Food & Drink: Bites - Oxfordshire

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The Independent Culture
Outside Oxford there are some excellent restaurants - most notably Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons. But what else are they up to in Oxon?

Baker's, 4 Lombard Street, Eynsham (01865 881888). Tue-Sat lunch and dinner, Sun lunch.

A rising star in Oxford's hinterland,with rooms attached for overnight visitors. The restaurant is clean-limbed, with mirrors and a wooden floor; cooking is in the modernised French vein. Weekday lunch is a steal at pounds 7.50 for two courses, pounds 9.50 for three. Spend more on a no-choice table d'hote (three courses pounds 16.50 for lunch, pounds 19.50 for dinner) or splash out on a la carte.

Bull & Butcher, Turville (01491 638283). Daily lunch and dinner.

A lovely village pub that doesn't pretend it's a restaurant, although there's a room devoted to dining and plenty of space in the garden. Look to the blackboard specials for masses of choices: chicken and bacon terrine, Thai fishcakes, salmon mousse, or crispy duck confit salad for pounds 5.99 to pounds 12.95. Brakspears on tap; the landlord can seem a little testy at times. Lunch is not served after 2.30pm.

Chavignol, 7 Horsefair, Chipping Norton (01608 644490) Tue-Sat lunch and dinner. "Roasted veal sweetbreads, over a puff-pastry case filled with creamed wild mushrooms, on a cauliflower puree, cut by a sweet raspberry vinegar sauce" is a typically complex but well-integrated dish from Marcus Ashenford. This highly focused young chef is maintaining the standard he set in Minster Lovell at the minute Lovells of Windrush Farm. Prices include canapes, appetiser, coffee and petits fours. Set lunch pounds 25 for two courses; dinner pounds 38 for three courses, pounds 42 for four. An outpost of excellence.

The Goose, Britwell Salome, near Watlington (01491 612304). Tue-Sat lunch and dinner, Sun lunch.

Unassuming pub whose cooking - by a proprietor who is Prince Charles's former chef, no less - makes trenchant use of superb local produce. Muntjak (like venison) is a favourite, marrying well with home-grown beetroot. Or crab soup, grilled tuna with organic lettuce, lamb chump with spinach, rhubarb bavarois. Dinner's pounds 25 for three courses, lunch dishes are individually priced - eat it in the garden.

The Lamb Inn, Buckland, near Farringdon (01367 870484). Daily lunch and dinner.

Smart but not stuffy pub that's moved into the restaurant league with main courses from pounds 7.95 to pounds 17.25. Unfancy food isn't at the cutting edge, but creates well-rounded satisfaction. Chilled curried apple soup, bruschetta with chicken livers; confit de canard and Dover sole are typical. Summer and sticky toffee puddings, and home-made ice-creams complete the picture.

Sir Charles Napier, Sprigg's Alley, near Chinnor (01494 483011). Tue- Sat lunch and dinner, Sun lunch.

As mentioned in dispatches this week (see review, left), the setting is worth leaving town for. A great wine list has some comfort for drivers in the shape of a large number of half bottles. The new chef is French via Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons and the Roux brothers. Much remains the same - griddled scallops with red pepper coulis, and crab cakes with lime and coriander: pounds 25 or so for three courses. Set menu is pounds 15.50 for two courses.

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