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Swan Inn: Gastropub food in country setting
We recently took my parents out for lunch in the Cotswolds and a bit of pre-planning and internet research led me to suggest the Swan Inn. It seemed to offer just the right combination of character, intersting menu and good food - and so it proved to be.
The pub has lots of history and a well-known (at least in England) owner. The famous "Mitford sisters" grew up in Swinbrook. Nancy, the oldest, went on to become a writer (I thoroughly recommend "Love in a Cold Climate" if you want a taste of a bygone age of English society), as did Jessica (her autobiographical "Hons and Rebels" is also a great read). Others were more notorious - Diana became involved with and later married Oswald Mosley while Unity was famous for her adulation of and friendship with Adolf Hitler. The youngest, Deborah, led perhaps the most conventional life, marrying the Duke of Devonshire and turning his ancestral home, Chatsworth House, into one of Britain's most successful stately homes. She is the only Mitford sister still living, and is the owner of the Swan Inn. Consequently the pub walls are adorned with fascinating photos of the family - mostly of the girls when they were children and lived nearby.
One thing I liked about the building was that it seems to be a pub for all seasons. The rooms on either side of the entrance are evidently the oldest part; they have low ceilings and cosy-looking fireplaces, and would be a great spot to enjoy a pint and a warming lunch in winter. Beyond is a light conservatury, where we ate, and beyond that a lawn with several tables for outdoor eating and drinking.
Favorite Dish: As this was a celebration meal (my mother's 80th birthday) we chose from the full menu rather than the bar snacks on offer, although the latter also looked good. My choice was the "Fillet of sea trout with pak choi, chilli, coriander & Thai fish sauce", Chris had "Sauté lambs kidneys with pancetta, peas and red wine" and my parents both chose "Cheese fagotini with Provencal vegetables" (a pasta dish the fagotini were little ravioli-like parcels). I loved my fish - the taste was delicate but tinged with spicy chillies, and the pak choi was perfectly cooked. My parents were equally enthusiastic about their dish - the pasta was likewise perfectly cooked and the sauce delicious. Oh and Chris liked the kidneys too, and was impressed by the size of the portion!
We all managed a second course too - mine was a dish of strawberries with cream, raspberry jellies and honeycomb, my mother had Eton mess (strawberries with meringue), Chris a beautifully presented berry trifle (see photo 3) and Dad went for the cheese board - several local cheeses on a slate platter with fruit and biscuits. And again everyone was very happy with their choice, with Dad's cheese perhaps being the most-praised of the dishes.
The menu here is seasonal and can change daily however, so don't expect that these will necessarily feature on the day you happen to visit. But from what we ate, and the other dishes I saw coming out of the kitchen, I reckon you'd find something that would appeal.
As this is a "gastropub" it does charge a little more than the average, but we felt it was worth what we paid - around £25 per person with a bottle of wine, water and bread to start as well as all the above. Definitely recommended if you're in the area - we will probably go back!Related to:
- Food and Dining
The Lamb Inn: Check out the Quality, Taste and Food Presentation
This is a lovely authentic country pub. It's a low, part whitewashed, part Cotswold stone thatched building snuggled into this quiet country village. On a quiet winter's day you can imagine this pub as it was centuries ago. Duck and enter through a low door and you are not disappointed. It is a credit to The Head Chef Dilraj Sequeira and his brigade. No clutter, few pictures - it doesn't need it.
Immediately homely, an open fire, pretty wall lights, exposed Cotswold walls, striking polished hardwood floors, fresh flowers and the wonderful aroma of home cooking creates a feeling of excellence guaranteed to this most delightful of country pubs.
The staff are very efficient and friendly, with the ambience of a chic restaurant and the appearance of a country cottage, a place for a quiet chat across a candlelit table. With a excellent home cooked menu, wide-ranging and delicious Wines of the globe to complement your meal "which change regularly" instantly one can see whats attracting customers for miles. The regular lunch clubs combine fine dining, Good company in a traditional setting and represent great value.
Outside; The Lambs walled garden scattered with tables in gentle rural surrounds is a real sun-trap. The ideal place to spend a summer's afternoon. Being only a few miles from the M40 this delicious traditional country inn with a twist is easy to find and well worth the trip!
Favorite Dish: Chargrilled aubergine and halloumi cheese, chicken liver pate and chicken and bacon Caesar salad made for a tempting choice of starters. Both my wife and I, however, settled for the crab cakes served with a sweet chilli sauce. The menu is changed monthly but hopefully you will have the chance to sample such favourites as beef Fullers ale and smoked oyster pie, noisettes of lamb on a celeriac puree, or the delicious pan-fried pork with flageolet beans.
For my main course, I chose calf's liver and bacon - a dish I have not tried for many a year - served with wholegrain mustard mash and onion gravy.
If calf's liver were always as tender as this I certainly would never have left it so long. Delicious roasted sausages also come with mash and a delicious thick gravy. Succulent flambe breast of duck, served with red cabbage and new potatoes, was my wife's choice. How else to end such a meal but with apple crumble and custard?
