Once memorably described by restaurant critic Tom Parker Bowles as ‘a gastropub wearing handmade Lobbs’, the Sir Charles Napier is the kind of country pub you thought had vanished from British rural life. It’s located in the depths of south Oxfordshire, on a beechwood ridge between two valleys in a hamlet named Spriggs Holly. Behind the deceptively small, charmingly old-fashioned, brick frontage lies an extensive interior revealing two dining rooms, a bar, several roaring fires and a staff notable for its pleasant efficiency.
Outside, a shaded terrace overlooks wide lawns and herbaceous borders, with views over the fields beyond, and on into the valley below. Even on a cold and drippy mid-November Sunday, it’s gorgeous.
And the food is wonderful – pressed pork belly, quince, blackberries and cavolo nero, roast cod, scallops in a creamy beetroot soup and walnut soufflé with a hidden surprise of stewed blackberries. Weekday menus include dishes such as grilled mackerel with fennel and pickled plums, rack of Iberico pork, peas and preserved lemons, halibut brown shrimp and samphire, apricot and earl grey trifle.
Raymond Blanc Chef Prop of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, just down the road, goes to the Napier for lunch, and although he was absent on this particular Sunday, the dining room seemed stuffed with locals enjoying plates of rare roast beef and Yorkshire pud while their offspring, having polished off the children’s menu, roamed happily in the garden. We could all agree with M Blanc when he notes on the Napier website, that this ‘is my favourite Sunday lunch spot. ‘The food is wonderful and the gardens are beautiful.’
Sir Charles Napier, Spriggs Alley, Chinnor, Oxon OX39 4BX, Tel: 01494 483011 or visit sircharlesnapier.co.uk