Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Perch, Binsey Lane

Update (2014): the Perch has been taken over by new owners and now serves a less continental food menu. 

I'd lived in Oxford for at least five years before I made it to the Perch (before that, I eschewed it for the overpriced and over-popular Trout up in Wolvercote). Even then, it took a few more years for me to realise that you can reach this pub from Port Meadow via a winding and wooded path, and it wasn't until today that I actually ate there.

I think it was probably worth the wait. We were indeed there at an ideal time: it was warm and sunny enough to sit in the paved area overlooking the charming garden, which is given a slightly otherworldly air by the huge willow trees and the wind chimes that ring gently and unobtrusively, but we just missed the lunchtime rush (and I imagine the restaurant would be far busier on a sunny weekend).
The Perch has a long history (drolly summarised on the menu) but most recently it has come into the hands of a French chef, and the food served certainly has a Gallic twist (our friendly waiter was also French). I was a little disappointed, though, that the printed menu didn't seem particularly seasonal: it wasn't really a day for sausages and mash or beer battered squid and chips. Still, there were some more appealing choices and also a separate list of specials. I began with snails (£6.95): I tend to eat these about every five years and I'm not now in a hurry for the next time to come round, but the garlic sauce was rich and buttery and the snails were, well, as you'd expect. The Photographer's chicken liver parfait (£6.95) was more dependably good, and came with toasted brioche that was charred in a particularly delicious way.

The Photographer went on to 'Le Moorish' (£15.95), lamb cutlet and kofta with merguez sausage and hummus: the lamb was subtly and quite unusually seasoned and the sausage especially tasty, and soft slices of sweet potato drenched in the accompanying gravy were a nice extra touch. I had a cured meat platter (£7.50) which was quite a generous helping of parma ham, chorizo and salami that went well with the extra bread I asked for (even if it came rather late).

Desserts were accomplished. My profiteroles (£5.50) were of crisp rather than tender pastry but drowned in delicious dark - and not over-sweet - chocolate sauce, and filled with three kinds of ice cream. The Photographer's iced Valrhona chocolate parfait (£5.95) was spectacularly rich and creamy.
This wasn't the best meal I've had in Oxford but it was certainly up there amongst the better ones; the Perch's lovely location and the care that has clearly been lavished on the pub and its garden (complete with a Bedouin tent, which you can hire) certainly make it worth a visit.

The Perch
Binsey Lane

01865 728891


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