Made by Bob
Em Marshall-Luck relishes a treat in Cirencester
Not having visited Cirencester’s centre for many years, I was pleasantly surprise by the clean, smart place it has become, with gleaming pedestrianised areas and the parish church’s stone glowing golden – a far change from the dirty grey I recall. One of the most startling changes has taken place in the once-grotty and run-down Corn Hall, now brimming with fashionable and sophisticated shops – tempting-looking wine shops, boutique clothes shops, and the popular and highly acclaimed delicatessen and restaurant, Made by Bob. With a greyish wooden floor, grey chairs, circular and square wooden tables with metal pedestals, white-painted arched brickwork, and the matching deep blue of the banquettes, feature walls, bar, industrial pendant lamps, window frames and beams, the impression is relaxed but smart; and very trendy. The only artwork that I was able to spot in the packed room was a large poster of a King of Hearts. We were seated at one of the circular tables in a corner on a comfortable banquette, and were served swiftly by members of the staff, all attired in denims with dark blue half-aprons. It is a child-friendly establishment – for once, Tristan wasn’t the only child present; as a stack of wooden high chairs testifies. Throughout the meal, we found the staff affable if not over-friendly, professional and efficient. Drinks and food were brought swiftly and we were unobtrusively checked on several times during our meal, to ensure that all was to our satisfaction. The kitchen is open, just behind the bar, which means that the restaurant occasionally becomes filled with tempting aromas of cooking steaks, a strong whiff of saffron, or the olfactory allure of salmon.
The other side of the large single room houses more bar-type seating, presumably for those only wishing to enjoy a drink, and the two, clean toilets, featuring the same colour-scheme.
The menu comprises fresh, daily specials – a good range running from marcona almonds, soups and light starters all the way through charcuterie plates and tarts to steaks and fish dishes, and with reasonable price ranges to suit. There is also an excellent bar menu, ranging from wasabi nuts and olives through croquettes and grissini to corn-fed Iberico ham, steak tartare and plates of Italian and Spanish charcuterie, all also at reasonable prices. The drinks list has a good selection of non-alcoholic drinks (Tristan was able to indulge in a mango juice, for instance), as well as coffees, teas, and a short but good selection of wines by the glass and bottle; with special sections also on gins and cocktails.
I just went for a single glass of Domaine de Rimauresque Cru Classe, a rose, that was an appropriately elegant and clean wine to accompany a sophisticated and clean meal. Salmon pink in colour, it has a nose that is surprisingly savoury, with, slightly oddly, a hint of salt, along with more mineral elements. On the palate it was immensely smooth and silky, with a slightly creamy texture, and with plenty of red berry fruits, combining the tartness of redcurrants, with the sweeter tones of strawberries, along with hints of clean herbs and a bite of white pepper at the finish.
My husband declared his orange juice passable (but no more than that, unfortunately). The bottle of still water that was brought displayed fashionably environmentally concerned messages (“Our environmentally positive water is helping reduce your carbon footprint” – presumably this refers to the environmentally-conscientious way in which the water is transported to the restaurant, although I would have been rather more convinced if the bottle displayed some indication as to the point of bottling. We hoped that it is locally sourced, given that there is a limestone aquifer just a few miles away from Cirencester.).
I then started with the burrata with pickled beetroot and lambs lettuce. The burrata was one of the best I have ever tasted: absolutely fresh and gloriously creamy. In a compact sphere, it burst open with unctuous cheese – not too milky, however, as many can be, but maintaining its shape while oozing just very gently. The accompanying elements went extremely well with it, as did the well-judged sprinkle of salt on the top. A perfectly executed dish and one that demonstrates exactly how the simpler dishes can often be the best, when using the very finest of ingredients.
Nothing could better that burrata, which I could have eaten for starter, main and dessert – but my tart of cherry tomatoes, spinach and cheddar cheese was also superb. I had thought that there was not much that one could do with a tart to make it particularly excel, but this was undoubtedly a Very Superior Tart: bursting with flavour, from tomatoes that actually tasted of tomatoes; and very salty and characterful cheddar. The texture of the tart was unusually good – absolutely silky smooth, whilst remaining immensely creamy – more a custard than anything else. The accompanying green salad, comprising various different leaves was light and cleansing; dressed with a very light oil dressing: the perfect complement to the outstanding tart.
It was still too early in the day for my husband Rupert to be particularly hungry, so he had just opted for the leek and stilton soup. He pronounced this very flavoursome indeed, with the stilton particularly to the fore, although not overpoweringly so. The croutons were fresh and their crunchiness complemented the creaminess of the soup very well – altogether, a soup with a definite note of luxury to it. The bread that accompanied the soup was also excellent, with a salted crust which lent an extra dimension to the flavour, and a light and open-textured crumb. Unsalted President butter added to the air of sophistication.
The sole point of disappointment was the chips (which toddler Tristan had ordered a bowl of) – these were completely unexceptional, with a taste and appearance that indicated mass-produced, rather than made on site, let alone anything special such as hand-cut or triple-fried.
Even after such a light meal, we were sated and unable to manage anything else – except a pot of tea for me. I was pleased to note that this was proper leaf tea; with an elegant flavour and silky texture: excellent.
The fact that the restaurant was packed – with tables being snapped up as soon as they became available for the duration of the meal – certainly indicates that Made by Bob is impressing locals and visitors alike. Personally, I would return like a flash for that burrata any day, and would then like to take the opportunity to explore some of their heartier dishes, in the anticipation of an equally excellent experience.
Em Marshall-Luck is QR’s Food and Wine Critic