Those of you that have read my fledgling (i.e. one entry so far) column ‘Lunch with a little ‘un’ know that as a parent who likes good food I’m always on the look out for somewhere child friendly that does a good lunch. This zeal led the family Webb the other weekend to the Sir Charles Napier, Chinnor, Oxfordshire. The pub has been run by Julie Griffiths and her kith and kin since before I could walk, and therefore warrants the phrase, ‘an institution’. However, last year a popular French car tire manufacturer’s blessing was bestowed upon executive chef Chris Godfrey’s cooking, which is fair. My standard rules for ‘eating out with a nipper’ (get there early) applied and our Nissan Micra’s distinctly non-Michelin tires were gently crunching the gravel car park at 11:50am for a 12o’clock opening. Personally I rather like being first through the door nowadays, one gets to see the venue and staff as they really are.
A swift G&T by the bar – fire already smouldering – to whet our whistles and we were off. I opted for the foie gras on malt loaf with a rhubarb jelly, mainly because I bloody love malt loaf. On speaking to Chris afterwards he explains how he makes the rhubarb balls. First he makes a sorbet, then scoops out a small ball the size of a Malteser. This is dipped in gelatine to form a protective sphere, and the ball is kept in the fridge. On the plate you puncture the orb, rather like an egg yolk, to release a cool ooze of sharp juicy rhubarbness – nice. I rather like this little piece of theatre and interactivity. For me it sums up the place on a plate. Anyone can fry foie gras, it’s what you out with it that shows contrast, creativity and skill.
Kate chose Cornish crab with fennel, blood orange and beignets and darling daughts enjoyed the bread whilst they prepared pasta with Bolognese from the children’s menu. Main course for me was monkfish, on squid ink risotto and wild boar salami, a combination that on paper sounds strange, but on the plate worked in my opinion. Kate ordered salmon with an olive crust, quinoa, and braised baby gem, while daughts pronounced the pasta ‘nice’. Both starters and mains were washed down with a 2005 pinot noir by Charles Schleret, which was almost rose like in colour, and so balanced on the fence between sea and land perfectly. Puds were ice-cream for daughts, a pick and mix from the excellent cheese board for us parents.
By now it was after one, the sun was shining strong, and the place was filling up fast. There’s only so long even the most well-behaved children can sit on a chair in a restaurant and so we decided to finish the wine and have coffee in the garden, a huge green space studded with sculptures. Some were worth a look, others more from the school of titties and bums. Best of all though; the Sir Charles Napier must be the only Michelin starred eatery with a massive outdoor trampoline, which daughts loved very much. And so after eating, we whiled away another hour just hanging out in the garden enjoying the unseasonal spring sunshine. No rushing, no turning tables, no pressure, just a really relaxing time, which is what Sunday lunch is all about non?
Pros: Child friendly, interesting food, massive lovely garden
Cons: Art might not be to your taste, but the food will be.