My only regret as I left was not being able to manage a pint of the Adnams or Marston Pedigree, the two draught beers with a guest beer, changed regularly. The Lamb remains, after all, a great Oxfordshire pub.Related to:
- Wine Tasting
- Food and Dining
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
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The Abingdon Arms, Beckley: Great food and atmosphere
This is a pub not a restaurant but the food we had was excellent, well presented and reasonably priced. The menu was surprisingly wide and varied and we were very happy with our choice for lunch.
The ambience is mellow and friendly even though there was a TV in one corner. Fortunately the sound was off - only Golf so no need for the commentary.
We both wanted soup which came with a sandwich or something extra. My wife had a massive serving of mushroom on crusty bread with a creamy sauce. See the photo.
Our Basil and tomato soup was excellent with plenty of fresh crusty brown bread and butter. I also had a local sausage sandwich which came with Stilton cheese as well. All for about £7 each I think.
I returned to this pub (February 2011) and happy to say the food is still very good and great value.
The pub is the nearest to the RSPB's Reserve of Otmoor.
The Highway Inn: Sunday Roast!
Arriving in Burford on a Sunday lunchtime in September, we were confronted with a plethora of choice but equally a gaggle of tourists thronging the streets or tucking into their selected food. Having left Heathrow a few hours earlier after a 24 hour flight from Melbourne, whilst we surprisingly chipper, we felt we could not face i) large crowds and ii) an overly intimate, dark pub with low ceilings filled to the rafters with knick-knacks. (no judgement meant - such an environment would not have suited our mood).
The Highway Inn proved to be the perfect choice. Whilst one of the oldest buildings in Burford (1480), The Highway has large bay windows looking out onto the main street, providing a light, airy environment. White walls and high ceilings added to the effect. Three separate rooms (main bar and 2 snugs), but the main bar area was perfect for us to order exactly what we wanted - a simple, unfussy Sunday roast with a slab of meat and fresh, roasted veggies (and a pint of real ale). It was perfect. And Tally, our host, was chatty and happy to talk and then move on to serve other customers.
Favorite Dish: We kept it simple - roast pork, crackling, roasted veggies.
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Inn For All Seasons: Pub grub at its best
After lunch earlier in the day at The Highway Inn and rejecting an intimate bar space, dinner in the evening was the perfect foil - a former 16th century coaching inn that epitomises 'an old English pub' - roaring fires in the winter (thankfully not needed when we were there), leather chesterfields, low ceilings - lots of atmosphere and incredibly friendly locals.
Dinner was excellent - the next stage up from the simple Sunday roast we had earlier in the day (we were not jetlagged but we were constantly hungry for the first 24 hours after getting off the flight - we followed dinner the next morning with a full English breakfast).
Tender lamb, juicy steaks with plenty of vegetables and complementary herb/jus flavourings, but not so many that everything was an assault on the tastebuds. And a good wine list - although make sure you ask for it as the assumption will be that you will drink the wine from the bar.
Favorite Dish: Lamb!
THE ASHMOLEAN MUSEUM: Rooftop Restaurant
The Ashmolean has been recently renovated, and a nice addition is their rooftop restaurant serving good food - tapas, tarts and larger plates, too. The hot chocolate and coffee were very, very good as were the puddings aka desserts.Related to:
- Museum Visits
- Food and Dining
- Family Travel
The Thatch: Quality dining in a pub
The Thatch is an old pub in Thame town centre that has been renovated and is now a restaurant run by a protege of chef Raymond Blanc. It was the prize in a reality TV show in which couples competed to run a restaurant, but the winners decided to move back closer to their family.
Favorite Dish: I had a wonderful cheese souffle with a cheese sauce as a starter, followed by duck, and a selection of cheese and biscuits. My husband's dessert of tiny doughnuts with chocolate dipping sauce did look incredibly tempting, though.Related to:
- Food and Dining
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Shaven Crown, Shipton under Wychwood: Surrounded by history
This oddly named hotel has a pub to the rear where we had a very pleasant lunch. Parts of the hotel building date back to 1384 and it was run at one time by the monks of nearby Bruern Abbey. Bruen was a Cistercian abbey founded in the reign of King Stephen and dissolved in 1539 - nothing now remains of the abbey itself.
We entered through a large arch into a passage that would I think have been used in the past by horses and carriages. A glimpse into the room on our left (the hotel’s reception) showed us a wealth of fascinating historical features, while propped in the passageway was what looked like the original door, now replaced rather effectively by modern glass. Beyond was a pretty courtyard garden and beyond that, the pub. This was a fairly simple affair, but with a good menu offering both lighter meals and more substantial ones.
Chris and Ingrid both chose the lamb koftas which came with naan bread and a yoghurt and mint dip. I had a sandwich of roasted peppers and pesto on ciabatta bread. Ingrid and I sampled two of the local real ales but Chris, our driver for the day, stuck to water. The bill for the food was about £17 for all three of us – I don’t remember how much we paid for the drinks but it seemed to be standard pub prices, not inflated hotel ones. We ate our meal out in the garden, next to the pool with its fountain and colourful goldfish – a lovely break on our sightseeing tour.
