Many things had fallen away when we came out of lockdown (one, two or three - take your pick). Our family Côte Brasserie for our Monday night meet-ups was no longer there; the hairdresser I had gone to for decades had decided to shut up shop; and my favourite pubs had gone quiet. Thank you for your sympathy. I managed to soldier on. As time passes, I know we have to shift and move with the changes. One change I was willing to embrace with open arms was the opening of D'Ambrosi in Stow-on-the-Wold.
Stow to many will be known for its traditional cream teas, tourists and its superb location for exploring the Cotswolds. I grew up knowing it for its excellent hot chocolate, which would come with an iceberg of whipped crea and make my round ten-year-old face light up with anticipation. But in the last few years it had had something of a reinvention. This started when fashionista and all round aesthete Amanda Brooks moved in and opened her shop 'Cutter Brooks' in 2018. Then January 2020 hits and Amanda mentions on her Instagram two new blow-ins in the shape of Jesse & Andrew D'Ambrosi, who had set up the eponymous 'D'Ambrosi Fine Foods' just down the road. With Covid rearing its ugly head, I thought to myself: 'God help them. This ain't your year'. As I have found with my premonitions though, they hold little weight, and with queues out the door and into the square (four hundred yards or so for those not in the know) ‘D'Ambrosi Fine Foods’ went from strength to strength. I visited in Christmas 2020, and even with the sterile feeling that had descended on Gloucestershire, there D'Ambrosi sat with its green facade and bountiful interiors filled with Jesse's colourful touches and Andrews's extraordinary food.
Unsurprisingly though this is not their first rodeo. Andrew has worked at many revered establishments such as 'Le Cirque' and the Michelin-starred 'Rouge Tomate', as well as acting as Executive Chef at Norwood, a private member's club in New York where he met Jesse, who was working in Marketing and Events. They left the city that never sleeps to set up shop in the Loire Valley, which led them one step closer to their Gloucestershire premises. D'Ambrosi has since become one of my regular haunts. Whenever our family is too tired to cook or wants something off the regular menu, I hop in the Honda Jazz and bound into Stow. There Jesse, whose boundless energy and charisma never cease to fail me, stands behind the counter, welcoming the legions of fans who have had the same idea as me.
If you're in the Capital though, fear not; put your rail card back in your wallet and head directly to Hollywood Road SW6. D'Ambrosi has opened its doors and made it stunningly easy for me to get my hands on all its excellent goods. In one weekend, I visited them twice. Their fried chicken is the best I have eaten, their ceviche would be on my rider, and their ribs are extraordinarily good. So if you are in the area and need a snack, meal or a whole dinner party spread, this is the place. And if you're not - they deliver!