Category Archives: Pubs

The Nut Tree Inn, Murcott

This Bank holiday weekend I was fortunate enough to have the time to visit the Nut Tree Inn, in Murcott, Oxfordshire. after a sucessful morning in Bicester shopping village we went for a search for Murcott and the Nut Tree Inn. Murcott is only 8 miles from Bicester, just the otherside of the M40 on the way to Oxford.

This pub had been on my ‘to go to’ list for a while and this weekend there was no excuse not to pop in.

On arrival, we came to the painted white thatched pub, which had a few spaces at the front, just off the village main street. Around the back of the pub you’ll find a large car park with plenty of room for any vehical.

The Nut Tree is a pub with a Michelin Star, so I had expected to pop in for a drink in the sun and a nose at the menu for another time. The patio and garden is situated at the back of the pub, in a perfect afternoon sun spot, when we arrived the flowers were out too, thanks to the recent warm weather we had in Oxfordshire, making the garden look well cared for as well as a sun trap.

We went into the pub to order our drinks, at which point I asked to have a look at the bar menu, to see if I could be tempted by a nibble, I suspected we would cave and share something. Our drinks were brought out to our table in the sun, along with a bowl of spiced popcorn, this went down a treat.

While we soaked in the peacefulness of the countryside around us, we browsed the bar food menu. The menu offered plenty of meat fish and vegetarian options, there were starters, sandwiches, soups and various boards. We made our individual choices and ordered our mini lunch back inside at the bar, however I’m sure if we had waited someone would have come to us.

What was ordered?
Sausage and onion sandwich, on granary.
Biscuits with cheese.

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When the food arrived we were amazed at the quanity of our meals. 3 sausages halved in a sandwich per sausage, with a pile of salad and a cheese board with plenty of biscuits, which seems to be a rare treat. Next time I have my eye on their salmon.

Was it expensive?
Our lunch bill was £28, this included a glass of white wine, a pint of Pride, and two meals that left us full for the afternoon. The area was tranquil and the setting was a world away from the craze of Bicester Shopping Village, yet only an 8mile drive down the road. So I would say it was a great price for a great afternoon out.

To find the Nut Tree Inn here’s a link to their site

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The Spread Eagle Pub – Abingdon

This comfy pub was a great suggestion made by my Abingdon friends for our fortnightly catch up. Usually we dine out in Oxford so it was nice for us to break from the norm, and drive only a short distance over to Abingdon and a new dining venue.

There was ample parking and a good-sized sunny garden. With plenty of seats and two lanes of Aunt Sally, which were being used through the night, creating a good buzz.

When we arrived we were directed through to our table, the evening started off quiet as many punters were enjoying the sunshine, but the restaurant area quickly filled up so we were glad to have arrived before the rush.

The menu is vast there are pages of options to go through, while this can sometimes be overbearing and off-putting, the selections were broken down into food styles, which made the browsing experience better. Nearly everything with meat had a veggie alternative of quorn and red pepper being a substitute, which although I didn’t chose this it was certainly pleasing to see the versatility.

The speciality at the pub was ‘Black Rock’, which I had doubted would offer anything but meat. However I found a great prawn option which appealed, so I opted for this.

Prawns 3 ways, 30 prawns: One skewer marinated in lime and Tequila. One in sweet Jack Daniels sauce and the other plain.  The dish came with two sides, another choice! I had the chips and roasted vegetables. The heat from the ‘rock’ was noticeable on arrival. The advisory was – DO NOT TOUCH.

 

My other half had the 3 meat mixed grill option: chicken, beef and pork. His advisory was also DO NOT TOUCH and cook the chicken thoroughly, it’s safe to say he survived!

 

These meals were filling, delicious and fun. Our friends had food that was not on the black rock menu, but they thoroughly enjoyed it. The prices were reasonable, especially considering the portion sizes. Our meal for two including drinks was £42

The atmosphere of the pub was buzzing, all the tables were full by 7.30pm, we had arrived at 7pm and didn’t leave until 10pm, there was no pressure to hurry or pay the bill, but equally we didn’t feel that we’d been abandoned.

For my friends who live locally, they’ve said that this is their favourite pub in Abingdon and I can see why. While I live in Oxford, with a multiple variety of restaurants, this pub has character and great food to offer. Many Oxford pubs do good pub food but the Spread Eagles’ ‘Black rock’ and the vast choice of menu gave the place an edge. 

The travel time by car, was 10-15mins, the traffic is certainly not like it is at 8am when I head to work. Parking was free and on site. A return on a hot summers night would certainly be recommended to take the opportunity of the garden. And perhaps a chance to play Aunt Sally!

You can find the Spread Eagle online or drive out from Oxford to Northcourt Road, Abingdon.

