Aaargh! How can I decide between a pint of Black Rat Cider and a pint of Inclined Plane Beer? I asked Kath her view. What would she reach for if I put a pint of each in front to her. Same as me. Frozen still like a rabbit in the headlights.
So it’s a draw!! The Herbie Best Pint Award for 2012 goes to Black Rat Cider and Inclined Plane Ale. Quite fitting really being one of each. Should you ever see either one, try them. Even if you think you don’t like cider or beer I reckon you’d love them. They are top of the class.
After the drink, the food. I’ve been hooked on masterchef on telly lately so I’m in the mood for thinking about lovely grub. I did receive one comment back in October that the blog was turning into a gastro blog because I had reported on a couple of nice dinners. We don’t eat out all that much, but I suppose a rather more when we are put cruising than when we are at home.
This year I can recall very good canal side meals at the Folly in Napton, The Great Western at Aynho, The Brazenose at Cropredy, The Victoria in Oxford Jericho, The Greyhound at Hawkesbury, The Boot at Lapworth and The Admiral Nelson at Braunston. Oh and for value, The Boathouse at Braunston (Two meals for the price of One and not bad at all). On top of that, we had a very good chef’s taster meal in Banbury, not Canal side but only 5 mins walk away at Quisine. Blimey that seems a lot, but we were out cruising for 80 or 90 days this year.
So a short list.
1. The Brazenose at Cropredy.
Just a fairly ordinary pub, if you call Jimi Hendrix and John Martyn over the PA fairly normal. We were cold, wet and starving and not fussy so we ordered some fairly ordinary burgers which turned out to be fairly extraordinary. Looking quite cheffy on the plate we got blue cheese (proper, not a bottled sauce) and bacon atop the big thick home made burgers, a lovely dressed salad, chutney and pukka chips. Quite gastro pub like but without the posh surroundings and the high prices. The bread was specially good too. I’d definitely go there again. Always nice when a place takes you by surprise.
2. The Boot at Lapworth
A very short walk from the bottom of the straight row of closely packed locks. Not my sort of pub at all. I got put off by all the Porsches and Audis in the car park, and even more by the yuppies (or whatever they are called these days) with wine in buckets of ice at the bar. But we were hungry and they gave us a table in the upstairs restaurant. That’s a fairly strange room, the chairs covered in faux (I hope) animal fur. We were served by young yuppie like lads and lasses who turned out to be very friendly and amenable when we asked for extra bread / spuds etc. I daresay you could pay a lot for a meal there but we took up their special offer and the three of us (Me Kath and our Peter) each had a three course meal and two or perhaps three rounds of drinks (Ubu Ale) for just over £70 for the lot I think. The food was really excellent. After we all shared a starter of baked camembert with loads of lovely bread, Kath and I had pork belly confit which was a melt in the mouth job and Peter being a veggie had a what he claimed were delicious vegetable gnocchi. I can’t remember pud too clearly, it might have been a lemon tart.
3. Quisine at Banbury
Alright, not canal side but petty close if you know the back way. You have to book to get in because the place is tiny. When you book the chef Vipen, who is a lovely guy, asks you what you do and don’t like before he goes out shopping for ingredients. When you arrive he comes and sits at the table and describes what he is going to cook, then wanders off into his tiny kitchen and does the biz. What you get is a series of taster courses, some only a mouthful or two, but all full of flavour and texture. The main course though was quite substantial and at Vipen’s suggestion we took home what we couldn’t finish at the table. Quisine could never be called smart, in fact it’s quite humble, but the food is extraordinarily good. It’ll cost perhaps twice what you would pay for a very good pub meal, but it will be twice as good. Save up and give Vipen a ring.
It’s all a far cry from the pork pies and sandwiches you might be lucky to get in a pub when I were a lad. Not that there’s anything wrong with a pork pie.
But there is is, our shortlist of places you might go to for a treat. I don’t know who will win because they are all so different. I’ll have to log on tomorrow and see.