The Methuen Arms
achingly beautiful historic pub, home to one of the most exciting chefs in the south west
Corsham: where historic frolics meet tasteful contemporary chic, known for Poldark and peacocks, Corsham Court and Cotswold stone… and the Methuen Arms, one of the most achingly beautiful ancient pubs (with rooms) in the locale, featuring loads of super-welcoming, super-characterful, higgledy-piggledy nooks and crannies supplemented by a magical alfresco courtyard area – and a kitchen that’s home to one of the most exciting chefs in the south west.
I’ve been a fan of Leigh Evans’ work for many a long year. To quote myself from back in the days when I first encountered his cooking (as one is allowed to do when one has been writing about food for as long as I have,) “Leigh has swiftly built up a strong reputation for his impeccably high presentation standards and zeitgeist-infused menus that are both inspirational and technically challenging. But his creations are nothing if not downright tasty, supremely satisfying and always, always good old-fashioned moreish.” Sound familiar? Evans’ has enjoyed stints at The Royal Crescent Hotel, The Chequers and Combe Grove Manor, so you may well have met him before. And now he’s happily ensconced at a very handsome hob-home where he makes pretty much everything on his menu on-site, from ingredients that all pretty much flourish on his own very pretty doorstep.
There may be a ‘Pub’ section on the Methuen menu (Chicken in a Box? Yes please!) but you just know that if Evans’ is plating your fish and chip supper, it could never be described as your typical Pub Grub feast; chefs don’t earn their playgrounds a bouquet of AA Rosettes for knowing how to deep fry a piece of haddock. Even the humble Scotch Egg on the starter array is given an Evans spin on the evening we visited: chipper chicken and chorizo, with not a hint of sad sausage meat in sight. We had starters ‘proper’ too – and they were very proper indeed: soft, sweet, seared scallops with crispy prawn and Parma ham, apple, cauliflower and watercress; mackerel both cured and torched, the profound richness of the flesh imaginatively offset with both watermelon and jalapenos in the lively tumble of accompanying crunch. Fabulous? Indeed. But you ain’t seen nothing yet…
Malt-glazed chicken – the sweet, toasty, nutty glaze penetrating deep, deep into the moist, moist chicken – served with sage, and onion (note the comma, please; we’re not talking stuffing nonsense here) and salt-baked potatoes in their crust, Marmite butter further upping the bravely bold umami ante of a dish that forces your palate to have “do I love this or hate it?” conversations with your mind… and gets my vote for being the most complex, characterful, memorable chicken dinners I’ve had in a very long time. But as much as Evans knows how to pack a flavour-punch that softly hits you right between the eyes, he’s as agile as a Rambert Principal when it comes to subtlety too: creamy fillet of plaice duets in perfect tempo with succulent mussel scampi, luxurious caviar cream, demurely aromatic saffron potatoes, samphire and leek, resulting in a super-smooth, pragmatic alliance that represents the point where opulence meet judicious rationale. Blimey! Better have a dessert just to make sure that this foodie dream is actually happening right here, right now, rather than in my fevered imagination.
But if it’s true that there’s nothing like a good pud to bring you down to earth, Evans’ turns that old adage upside down as deftly as he spring rolls brisket (which he does, elsewhere on the menu – and I’m going back for that dish while it’s still trending): silky, smoky, sweet-tinged maple and bourbon panna cotta with pecan granola and buttermilk sorbet is luscious enough to forgive the quotation marks in the description (“Pecan Pie”), while burnt passion fruit cream with mango salsa, crisp coconut and coconut ice cream is simply divine – by the time we leave, my feet might be on the ground but my senses had been taken on a trip to the heavens.
In summary, The Methuen Arms is marvellous. Poldark? Pah! Leigh Evans is this little town’s true superstar attraction.
- Wheelchair access ,
- Free wifi available ,
- Dog friendly ,
- Gluten free options ,
- Baby changing facilities
Breakfast Monday-Friday 7am-10.30am; Saturday-Sunday 8am-10.30am
Lunch Monday-Saturday 12noon-2.30pm; Sunday 12noon-3pm
Afternoon Tea Monday-Saturday 2.30pm-5pm; Sunday 3.30pm-5pm
Dinner Sunday-Thursday 6pm-9.30pm; Friday-Saturday 6pm-10pm
Around 20 minutes drive from Bath city centre