The Pheasant, Keyston

In 2010, The Pheasant in Keyston, Cambridgeshire was named “Best British Restaurant” by Gordon Ramsay. Since then, the pub sadly went out of business, but now it’s back with a new owner and a new team of chefs and if my experience last night is anything to go by, it is better than ever.

My mum had been singing its praises for a little while but, having been away at uni, I had missed out on previous trips. Yesterday, my grandad came down to congratulate my brother and sister on their respective A Level and GCSE results, and we headed out to the Pheasant to celebrate. I failed to take any pictures of the outside, but it’s a very pretty white thatched building, and inside the homey, cottage-y feel continues.

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As well as their results, there was yet more cause for celebration: after some experimenting, we had managed to get my brother dressed in an actual shirt. I think the furry vest look might catch on.

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We started the meal off with complimentary bread and butter, which is always a good sign in my books. The bread was deliciously warm and the brown was nice and seedy and tasted very slightly of lemon, if I’m not mistaken. I’m not ashamed to say I ate about three slices.

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The menu itself is divided up into two sections, A La Carte and “Traditional Classics.” I’m not sure what the difference is, but it offered a great mix of traditional gastropub dishes (steak and chips, fish and chips, burger) and more unusual fare. To start, my sister and I both went for the smoked salmon.

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I immediately wished I hadn’t already eaten all the bread! The leaves made a nice contrast to the texture of the salmon, though, and overall it was a very nice dish and it was a good size for a starter.

After much deliberation between several of the main course offerings, I eventually decided on the roast pigeon, which came with green lentils, a “young carrot” and beetroot, with an elderberry and juniper sauce, which was actually what swayed my decision in the end. I’d never tried pigeon before so I was intrigued, and I have to say when it arrived it did not look the prettiest!

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I was very pleasantly surprised, though, and can safely say I would order pigeon again. The lentils on the side had little bits of chopped up carrot and what I can only describe as “pulled pigeon” mixed in, which was a nice touch. The sauce didn’t have as strong a flavour as I would have expected, but together everything worked well.

As for everybody else, grandad also went a bit experimental with the pan-fried calves’ livers. Distinctly prettier than mine, isn’t it? I didn’t try, but he seemed impressed.

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And this was my sister’s burger, which I did try, and can say it was delicious – there was a tomato relish on there that was fab. It also came with feta cheese in there, which I thought was an odd addition to your average pub burger and which my sister removed. The chips were also really good, big and chunky and just nicely salty.

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For me, though, the highlight of the meal was dessert. I’d eyed up the menu before we came and had already clocked what looked like some fab ice cream and sorbet flavours, so I was very pleased I wasn’t too full by the time the pudding menus rolled around.

Out of six available ice cream and sorbet flavours, you can pick three. I was intrigued by the option of a “purple basil” sorbet, but in the end I couldn’t resist going for vanilla and mixed spice ice creams, and raspberry sorbet.

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All of them were very, very good – I’m a sucker for great vanilla ice cream – but it was the mixed spice that really won out. It was delicious: like chai latte, or Christmas, on a spoon. I definitely need to find somewhere to get my hands on this!

Once again, for some reason I only photographed my grandad and sister’s desserts. Grandad opted for the cheese and port, which he declared good but not great.

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And here’s my sister’s trifle, which she ended up donating to mum but which looked too pretty not to photograph.

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I don’t know what Gordon Ramsay would have to say about it now, but as far as I’m concerned The Pheasant is a great little local: warm and friendly with good service and a really interesting, well-executed menu with a great British theme.

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