Just back from two weeks in England, half in the Cotswolds and half in London. In the former, there were some disheartening changes to one of our favorite pubs in a neighboring village. The old snug bar has been dismantled, its fireplace-facing easy chairs displaced by a pack of dining tables that lend this fifteenth-century pub all the charm of a high street Pizza Express. Still, I wish anybody willing to take on a country pub well. If it was easy, they wouldn’t change hands and shape so often.
My disappointment was allayed when I was introduced to a pub, The Golden Fleece, in Stroud that seems to be getting everything right in balancing old and new. We only had time for a half pint, but I look forward to going back and whiling away an entire afternoon there, as our neighbor seemed to be doing with a pint and a paperback.
Instead, we cycled down the canal to check out the relatively newly renovated Stroud Brewery. It’s wildly different than the original, much larger and slicker, and our hearts initially dropped with the sense that another gem had been lost. Then we found a spot in a snug overlooking the vast beer-hall-style ground floor and, over the course of a few hours and a few pints of Alederflower Pale Ale, had a lovely time chatting with our fellow patrons. Vélo Bakery and Pizza is still onsite in the brewery and provided our excellent dinner.
In London, our standout meal was a lunch at the Persian restaurant, Berenjak, in Soho. We sat at the counter and watched the team of cooks work the tiny open kitchen, delivering dish after exquisite dish from the clay tanoor over, grill, shawarma spit, and fryer. We chose conservatively but were still rewarded: hummus with taftoon (sourdough seeded flatbread from the tanoor), an aubergine stew, and a fancy riff on a late night kabab, piled on a bed of fries and topped with a hand-tossed lettuce and onion salad, all washed down with a house lager and a Bibble pale ale.
After lunch, we walked over to Second Shelf Books, the jewel box of a bookstore selling first editions of books by women writers. There’s a profile of it here, and it’s a must-visit if you love book stores. I bought a first-edition of Carson McCullers Clock Without Hands after ogling a much more expensive copy of Elaine Dundy’s The Dud Avocado. Like Berenjak, I’ll be back.