The Wheatsheaf Inn, Northleach
+44 (0) 1451 860 244
by Peter Pain Perdu
Here is what I like: being in the country, feeling decadent, falling asleep in front of a fire and waking up with a velvety doggie muzzle against my palm. Here is what I love: all the aforementioned things but with breakfast. And this is why I love weekends at The Wheatsheaf.
The spread includes seasonal fruit — which in December was pears, clementines, and stewed berries, local honey, and yoghurt and cheese from Neal’s Yard. There were also pastries, or if you wanted something healthier, delicious bread so full of seeds any German doctor would approve. All this was mere window dressing though when compared with the majestic ham glistening at the end of the buffet. Last spring, a leg of jamon serrano flirted with all who gazed upon it. This time it was a marmalade-glazed ham perfectly seasoned with cloves.
Though I'm usually very abstemious, even on holiday, there's something about the Wheatsheaf that makes me thirsty. Perhaps it's the cozy open fires. Anyway, as I sat hungover, sipping my coffee, and looking over the menu, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop. “I don’t remember the table being quite so wobbly last night.” “That’s because we were absolutely trollied.” At least I wasn't the only one. Luckily for all of us feeling rough as badgers, there was an apothecary jar full of remedies as well as a selection of various hairs of various dogs. Full bottles of prosecco and orange juice, pitchers of Bloody Mary mix and vodka. Did I mention you could just help yourself? You could and the full bottles didn’t stop at the booze. There were full bottles of ketchup, hot sauce, and HP on every table just like at a greasy spoon. This is so much better than the many restaurants that dole out pokey portions of condiments as if patrons are greedy children not to be trusted.
As an American, I felt it my duty to order pancakes and bacon. The smoked streaky was nice and crisp and perfectly salted. The pancakes were light and fluffy. They were also very eggy. So eggy, their outsides had a delicate crust like the golden exterior of an omelette.
On day two, I ordered the French toast which was fantastic. The multigrain bread they used had been expertly dipped into a very cinnamony egg mixture, though only on one side. Whether this was intentional or not, I am not sure but it gave my French toast the effect of having a sweet shaggy beard.
I cajoled my companion, Blake Pudding, into ordering the full English. His sausage tasted as if it had been cooked hours ago and sin of all sins—the whites on his fried eggs were under done. As I was reading Edouard de Pomiane, I had to agree. “Eggs sur le plat need the greatest care, since the white must be completely cooked and the yolk should be hot, while remaining fluid.” This full English left him wishing he'd just ordered the same perfectly poached eggs with ham he'd enjoyed the previous morning.
The dining room itself is a thing to behold. My favorite paintings are a set of four patrician gentlemen, all of whom resemble the monocled Monopoly man. The juxtaposition of these Jeeves & Wooster extras with German pop artist Sebastian Kruger’s portrait of Kate Moss keep the room from feeling too serious. The décor is one part P.G. Wodehouse, one part rock and roll, and the result is that everyone is comfortable here. Long-legged Sloaney ponies in red trousers talking about summer in Fulham in daddy’s new Jag, San Franciscans in Gore-Tex discussing why Democrats need more young female senators whilst waiting with champagne packed picnics for a guide to lead them on the Cotswold’s Walk, Guardian readers, Telegraph readers, Grazia and Cotswold Life readers, people who don't enjoy reading at all, and last but not least, the long-suffering locals with obedient dogs who love the pub so much they’ll never stop coming. Thank god, as nothing quiets the roar of the butterfly quite so much as stroking the ears of a silky spaniel.