As you might know, we love food here at Natural History Mercantile, and although we are lucky enough to live right on the doorstep of the foodie heaven that is the Cotswolds, we very rarely venture out into the surrounding villages where the best food is (reputedly) to be found.
Yesterday, I decided to rectify this somewhat, and made us all go to Chipping Norton for the day. This turned out to be an unmitigated disaster - Chipping Norton sadly turned out to be astonishingly dull, and the service at the highly regarded restaurant we went to was so slow that we were able to leave, unnoticed, without yet having ordered more than fifteen minutes after being seated.
Humiliated and dejected, I desperately tried to think of some way to restore my reputation in the eyes of my family (we had even dragged my father out with us), when I remembered that The Wild Rabbit might be somewhere near by, and it was!
The Wild Rabbit has been much reviewed since it opened to much fanfare in 2013. The Daily Mail rhapsodised (the owner has a title, after all) and the Guardian was suspicious first, then delighted (in a rather self-aware sort of way) but everybody agreed that the surroundings and food were impeccable alike.
When we arrived, there were (predictably for a Sunday afternoon) no tables available in the restaurant, and the gloomy manager felt that the bar menu would probably be insufficient to feed us, but as this included roast beef with all the trimmings, we were very happy to be seated in the (very picturesque) bar area, beside an open fire.
The roast beef was faultless, the roast potatoes spectacular, the hare papardelle unexpectedly generous on the hare front, and although the melon salad was delicious, it was the only vegetarian option on the bar menu, and thus woefully insufficient as a lunch (we supplemented it by ordering extra potatoes). There was no children's menu, and we did not dare ask the gloomy manager (although he warmed up to us considerably when I told him that we were there because Chipping Norton was so dull), but we fed the children a combination of roast beef, hare, pasta, roast potatoes and delicious bread and they were content (who wouldn't be?).
Dessert was an eye-watering £8.50, but the huge platter of chocolate mousse, salted caramel ice-cream, some kind of amazing chocolate biscuit and something else mysterious but delicious appeared, fed me and both children to satiety, so was actually very good value.
The whole thing ticked all my "ideal romantic Cotswolds pub" boxes - more Farrow & Ball than you can shake a paint tin at, beautifully presented and delicious food, spaniels, labradors and peahens in abundance, an open fire crackling away, and friendly service. I see exactly what Marina O'Loughlin meant by it being a little too perfect and a bit over-produced, but that can hardly be a complaint when the execution is so very lovely. Full marks. I can't wait to stay overnight.
The Wild Rabbit
Oxfordshire OX7 6YA