had in a long while – beautifully balanced, made from impeccably-sourced produce and assembled with care.

We’ll be returning to the Wheatsheaf to as the months roll along, not only to investigate the on-piste menu array but to keep up with – and offer worthwhile support to – a team who are doing great things in a handsome pub that’s long been in need of this level of TLC. And next time I have a surfeit of random luxurious ingredients, I know who I’m going to turn to for advice.

*just in case you were wondering, we did indeed end up using up our own supply of Taleggio… but I’m too ashamed to admit how we did it.

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