You can’t get through the winter without an extra layer of blubber around the thighs and hips. It’s all insulation isn’t it? That’s what Pudding Club host Steve Milne assured me on a raucous Friday evening at the Three Ways House Hotel in Mickleton – the venue of the famous club since 1985.
Every Friday, rolling pin in hand, he exhorts the sweet-toothed visitors into a salivating frenzy as the seven glistening puddings are paraded into the dining room, to the sound of hungry cheers and drumming of spoons on tables. As the Pudding Club declares on its website, it is a medieval banquet with custard.
The premise of the club is simple. Lovers of all things spongy, buttery and dripping with cream come together in this tiny village in the Cotswolds to try seven puddings, which are chosen depending on the theme and time of year. All are steamed or baked by the hotel’s team of chefs.
For winter, the stodgier the better, so we were lined up with spotted dick, chocolate pudding, sticky toffee and date, apple and cinnamon crumble, syrup sponge, Sussex pond pudding, and passion fruit Charlotte – a cold, lighter dessert to cleanse the palette. All these were served with lashings of custard, cream or chocolate sauce.
The strict rule is that all bowls must be cleared before going up for the next portion, which isn’t as daunting as it sounds, considering the portions are kept to a reasonable size. Despite this, I could only manage three puddings. One lady received a huge cheer as she staggered up for her seventh and final pudding, while I hung my head in shame. Perhaps I’d had too much dinner.
Belts loosened and sweat beads rolling, it was time to decide which pudding was the best of the night. I championed the Sussex pond – an unusual suet pudding with whole lemons baked in its core, so the juices ooze and create a sticky mush. But my vote was superfluous – sticky toffee and date won the crown. I gave my teeth a good brushing that night.
The guilt of gluttony had waned by the following morning, when I was lacing up my walking boots for a 10-mile walk in the Cotswolds. My fellow Puddingers and I boarded a coach for our starting point in the village of Buckland, where Colin Boulton, a local Cotswold Way warden, led us on the four-hour expedition back to Mickleton.
Walking it off
I felt sticky toffee seeping through my pores as we climbed the steep hill over Buckland, but I was rewarded by the view of the medieval St Michael’s church and frosty undulating hills.
The walk took us along a section of the Cotswold Way and through a string of iconic Cotswold villages, such as Broadway and Chipping Camden.
There were some fascinating pit stops, such as the natural amphitheatre on Dover’s Hill – the location of the annual Cotswold Olimpick Games. As Colin puts it: “A Cotswold man is strong in the arm and thick in the head”, and this is no more prevalent than in this strange event. Every year, people compete in bizarre games such as shin-kicking and tug-o-war, before embarking on a torch-lit procession to Chipping Camden’s square. This year’s games will be held on 3 June.
Back in Mickleton, our muddy boots were left to bake in front of the hotel’s fire. I bought myself some puddings to take home. For friends and family, of course.
How to get there
Mickleton is on the B4632, Stratford-upon-Avon to Broadway road. Direct trains from London
to nearby Moreton-in-Marsh every hour.
Find out more
The Pudding Club
Three Ways House Hotel, Mickleton GL55 6SB
The hotel hosts the Pudding Club every Friday evening at 7.30pm, and includes a welcome drink and light main course. £35 per person; booking essential. Cotswold Walking Weekends are held throughout the year and include two nights’ accommodation, an evening at the Pudding Club, dinner on Saturday, breakfast on both mornings, picnic lunches and walking guides. Prices start from £235 per person.
The King’s Arms
High Street, Mickleton
Try the Cotswold pheasant in this popular inn.
Hidcote Manor Gardens
Hidcote Bartrim, GL55 6LR