A break away in Cornwall

After a holiday in Cornwall I wanted to write a blog to summarise what I’d enjoyed and tasted over the few days away.

Fishing in Cornwall – The last time I went fishing was at the Jubilee weekend, it was chilly and nothing was caught. This time in St Mawes, Cornwall, it was different. The weather was considerably warmer, which I was told is prefered by mackerel as well as humans. Our fisherman, James Brown, welcomed us onto his boat. The results of our trip were amazing: First one in was a Gurnard, bright orange and beautiful, swiftly followed by a few mackerel, then two pollock caught at once, our catch continued like this for our hour at sea. The smaller fish caught were used as lobster bait, and some of our catch was released back out to sea.

Our break away was at Pollaughan Farm, the accommodation was beautiful and in a peaceful setting. the farm offered trips round the farm to feed the animals, which suited all children and adults. On the evening of our fishing trip, Tim the farmer brought us some of his homegrown potatoes and carrots, to accompany our main course, this was all arranged by the power of twitter earlier that day! We barbecued half of our catch for the group, this had to be the most satisfying dinner of the week.

Have lunch: at the Smugglers Tea bar of Tolverne
Down a narrow windy Cornish road near the King Harry Ferry we came across this pub and tearoom, which opened out into a lovely waterside patch with views over the river Fal. The food here was varied and catered for all, including large and light lunches, as well as some scrummy looking cream teas, which I didn’t have time to try. To drink as well as a large tea selection, there was Cornish Rattler and Oxford Gold on tap.
   

Newquay and Watergate Bay:  On a day out to Newquay we stopped at Watergate bay for a drink at The Beach Hut and a great view over the beach, had it been a little warmer in the morning, we would have gone prepared and stayed on that beach all day. After our refreshing stop we moved on to Newquay for a nose to see what was there, this wasn’t my favourite stop, as it felt pretty average walking down the high street, we could have been anywhere. By the seafront we stopped at The Chy Restaurant on Beach road for some chips. The terrace was glorious in the sunshine and we were hard pushed to get a table, it certainly blew its competition out of the water. We made sure that we picked up a Cornish pasty before leaving.

     

Dine out at The Watch House in St Mawes. So lovely that we went twice. This restaurant covered two floors and catered for adults & children, offering a lovely nosey view out to sea. The restaurant was fresh and smart with it’s blue and white decor, the staff were also friendly and happy to help our group order dishes to their requirements. The seafood linguine hit the spot for me, combining fresh fish with a rich tomato sauce and good seasoning. The Fish and chips were enjoyed, with the exception of the mushy peas, as they were a touch on the sweet side, either the mint or the peas were clearly very fresh! The Seabass was presented elegantly with green beans, olives and heritage tomatoes, one of which was green. I’m told that this was delicious, it must have been as sadly I didn’t get a bite.

   

I love this part of the world, I think it’s hard to go wrong in Cornwall. I wrote this to let others know what I had found, no doubt if you go to Cornwall you will find your own great spots, pubs and restaurants, but if you come across any that I’ve mentioned here, then you’ll know what to expect and enjoy.

The Gardeners Arms, Plantation rd

Plantation Road sits in the heart of Jericho’s streets. It’s not a big road, and might be missed by a few, but for what you can find on it, it’s worth finding! 

On arrival I found a parking space right next to The Gardeners Arms pub, this often feels like a rare treat in Oxford. My space finding only got better, when I saw that there was nothing to pay and no time limits set – amazing!

I had called up before arriving to see about booking a table for 4. However no bookings are taken but I was told that I would have no issues getting a table. On arrival, I wasn’t convinced of this. All the tables, bar one very, very small table, were taken. Eek! With a little bit of patience a good square table came available near the window, I pounced, spreading my coat, handbag and drink over the table until my friends arrived. 

I had heard that this pub was totally vegetarian, so I was a little puzzled by the ‘v’ signs next to only some of the menu options, I soon discovered ‘v’ is for vegan!

The menu offered: Main dishes, Burgers, Burger wraps, Flat bread calzone and Hot Dogs. I had been told that the burgers were the best, so as this was my first time eating here, I made my decision fairly quickly, however I will now have to return to try the other dishes.

The food: The food orders can be taken up until 9pm so at 8.30 when we had all arrived and picked our dishes we placed our order. Unfortunately our food didn’t arrive until 9.40, so by this time we were pretty hungry. I suspect that the busy night might have taken them by surprise, the rain was out in force that evening, and The Garderners Arms appeared to be a good shelter for many people!

Two hot dogs – The hot dogs arrived in a basket with fries, and was enjoyed by both diners, apparently it was better than the average meat hot dog where you might not be certain what the contents are!

