Swindon has had an ill-deserved reputation for being a cultural desert for far too long. But while Swindon is definitely on the up, it still stumbles to a halt when it comes to restaurants. With so many big companies based in the town, it's odd that no one has yet spotted the gap and set up a decent place to eat.
Until then, when I want a leisurely lunch with no interruptions but plenty of food interest, Coles of Marlborough is usually my first choice. Set on a hill on the outskirts of the quaint market town, just 15 minutes' drive south of the M4, the restaurant's ancient building with uneven floors and roaring log fires oozes character, but the contemporary flourishes and light, open layout give it a modern feel.
There are large enough gaps between tables for discreet conversations (and indiscreet gossip), and service is friendly and efficient. The menu changes often enough to grab attention and choices are imaginative - such as a starter of Indian spiced boneless quail on a carrot and onion bhajee, or peppered local venison with an orange and cardamom glaze with celeriac mash - and there are several good wines to order by the glass.
The pudding menu is small but perfectly formed, though I've yet to meet anyone who's managed to tackle it at lunch after the first two courses.
Where 27 Kingsbury Hill, Marlborough, SN8
Contact 01672 515004
How much £45 for two, excluding drinks