So on Saturday night, after a long day working at the grindstone for my mother, we decided to pop up to the village pub for supper. Trips home often include a trip to the pub for supper as we often spend all day cooking and the thought of someone else taking the strain is too blissful!
So with this in mind, and mindful I was missing X Factor, we headed up the road to The Bull. Charlbury has an amazing smell on an autumn or winter evening. All of the houses in Charlbury light their log fires and the smell of burning logs permeates the night air. It’s a smell that instantly brings me home.
The Bull is a lovely pub. Cosy and warm and decorated with light, bright wood and with a small but cosy bar. We decided to have a gin and headed up to our table at the back of the pub clutching our menus. Mum is one of these people who bounce about on menus, deciding on something and then deciding on something else. There was a great selection of starters, salads and risottos and we decided to share a starter of scallops because Mum ‘couldn’t possibly eat a whole one’.
After an extremely long wait, apparently the 2nd chef was on his own for the first time, we were mildly tipsy having filled the wait with wine. At this point, we could not stop giggling and giggled even more when the waiter, who was very young and very sweet, brought us the wrong food.
It was at this point that we noticed the odd movements of the table behind us. There were 8 old ladies and men with faces like thunder and who were audibly complaining about the lack of food. At one point, two of these old dears wandered out of the door behind us, bear in mind it was dark and cold outside. Next, a plate of bread and oils arrived and before a starved looking lady could take a piece one of the old ladies whisked it outside and came back in several minutes later with an empty plate. The mind boggled, we can only assume they’d found some ducks or had gone to sit in the car and listen to Radio 4. Their food arrived soon after and they came back inside to eat in stony silence. It looked like a fun night for all!
In the meantime, our scallops had arrived and they were worth the wait. 4 sauteed fat scallops sitting on a bed of pureed cauliflower with a hint of nutmeg and a lemon olive oil. The scallops were fat and juicy and I gave Mum the roes to eat as I’m not keen on the texture. The cauliflower was soft and subtle with the lovely flavour of nutmeg and the lemon oil cut through these flavours with a freshness that was needed.
After the scallops barely touched the sides, our mains arrived. Mum had a whale sized piece of battered fish with freshly crushed peas, thrice-fried chips and homemade tartare sauce. The chips were heavenly, perhaps my new favourites, and the fish batter was crunchy and fresh tasting, no sign of reused frying oil. I happily dug into both that plate and mine. I had deliberated over sirloin of beef, pork belly confit and lamb but I settled on the honey glazed rump of lamp with roasted root vegetables and sauteed rosemary potatoes. The lamb was in lovely thick chunks of pink, tender meat and the vegetables sweet and savoury. My only complaint is that it could have come with something green but I stole Mum’s peas so I wasn’t too disappointed!
Pudding wise, Mum declared herself full and then proceeded to demolish mine. I went for Bailey’s Cheesecake with Cappucino Ice Cream. There was options of crumble and parfait as well as British cheese. The cheesecake was lovely but a little too bitter with the flavour of cream cheese. Sometimes a cheesecake can be too, well, cheesy but the ice cream was absolutely delicious. Thick creamy coffee with bitter shards of dark chocolate.
It was a lovely supper and we wobbled home down the hill, stopping off en route at our lovely neighbours, The Shaws. Ostensibly, I popped in to pick up a phone charger but was seduced by a glass of wine and a thorough debriefing of the night’s X Factor. With the conclusion of that, I wobbled a little futher down the road and into bed.
The Bull has bedrooms and a dining room and bar dining. It’s in the most blissful part of the Cotswolds and Charlbury is on a mainline rail line from London Paddington to Hereford. A perfect spot for a weekend break.
The Bull Inn, Sheep Street, Charlbury, Oxfordshire, OX7 3RR. 01608 810689. www.bullinn-charlbury.com