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The Five Alls, Filkins: A great old village pub
FILKINS is one of those little villages that are easy to pass by when travelling along the A361 from Burford to Lechlade.
People notice The Cotswold Wild Life Park on the right, but too often fail to appreciate that a left turn to Filkins, just three miles on down the road, will take them to the quintessential Cotswold village, with its own community shop and glorious pub. This is the village that won the Calor Village of the Year Award in the Building Community Life Category last year, and where you will find the Cotswold Woollen Weavers Wool Heritage Centre.
The village pub is an 18th-century coaching inn, named The Five Alls, which can be found on the main road that winds through the village. I was there at the invitation of John Twitchett, a village resident and friend of long standing, who is considered the world's expert on Crown Derby porcelain. He wanted to discuss the open gardens' day, which takes place at Filkins and its neighbouring village, Broughton Poggs, on Sunday, June 1. John had stressed the beauty of the village and its gardens when we discussed meeting for lunch. I was not disappointed. The pub delighted me too, though its name puzzled me. What on earth did Five Alls mean, was it a spelling mistake? Did the sign writer mean to write Five Ales? No. Apparently it's a traditional pub name, which is explained if you look at the picture hanging in the pub depicting the devil in the centre, surrounded by a lawyer, who pleads for all, a parson, who prays for all, a soldier, who fights for all, and a farmer, who pays for all. In other words, all our needs are sorted, but the devil governs all.
Well, all my needs for a lively conversation, a glass of fine ale, and a flavoursome meal were certainly sorted.
This really is a lovely pub. Its three interconnecting rooms, with exposed Cotswold stone walls, flagstone floors, and wooden ceiling, are charming. This is one of those pubs which offer a great atmosphere, even when there are only a few people inside.
As it's a Brakspear pub, I was able to order half-a-pint of Oxford Gold, brewed at Wychwood Brewery, Witney, which slipped down easily.
The Five Alls's menu goes to some lengths to prove it is a 'green' Cotswold inn by listing all their local suppliers on the back of the menu. I actually chose a warm langoustine salad and chips, pictured, (£10 for the langoustine salad, and £3 for the home-cooked chips), because the chef was able to tell me exactly what part of Scotland they came from.
John chose a 10oz rump (£10), with a portion of spinach and roasted wild garlic (£3) and chips. His beef came from Field Farm Fresh, Appleton. This pub also uses Foxbury Farm, Brize Norton, for their lamb, and Helen Wade, of Eastleach Downs, supplies the Gloucestershire Old Spot pork. Their fresh eggs come from Isa Brown chickens, reared in Alvescot.
My langoustines were delicious, but I admit making rather a mess eating them, as I had to pick them up with my fingers and bite out the flesh. Not an easy thing to attempt when trying to hold a conversation at the same time, but that superb fishy flavour I extracted made the effort worthwhile. John's steak was so good he thanked the chef for getting it right. Other dishes on the menu include Gloucestershire Old Spot Sausages, creamed mash and red onion gravy (£9), and wood-roast chicken, cooked with almonds and saffron, served with salad (£7 or £10 for a main portion).
Unfortunately, the toilets here are not large enough to take a full-sized wheelchair, though naturally wheelchair-users are welcome.
Dogs are welcome too. There's even a large dog bowl of water outside the main door.
Yes - this is a great Cotswold pub. I shall call again when the gardens open.