Tempting dishes down by the river

EATING ENGLAND: No 10: OXFORDSHIRE; Illustration by Emily Hare; Not far from Oxford the Thames runs into `Wind in the Willows' country - and some favourite spots for summer guzzlers

SOUTH-EAST Oxfordshire, just a brief drive from London, is a good place for short, indulgent trips to the countryside. At this time of year, you pass fields of ripe corn dotted with poppies and stroll along a river-bank before settling down to a picnic of foods bought from Oxford's outstanding covered market or a meal at one of the area's restaurants. Also to be found here are mulberry trees, the fruit of which are picked for free by the gastronomic cognoscenti.

THIS STRETCH of the Thames is full of stories, be it Wind in the Willows or Lewis Carroll telling tales of Wonderland on a boat from Oxford to Godstow. Mapledurham has a historic watermill (tel: 01189 723350) run by a true enthusiast, Mildred Cookson, which is open at weekends and has an excellent exhibition on milling and baking. The house was one of the models for Toad Hall. For exercise and views, scramble up the Chilterns and walk around the beech woods. Cowleaze Wood, north of Christmas Common, has a sculpture trail.

In Oxford, a Saturday evening/Sunday morning option is to walk across Port Meadow for a drink at the Perch or the Trout and a view of the Oxford skyline. For culture, the Ashmolean is one of the most enjoyable museums in the country because it does not feel exhaustingly enormous but is packed with treasures.

THE CAFE at the Ashmolean is a calm space to rest your mind and feet and have a reviving cup of coffee (or, on one of those damp Oxford days, hot milk with honey and nutmeg) and a slice of cake or a tuna melt on ciabatta. There are simple flowers on each table and newspapers.

Just outside Oxford, Waterperry Gardens (tel: 01844 339254), has a gem of a lunch-and-tea shop which employs a Swiss patissier, no less. The deeply buttery almond croissants alone are worth a detour. Everything here is home made, including the varietal apple juices, pressed from the garden's 18 kinds of apple.

Oxford's pubs are so full of history that a book has been published on the matter, An Encyclopaedia of Oxford Pubs, Inns and Taverns by Derek Honey (Oakwood Press, pounds 8.95), which covers everything from historic brawls to satellite screens. With your pint - Morell's from Oxford, Morland's from Abingdon, Brakspear's from Henley-on-Thames and Hook Norton's from the famous brewery near Banbury - try to find a packet of Oxfordshire's Jonathan Crisps, made in Eynsham in such flavours as sea salt and black pepper.

MANY OF the restaurants in this area are frequented by weekenders and some, like Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, are for the rich and very special occasions (though the set menu is not totally outrageous).

My best tip, less elevated but truly pleasurable, is a new pub-restaurant, the Goose at Britwell Salome (tel: 01491 612304). The food has a well- flavoured classicism that is full of care at every stage. Ingredients are seasonal and carefully chosen. The free-range pork comes from the farm next door and some of the fruit and vegetables are grown in the walled garden of a big house down the road. The shortness of the menu - three choices for each course - makes you trust the quality of the kitchen.

Grilled halibut came on a gratin of spinach and leeks, roast guinea fowl with chanterelle jus, braised peas and beans. The chef, Chris Barber, who cooked for Prince Charles for 12 years, is clearly not interested in culinary carbuncles. Two courses at dinner cost pounds 18 and three cost pounds 22 or, if you prefer, you can have a main course at lunch for pounds 14 and there are sandwiches on sale.

The Leatherne Bottel (tel: 01491 872667) is in a really glorious position, with the Thames, the sky and the trees spread before you. If the food at the Goose is classical, this is baroque. Lambs' tongues are slowly simmered and served with sweetbreads pan-fried with ground galangal, black pudding and pumpkin bubble and squeak (pounds 17.50), for example. Some of the dishes sound over the top - but they work.

Another romantic restaurant, which is literally on the water, is the canal boat Rosamund the Fair (tel: 01865 553370) in Oxford. The emphasis is very much on the food, with ingredients, organic as far as possible, cooked to order on board. It is magical sitting outside between courses, moving serenely through the dark landscape. Rosamund is run by a couple who are, appropriately, involved in the "slow food" movement. The three- hour dinner and lunch cruises are at a fixed price of pounds 38.

FOR PICNICS, Oxford's covered market has the Oxford Cheese Company, Palm's deli and Fasta Pasta. Jericho, near Port Meadow, has Glutton's deli (tel: 01865 553748). Watlington has an excellent cheese shop/deli, the Granary (tel: 01491 613585), and near Mapledurham is one of the best organic shops in the country, the Old Dairy Farm Shop (tel: 01189 842392) in Whitchurch, with unpasteurised Guernsey cream for your strawberries.

Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Recruitment Genius: HGV Class 2 Lorry Driver / CPC and HIAB Training Provider

    £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A HGV Class 2 Lorry Driver is required t...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser