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Emily Watkins

Emily Watkins

In 2007, with plans for her own place firmly in mind, Emily moved to Gloucestershire. Her sister, who lives in Kingham, tipped her off that the local pub was on the market. Enthused by the location and ready access to top-quality suppliers, she opened the doors to her own eatery – The Kingham Plough – aged only twenty-eight.

Assisted only by a commis chef, she was soon overwhelmed by the public’s zest for her enterprise and found herself single-handedly managing a daily changing menu, in the kitchen every day from 7am to midnight. Her then boyfriend jumped in to help and a year later they had bought out her business partner and got married.

Emily and her husband set out to create a dining pub that they themselves would like to visit – excellent modern British food in a warm and relaxed environment. On visiting the Plough, A.A. Gill wrote: 'Anyone thinking of opening a local pub restaurant should come here and see the gold standard.' The pub also received a Michelin Bib Gourmand (awarded to establishments with particularly good-value menus), as well as two AA rosettes, and was one of the Good Food Guide’s Top 50 Pubs.

Inspired by her historical research into old Cotswolds recipes, Emily Watkins’ inventive modern British cuisine was centred on traditional cooking using contemporary methods. The menu often featured very well-known British dishes – a Wellington, for example – but brought up-to-date with sophisticated technique and inspired reinterpretation. Eschewing the traditional beef of this classic recipe, her versions instead utilised chicken, pheasant, duck, venison, lamb, rabbit, pigeon or pork – as in her pork loin and black pudding Wellington with Grandpa’s cabbage – showcasing both the skill and creativity of the kitchen, as well as the impeccably sourced meats produced by local specialist breeders.

In the 2014 series of Great British Menu, Emily Watkins won a place in the final banquet at St Paul’s Cathedral with her fish dish, 'Fight them on the Beaches'. Inspired by her grandfathers, who both fought in the Second World War, it featured ingredients that can be foraged on the beaches of Normandy: griddled scallops, smoked cockle broth, a variety of sea greens, braised morels and dehydrated nori seaweed served like tobacco in a tin. She said the brief captured well the essence of her food at the Kingham Plough: 'It was much more typical of what we do here,' she told us. 'We always use the whole beast; we use local ingredients, a lot of foraged ingredients.'

In early 2019, Emily and her husband decided the time was right to sell up at The Kingham Plough. Though she is moving on to new things, Emily's enthusiasm for the craft of cooking remains undimmed, and we eagerly await news of her next venture.