One veggie burger – I opted for sweet chilli sauce and jalapeno for my extra toppings, but there was a long list of choices to make your burger your own.  This was the burger I’d heard a lot about so my expectations were high. On first sight I wasn’t too sure what all the fuss was about, but the burger was good. Most veggie burgers taste of cardboard and are just used as a filler, and usually leave me feeling stuffed. Or if they have taste, they are usually bean based, and they fall apart as soon as you try to tackle them. This had taste, as well as moisture, which the usual cardboard variety can lack and I was able to move afterwards! 

One greek salad – The salad arrived and it looked great, it was accompanied with some wholemeal pitta bread, there were plenty of olives and feta, so no skimping on the salad option. The only criticism was that the dressing was very sharp and ment that the salad was not finished due to the dressings over powering strength. It may well have been our tastes, or a particularly sharp batch made that evening.

I was the only vegetarian in our group that evening,  but everyone enjoyed their meat free meals, despite some uncertainty at the start of the night.  So if you love your meat, maybe have a night off and try something different in a good veggie venue. I will happily return again, either for a burger or one of the other many options that were available. Our meals and averaged at £8.50 along with a drink and free parking this made for a cheap and enjoyable night out in Jericho.

Take a look at their website and menu: http://www.thegarden-oxford.co.uk/

The Fishes

I live within the Oxford ring road and something that has always appealed to me about Oxford is the ease of getting to the nearby countryside, drive, cycle or walk in the right direction and bingo!  North Hinksey Village proved this point to me again.

It was a warm dry Friday night in March The Fishes looked lovely, with the surrounding countryside and no hint of the city centre in sight. All be it 10mins around the corner.
I’d heard about The Fishes from various people, never in much detail but enough was said that I wanted to see if I was missing out.

On entering The Fishes you walk into the bar area, it looked comfortable, a good place to meet with friends or family, or coming in from a walk in the surrounding area.
As we walked down past the bar slightly clueless as to where to go for the restaurant area, we were greeted by a staff member who offered us a choice of tables, one in the bar and one in the conservatory.

The Fishes menu includes: free range, organic and sustainable produce. It’s clear from the website and the staff that the food quality is important.

To start:
I had the Chilli and Crab in filo pastry with chilli sauce, I love spice and crab so this had my name on it. The filo was fried seep or shallow, I’m not sure but I enjoyed the crunch.

For mains:
My OH had the steak, standard, but it made him happy. To be fair it’s not something he has much of. Going out with a pescetarian does vary the menu but it doesn’t usually allow for much steak. It was enjoyed at a medium/rare level slightly more on the rare side but I think from the reaction it was preferred.

I really wanted the Tuna when I first saw the menu, however the tuna came with crushed sweet potatoes & chorizo, I’m sure I could have asked for it to be swapped but as I was presented with a specials board full of other fish options, I didn’t need to be picky! (maybe next time!) The specials included Coley options, Hake, Risotto and Chicken.
I opted for the Hake with wild garlic and new potatoes. The wild garlic tempted me to this, and yes it was worth it. The fish was cooked well it fell away easily from the fillet and melted in my mouth.

For dessert:
It had to be the cheese board. We were presented with a chunky block of wood topped with: Four varieties of cheese, Apples, Celery, Chutney and Biscuits. There are never enough biscuits with a cheese board, I think it’s a tradition amongst cheese boards, but more were offered, which was a nice touch.

Price:
The specials board was in fact cheaper than my original Tuna option, so a cost saving thanks to chorizo. The Fishes menu has a variety of prices and meals, so you could eat here happily on your own budget and appetite.

Other things to note
We went out for an evening, and due to darkness drawing in we didn’t get a good look at the garden that stretches down to the river. I imagine this would be perfect for a Saturday or Sunday lunch, so I should return again.
I don’t have a dog however if I did I would take him or her for a drink and a bite to eat. There are plenty of footpaths around the area and when we went there were plenty of four legged friends in the bar, looking very comfortable.

It’s definitely on my list to re visit over the summer months, and if you haven’t been I can confirm you are missing out. http://www.fishesoxford.co.uk/

The Oxford Blue – Marston Street

Between Iffley Road and Cowley Road sits the Oxford Blue on Marston Street. And it’s changed!
There are wine boxes decorating the back of the bar, a bird flying through a mirror and a moose head over a table. This pub has become a more artistic spot, it’s more about its food and wine, and I hope it continues to grow. From what I’ve seen so far it’s good. Price wise its sensible: £12.50 being the most for a main course. Between £4 – £7 for a glass of wine. There is: Bar food; Starters; Mains; Platters; Sides and Desserts.

