Sunday, 9 March 2014

Fallowfields, near Abingdon

According to its own website, this is 'one of the best restaurants in Oxfordshire'. Normally I'd be a little suspicious of such claims - and I can't pretend to have tried all its competitors - but Fallowfields proved to be such an ideal location for a special occasion Sunday lunch that I think it must compare favourably even with a certain French chef's flagship establishment.
This isn't a proper country house hotel - it's on the edge of the perfectly pleasant but not exactly chocolate-box village of Southmoor with Kingston Bagpuize - although it is surrounded by gardens, where some of the produce served in the restaurant is grown, and paddocks with cattle and sheep. On an unseasonably warm March day it provided a very agreeable setting for lunch, which began with canapés (I loved the smoked trout-filled tiny ice cream cones) and then an amuse of seared scallop with apple.
I don't think the average Oxfordshire Sunday lunch includes these, but they weren't served in an atmosphere of pretentious fine dining, more as tasty extras that made us look forward to the rest of the meal (as did the five different kinds of bread - the beer-flavoured variety went down very well).
 Indeed, this was one reason why the £30-for-three-courses Sunday lunch menu felt good value; the charming and competent service, which dealt more or less effortlessly with a dairy allergy, was another. My starter, smoked quail (after lunch we saw its friends in their enclosure in the garden) with poached quail egg and a rather deconstructed minestrone poured over the top, was a very subtle combination of flavours and textures: the crispy mini pastilla of leg meat was a particular highlight. Smoked salmon with wild rice and cucumber was also a delicate but memorable dish, even though the horseradish ice cream that came with it was more cream than ice.
It being Sunday lunch, after all, a choice of roast beef, pork and cod is the centrepiece of the menu (I think there's a separate one for vegetarians). This was probably one of the best non-home cooked roasts I've had, partly because of the quality of the side elements: delicious, melting mashed potato, carrots with a sweet and subtle flavour, greens cooked to perfection. The pork was billed as 'nose to tail', and included crackling, black pudding and some impossibly tender cuts of meat; the beef was similarly impressive. The chef here clearly doesn't see Sundays as an excuse to take it easy.
Putting together a dairy-free dessert of fruit and sorbet was no trouble, but the rest of us ordered from the menu. The sticky toffee pudding looked excellent, but real creativity had gone into a 'dessert of lemon, lime, vanilla, pink grapefruit, crème fraîche and blood orange', which was a gorgeous combination of creaminess and fruitiness accompanying a fruit juice-soaked disc of cake, herby lime meringue, sorbet and a tumbler of fruit 'soup'.
I can say confidently that this was one of the best meals I've had in Oxfordshire, which we digested in the sunny garden at the back of the hotel. This is how it's done.

Faringdon Road
Southmoor with Kingston Bagpuize OX13 5BH

01865 820416


Square Meal

Fallowfields Hotel & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with your review, Katie. Fallowfields is definitely one of the best restaurants in the county and the two meals I have had there have been inventive and of the highest quality. Only Le Manoir can top it. It deserves greater recognition and acclaim as on both occasion we went, the restaurant wasn't full.