Unseen Britain - The Bull Hotel, Downton, Wiltshire
By Alan Russell
VENUE:The Bull Hotel
Date of Visit: 3rd September 2016
Reason: Evening meal on way to Salisbury
The hotel was originally built in the 18th century as a coaching inn in the very old Wiltshire village of Downton which is an area that has been inhabited since the Neolithic days. The main road, now the A338, that the hotel is next to use to be the old coaching route from Oxford to Poole hence at the front of the building there is still a trace of the old archway the coaches used to pass through when stopping at the inn. Since being built the hotel has undergone many refurbishments and alterations yet has still retained characteristics from those bygone days such as exposed beams and a very non symmetrical eating and bar area where we sat.
The sign outside swinging in the September breeze shows a Hereford bull and a trout. Why the trout? Not only is a ‘bull’ a male bovine but a male trout is also a ‘bull’ which is my new piece of knowledge for the day,
For starters our guest went for the homemade lobster ravioli from the specials board. This came as quite a large portion which I would have been happy with as a main dish but our guest polished it of with gusto. I had the seared scallops with crispy pancetta, salad and a pea puree. The scallops were perfect, the salad ample but I felt that the pea puree that the scallops were on which although full of flavour could have been better served by being kept separate from the scallops. My wife, a vegetarian, settled for the wild mushroom bruschetta which was ‘average’.
Our guest chose the 8oz long horn rump steak topped with two macro grilled prawns. His feedback was that the steak was well cooked and had plenty of favour reminding him of the longhorn cattle he used to breed. My wife chose the wild mushroom and spinach risotto. It really wasn’t a matter of choice as on the day of our visit this was actually the only main course option for vegetarians. One can have too much mushroom at one dinner and this was one of those occasions. I had the salmon fillet which was cooked perfectly even to the crispy skin. This was served with baby beetroot and a goats cheese mash. This was creamy with a hint of the saltiness of goats cheese while the beetroot provided a sweet background to the salmon. The steak plate and my plate were cleaned but the risotto dish went back only partially eaten.
As hinted at already, there is a very limited selection for vegetarians from the set menu.
From the moment we arrived the welcome was friendly and this approach was maintained throughout or visit. Meal orders were taken at the table and it was about ten minutes from ordering to the starters arriving. The waitress did give us the heads up that the goat’s cheese and blueberry tartlet would take about twenty minutes which we could not wait for. Mains followed quickly so full marks on the service front.
The three of us had two courses each and a round of drinks which came to approximately £63. So, to be really safe budget about £20 t0 £25 per cover for two courses and bar drinks.
Would we visit again? Yes, but only if the vegetarian main course range is extended.
Would we recommend the Bull Hotel for meals? Yes, but again with the qualifying comment about the vegetarian choices.