Restaurant: Sourced for the goose

If organic food is good enough for Prince Charles, it's good enough for Caroline Stacey

"I danced with a man who danced with a woman who danced with the Prince of Wales" goes the old song, but I can beat that: I have eaten a meal cooked by the man who used to cook for the Prince of Wales. And so can anyone else who goes to the Oxfordshire village of Britwell Salome where, since January, The Goose has been run by Chris Barber, Prince Charles's former personal chef, a connection not too tenuous for the likes of OK! magazine, which has given more coverage than a country pub restaurant usually attracts. Barber's past may have aroused curiosity for all the wrong reasons, but it's a past healthily evident in his use of mainly organic produce. Of course, this, rather than revelations about the stomach of the next head of the House of Windsor, was our excuse for heading for the Chilterns.

Our two parties, one from London, one from Oxford, converged there, after first almost missing the unassuming, flinty roadside pub. There's no poncey conservatory, no car park full of four-wheel-drive vehicles, no photos of mine host hugging heads of state, or any other indication that this could be an attraction for B-list celebrity spotters and charabanc outings. And - happily, that Saturday - there was no widescreen TV, either.

Prince Charles has been used to competition as a crowd-puller, and when we went to Britwell Salome, his ex-chef was up against the Cup Final for custom. The football was the clear winner, but so, it turned out, were we.

As the only people on the planet not watching telly, we had the run of the garden. Indoors, the pub's recent change of ownership and limited budget are evident from the superficial but significant changes that have been made to brighten it up.

The garden is not accessible directly from the pub - to get from garden back into bar, you have to go out through a door and along the road. It is less flowery than the pub carpet; newly planted climbers have yet to make an impression on the fencing or on an unsightly shed, but outside in the sun, it was easier to forget the sacrifice we were making.

The lunch menu is short, and promisingly trenchant in range and descriptions; between us we ate all of it - three starters, three main courses and two puddings. (Dinner is a similar length but a set price. Both lunch and dinner offer interesting cheeses as an alternative to pudding.) Careful sourcing and canny housekeeping are virtues in a small kitchen, but a drawback is that key ingredients can soon become familiar, limiting the options when ordering. We had to choose carefully - couldn't have chicken, bacon and spinach salad followed by chicken braised with St George's mushrooms, or by more spinach with turbot. However, only because we were comparing notes did we recognise the brilliant pesto from the tuna fagioli salad making a reappearance on the chicken salad. Both can be had as main courses, but you'd be unlikely to order one after the other, and what matters more is that all the ingredients were first-class. No imported, out-of-season interlopers but palpably local produce simply combined and skilfully cooked to create really vivid-tasting combinations.

The tuna and fagioli salad was so good we all tried to memorise the components so we could copy it at home. There was fresh tuna, oak leaf lettuce (no cheating bag of salad leaves, no lollo rosso), a fine dice of red pepper, aubergine and courgette, green flageolets rather than floury white haricot beans, pine nuts and the vivant pesto dressing.

"There is a partiality to pine nuts and pesto," alliterated one of our party as she proceeded with her chicken salad. Cooked spinach came deliciously sandwiched between mashed potato and a superb turbot fillet with chive sauce (a fantastic combo), and with a chicken casserole with St George's mushrooms (a wild variety found only in spring on chalky grassland), which had a sweet, thick gravy. Loin of pork with braised beetroot was flavourful.

The two puddings - a very fine apple tart with creme anglaise, and chicory (a subtle variation on coffee) creme brulee - were restrained and perfect.

The only criticism we could come up with was that there was nothing here for vegetarians. "So what?" said the Oxford academic in let-them-eat-beef-on-the-bone, Roger Scruton mode. "Objectively," lectured the don, "there's a little too much repetition of ingredients, the nine dishes on offer involve different combinations of four fundamental ingredients" - a philosopher, he can't count - "but, if you lived in Oxfordshire or Reading you couldn't do better. Highly satisfactory."

The greenest of our group, apart from noting that vegetarians get short shrift, was also concerned about the state of the garden. Someone needs to talk lovingly to the plants. Any suggestions?

The Goose, Britwell Salome, near Watlington, Oxfordshire OX5 5LG (01491 612304). Lunch Tues-Sun, dinner Tues-Sat. Lunch average pounds 20. Dinner pounds 18 two courses, pounds 22 three courses. Major credit cards, no Amex or Diners Club.

More organic eating

The Organic Cafe, 25 Lonsdale Road, London NW6 (0171-372 1232). While many good restaurants (Le Gavroche is one) use organic produce but neglect to mention it - it's assumed they'll source exceptional raw materials anyway - this hidden Kilburn asset displays in its name its complete commitment to responsible farming and animal rearing. The mews cafe/restaurant/wine bar (wines, beers, cider and champagne) buys only from Soil Association- registered producers. In just over two years, it has grown organically from a chaotic little daytime cafe to one double the size, and it now stays open twice as long. Simple cooking lets the ingredients speak for themselves: fantastic sausages for breakfast, quiche and stir-fries for lunch, steak bearnaise at night; chocolate and almond torte for afters. pounds 10 for lunch, double for dinner.

Moro, 34-36 Exmouth Market, London EC1 (0171-833 8336). Recent winner of Time Out's Best New Restaurant Award, Moro is putting neglected Spanish and fashionable North African cooking on the map in Clerkenwell's revivified Exmouth Market. Chefs Sam and Sam Clark (they're married to each other) and Jake Hodges lament the scarcity of decent tomatoes and, with good produce essential to simple Spanish dishes, are prepared to pay double for organic vegetables - broad beans, leeks and chard - and lamb and pork. The results? Great braised red and green chard with the grilled monkfish, chargrilled lamb with aubergine. Around pounds 20-pounds 25 a head.

Rocinantes, 85 Whiteladies Road, Bristol (0117-973 4482). Seventy per cent of the vegetables - baby beets and turnips, lettuces, cucumbers, beans and peas, celeriac and fennel at this time of year - and meat from West Country producers are organic at this well-established, busy Bristol restaurant and tapas bar. The green theme pre-dates recent bandwagon jumping, but this is no worthy veggie joint. Fillet steak with polenta, wild mushrooms and spinach, and wild boar stew are two current examples of dishes that make a bill of around pounds 25 a head in the restaurant great value for the quality (and cost) of the produce. Chef and owner Barry Haughton reports that organic peppers cost more than four times the others, but they're worth it when a dish demands the best taste

Life and Style
life
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

    Structured Finance

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

    SQL Server Developer

    £500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

    C#.NET Developer

    £600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone