Made By Bob, Cirencester
Walk through the glass doors of Made By Bob in Cirencester and you walk into another world – not the quiet, genteel world of a Cotswold market town, oh no! These doors open into an altogether buzzier, more urban world, which makes you feel as if, like Alice in Wonderland, you’ve drunk a magic potion and been transported in a heartbeat to a funky brasserie in Chelsea.
Located in the Corn Hall arcade, Made By Bob, which opened in 2008, but recently underwent a fab new renovation with a denim blue colour scheme blending perfectly with its low-beamed ceiling and windowed archways, is the place to lunch in Cirencester. On the day I visited, it was rammed and while we waited for our table, we were happily transfixed by the gleaming, stainless-steel kitchen at the heart of the restaurant. No fretful, behind-the-scenes cooking here; instead, the chefs are the main attraction creating artful dishes with actorly aplomb for all to see. There are high bar seats all around the area for a close-up view, which would be a great spot for a Sex and the City-type girly lunch or even a first date, as the chefs’ skills would keep the conversation flowing nicely (and the all-European wine menu would easily take you through to the end of the date and beyond).
At the bar, the youngest mudlet and I (she pulled the jackpot for accompanying me) found owner Bob Parkinson slicing an impressive leg of jamon. Bob, who was brought up in Cheltenham, is very much the heart and soul of his restaurant. I’m not surprised to discover he honed his cooking skills at London’s Bibendum under head chef Simon Hopkinson (of Roast Chicken and Other Stories fame). Stints at some of London’s most acclaimed restaurants followed, including Nahm at the Halkin Hotel in Belgravia, the first Thai restaurant in Europe to win a Michelin star.
The lunch menu reflects Bob’s modern British/ Mediterranean/ Thai influences. The mudlet and I, seated at a table between an inter-generational family gathering and a young couple with their firstborn (all ages are welcome here and the atmosphere is incredibly warm and friendly), were riveted by the menu, eyes darting from one delicious-sounding dish to the next. Truffle linguine, deep-fried monkfish, fish tagine, creamed game pie – what to have?! I couldn’t resist the rock oysters with red wine shallot vinegar, which I persuaded the mudlet to share with me. She isn’t quite old enough to have acquired the taste for them, but, hey, I loved them!
She was incredibly pleased with her Tiger prawns though, which came with bread but I ordered her a side of chips too, which were delicious (I slyly nicked one when she was busy deshelling a prawn).
I opted for grilled breast of chicken with soft polenta, stewed sprouts and chorizo. And, OMG, this was the best chicken dish I’ve ever eaten. The chicken was cooked to perfection (I’ve never sampled Simon Hopkinson’s but I can imagine it now), the sauce was tangy and mouthwatering and the polenta! Well, who knew polenta could be made to be so flavoursome and boy was it soft.
I was quite full by this point, but the dessert menu looked too good to pass on. And of course the mudlet was straight away ordering a sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream which kept her quiet for awhile. I went for saffron poached pear with honey mousse, an ambrosial confection that perfectly complemented my main course.
Wow, we were sated. Sitting back in our seats, I soaked up the buzzy surroundings, feeling privileged that this perfect slice of culinary, metropolitan heaven was on my rural doorstep.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Anyone who loves excellent food and a buzzy, cosmopolitan atmosphere. It’s a perfect spot for lunch – light or hearty – and in the evenings on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, you can get tapas-style, bar dishes until 10pm, making it a great place to meet up after work for a drink and superior nibbles (wild mushroom croquettes, warm octopus and potato salad, parmesan custard with anchovy toast). There were children of all ages when I visited, but it’s definitely a grown-up place that is very welcoming of kids rather than a small-people destination.
Not for: Romantic one-to-ones or a three-course supper. There are no quiet nooks to hold hands in here – it’s more the flirty preamble rather than the declaration of love stage of a relationship – and after 3pm, the menu switches to Bob’s Bites (see ‘good for’, above), so it’s for evening snacks rather than feasts.
££: Prices are very reasonable considering the excellent quality of the food. Light lunches start from around £8, most of the more substantial dishes hover at £15 and puddings are £6 or thereabouts.
Made By Bob, 26 Market Place, The Corn Hall, Cirencester GL7 2NY. Tel: 01285 641818. foodmadebybob.com
Breakfast: 7.30am-10am; lunch: 12pm-3pm; Bob’s Bar: 3pm-6pm Mon, Tue, Sat; 3pm-10pm Wed-Fri