Ingrid has contributed the photos of our food, as I was evidently too busy eating to remember to taking any myself!
The Saye and Sele Arms: Lovely Pub with Delicious Food
We spotted this pub as we arrived in the village intending to visit Broughton Castle and were pleased to notice that the Castle didn't open for another hour; this gave us a good excuse to have lunch! The pub had a set menu for Sunday lunch but with about seven choices for each course, even the fussiest eater (like me!) can find something nice. The menu also indicated vegetarian and gluten free options clearly.
Although the place was extremely busy, the efficient staff had us seated within no time at all and once our orders were taken, the food arrived quickly too, with each course arriving as soon as we'd finished the last. We never felt that we'd been forgotten or that we were being hurried along to make room for others.
There was a lovely cosy feel to the building, but they must have had some pretty good air conditioning too, as any cigarette smoke produced in the bar area seemed to disappear in moments and never invaded the eating area.
Favorite Dish: My mum said the roast beef was excellent and she would probably have asked for second helpings of the gravy, if we'd been at someone’s house rather than a restaurant. I really enjoyed the roasted vegetables with a cheese glaze and although we were both too full for a proper pudding and had to order the fruit salad, we found that excellent too.Related to:
- Beer Tasting
- Wine Tasting
- Food and Dining
Royal Brasserie Balti Cuisine: More Curry !
Having been impressed with our Indian meal in Cambridge the night before, we decided to give it another go in Banbury! Since we had only just discovered the Balti flavours the night before, we were intrigued to find another restuarant that actually featured 'Balti' in its name.
Favorite Dish: The prices were very reasonable, only just over 5 pounds apiece (US$9). I decided to try a Balti Tikkah Bhuna consisting of marinated succulent chicken pieces cooked in a thick medium spicey sauce with finely chopped onions, fresh tomatoes, coriander and various other spices & herbs. Sue decided to try the Tikka Masala (one of our favourites at home). This consisted of diced tandoori roasted chicken cooked in a sauce made with a delicate blend of aromatic spices and herbs, simmered in fresh tomatoes, pure vegetable Ghee and cream. I, of course, had to sample a cold Kingfisher premium lager beer (India's #1 selling brand) purely to combat the effects of the various spices! Including a tip, the total meal only came to 25 pounds (US$46).Related to:
- Family Travel
- Road Trip
Jolly Weaver's Pub (Mitchell & Butlers): Pub with Attached Indian Restaurant!
Since we were lucky in Banbury to find a great B&B at our first attempt, we decided to walk the short distance into the centre of town to see what we could find in the way of restaurants. It was quite a pleasant evening for a stroll and it was not long before we had spotted another Indian restaurant (do I detect a pattern here?). However, since it was a trifle early yet, we decided to kill some time in the pub located next door.
Favorite Dish: We sat in the corner of one of the small rooms that comprised the Jolly Weaver. I decided to commemorate our year 2000 trip to Ireland with a Guiness, while Sue had a California white wine. As we discussed the trip to date, it was interesting to just sit back and observe the locals as they watched football on the tele, smoked, drank and talked! We were only there for an hour, before we started to get hungry early as we always do, heading next door by 6:15 PM. The photo shows the pub to the left with the adjoining Indian restaurant to the right.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Road Trip
Christchurch Dining Hall: College food
I have no idea how the food is, but it looks great, this dining hall. It was rebuilt in the studios for the Harry Potter movies. On the walls there are loads of paintings of famous and not so famous people who've played an important part in Christchurch history, and in one of the leaded windows you can see some Alice in Wonderland characters.
We stumbled upon Brown's...
We stumbled upon Brown's Restaurant&Bar on Woodstock Road. The food was delicious, and the huge restaurant was busy, busy. It was a short walk from there to the Town Centre and then to the colleges.
Brown's Restaurants: Two different scenes, two...
Two different scenes, two different restaurants named Browns. One Browns is an Oxford classic -- a tiny place in the Oxford covered market that serves typical English food beginning at 6 am. The other Browns (at the North end of St. Giles near Little Claredon St), is a large, airy trendy spot.
Favorite Dish: Browns in Oxford Market -- egg on toast --whatelse?
Browns near Little Clarendon -- excellent salads, puddings, and great wine list.
The Mongolian Wok: The Mongolian Wok
A happy, party atmosphere - not the location for a romantic dinner, they even have karaoke after 10.30PM. For about £10 you eat as much as can, and here's fun bit - you make the dishes too so you can't blame the chef if they're not very palatable. You walk around a servery, filling your bowl with various different types of food before handing to one of the chefs who will cook it in a giant wok before your eyes.
Favorite Dish: Not really applicable but do not be afraid to try the squid.
Single £150.00 Standard double/twin £165.00 Deluxe double/twin £205.00 Superior deluxe...more
Wroxton Street Mary, Banbury, Oxfordshire, OX15 6QB, United Kingdom
Good for: Solo
Great Tew, Chipping Norton, OX7 4DB, United Kingdom
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo
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