On my first visit to the new Oxford Blue, I had the Cheese platter to share – £10.50 Oxford Blue, Manchego, Westcombe Cheddar, Oxford Isis, Mebrillo. And a money bag of croutons – these were kept warm by the bag! The service was friendly and the barman was chatty, he suggested that we have the Charcuterie platter next time as it was also very good. I’ll opt for the Vegetarian platter next time but it’s clear that good produce is key to the new Oxford Blue.

After a great first visit and lunch, I decided last to try the Sunday lunch. I follow @TheOxfordBlue on twitter and often see tweets highlighting their variety of meat, they specialize in rare breed free range meats and Organic Vegetables. After further investigation their vegetarian options are good too, so I went ahead and booked via twitter, so if you’re on twitter and fancy a change give them a tweet and book in. If you don’t follow them already find them: @TheOxfordBlue

Last Sunday I selected my lunch from the specials board, opting for the Smoked haddock – this was a dish with a white cheesy sauce with tender stem broccoli, and perfectly runny poached egg on the top. The fish was delicious, I haven’t had smoked fish for a while and it certainly reminded me to have it more.

Slow roast belly of Gloucester Old Spot Pork & spiced Apple Sauce. This went down well and ended with a clean plate. Apparently the crackling was ‘Awesome’ as well as tasty, the nice big Yorkshire pudding went down a treat too, it’s rare to get them as good.

 

We shared the: Warm Chocolate Brownie with hot fudge sauce, this is unusual, purely because I’m not normally drawn to chocolaty puddings. This was a good choice after having warming Sunday dinners. I did feel unable to move for a short while afterwards! #Piglet

It was quite quiet for what I’d usually expect for most pubs on a Sunday, especially with such a great menu choice on offer. Perhaps this is because the usual crowd have moved on? Or those that weren’t keen before aren’t aware of the changes inside! So step off the main routes, wander down Marston Street and you’ll find some good food and wine. Mothers Day is around the corner and she wouldn’t be disappointed with this venue.

So it might not be the sports pub that it used to be but so what!? I admit I was slightly dismayed at first: ‘Where should I watch the boat race this year?!’
However there is plenty on offer @TheOxfordBlue
Wine tasting with nibbles night, they had one back in Feb and have plans to host another one in April. I couldn’t make it in Feb but hope to be available in April!
They also have monthly Jazz on the 3rd Wednesday of each month, so if you like jazz set the reminder in your phone and turn up!

You can sign up to their mailing list to keep up to date with all things new: http://www.theoxfordblue.com/

The Rickety Press

Down the road from Oxford University press another great pub and lunch spot lies just off Walton street, on Cranham Street. The Rickety Press is an Arkells pub, and sister of The Rusty Bycicle,  situated just off Cowley Road on Magdalen. With Arkell’s ales on tap, plenty of local Oxford Beers, a list of tasty wines and homemade cordials, popping in to either of these venues for a drink is a pleasure.

The style in The Rickety Press is clean, yet rustic, the clue is in the name I suppose! There is a snug as you enter the pub, with the comfy large brown leather sofas, the bar sits in the centre of the pub rolling around to the amazing, high ceiling conservatory at the back of pub. The seating of booths around the bar sit 4 comfortably for lunch or more depending on how well you know your friends!

The menu is ideal for anyone wanting a quick-lunch in their lunch hour, or a larger leisurly, lunch for a special occasion. We went to The Rickety Press just before Christmas, after a week of various christmas lunches and parties. We wanted to go somewhere together with a good atmosphere and good food, both of which we knew could be found here.

To start we shared: bread, fresh olives & dipping oil/balsamic vinegar. The dish was quite deep for the oil/balsamic vinegar mix, it could have done with being shallower, but the breads and olives were a great start to our festive day.

My main was the squash, feta & pine nut wellington and celeriac puree, this was delicious, it was lovely to have something that was tasty and also creative, I sometimes find that some places don’t dare to be different for vegetarians, that wasn’t the case here.

My other half had a steak sandwich, there was a healthy portion of steak, so much so he had the filling and left the bread!
The puddings looked fantastic, in my head I’d already decided what to have when we chose our starter and main course however we passed up the puddings due to being so comfortably full.

The pub was quiet when we arrived at first, approx 1pm, but it soon filled up with passers by and large table bookings for the full Christmas menu. We approached the bar for our drinks and to find where we had been placed for our booking. We were given a choice of where we wanted to sit, the conservatory, or the more casual bar area. We opted for the latter purely down to the larger tables that would be set up around us. Our drinks order was brought to us, as well as a menu. The food at The Rickety Press is made to your order, you are pre warned on your menu that this might mean that you have to wait a bit longer for the fresh food.  I didn’t notice a wait and if there was one then it was worth it.

If you haven’t been to The Rickety Press, then I’d recommend that your go. If you have patience you can get a parking space close by for 2hrs for free and if not then you can simply pay or walk!