There aren’t many restaurants where your servers come out of a tunnel, like they’re coming out onto the pitch to play at Wembley. But it is rather apt at the Bell in Aston Clinton, which has just been fully refurbished and proves that it belongs in the Premier League!
That tunnel is dubbed The Walk of Fame, and its uplit brick walls lead to the kitchen, where all kinds of magic appears to happen.
The first thing that strikes you as you approach The Bell is its imposing and welcoming exterior – twinkling outside lights, lots of outdoor seating and an arch tunnel leading to the front door.
Inside, the period features (the building is Grade II listed) have been retained – dark wood panelling and shutters provide the charm that you expect from a country pub, while a spectacular palette of deep green, dusky pink and metallics – gold, brass and bronze – takes it up to another league.
The styling is eclectic, which rather fits the building itself – there are little snugs, a room that reveals two small pews set either side of the fire, a private dining room, and another that can be curtained off and enjoys a view out to the front of the building. It lends itself to every kind of meeting – from a business lunch, to a date night, birthday celebration or Christmas dinner.
Seating ranges from comfy armchairs dressed in luxuriant deep green velvet, to curved banquettes, upholstered bar stools and more.
The menu is as broad as the seating arrangements! Starters are priced from £6.25 and include Chipotle Sticky Chicken, and Duck Liver and Pork Parfait. Mains start at £9.95, with pizzas and burgers (there’s a plant-based burgers for vegans and vegetarians), alongside Buttermilk Chicken, Somerset Brie & Bacon pie, and Seared Bass Fillets. Or maybe you’d prefer Roasted Cauliflower Wedge on a bed of hummus, grains and toasted pumpkin seeds, or Freshly Battered Line-caught Cod and Chips (swap the fish for battered halloumi if you are vegetarian).
There are salads and healthy mains for those of you watching your waistline, and you can even have a dessert. The clever addition of the option of a mini dessert accompanied by a hot drink means you can satisfy your sweet tooth without sabotaging the calorie counting too much!
To start, we chose Pan-Fried Wild Atlantic Scallops with crisp on the outside, soft in the centre Devon Crab & King Prawn Bon Bons and a pea and truffle oil veloute. The scallops were sweet and soft, and I could have eaten a plateful of the bon bons!
My partner had the Salt & Szechuan Pepper Squid, which was light, not oily, and made even more delicious with a chipotle mayonnaise.
Our lovely server recommended the Rack of Lamb, with butternut puree, herby dauphinoise potatoes and a bordelaise jus, while my partner opted for a succulent Rib-eye Steak, with a similar Bordelaise sauce. The chips were crispy on the outside, beautifully seasoned and soft inside.
We couldn’t leave without dessert, so we taste tested the Sticky Toffee pudding, Crumble of the Day with custard, and the Passion Fruit Martini Eton Mess. All equally delicious, although we were both very taken with the new tropical twist on an old favourite.
We left already planning our next visit – we’re looking forward to another treat in the winter months, with the fires burning – but with plenty of seating outside, whether you are just having a drink or indulging in something delicious from the menu, I’d suggest you don’t leave it so long!
The Bell Pub and Restaurant also has 11 hotel rooms, which have been refurbished in similar style, blending rural charm with modern flair…