You might remember a few weeks ago we had a little impromptu family trip to the Woodstock Arms, when Jamie and I convinced my mum to spend an evening with us at the last minute. The next morning after she tootled off we decided we hadn’t had enough fun so headed to Oxhill, a tiny village between Banbury and Stratford-upon-Avon, to scope out The Peacock, a lovely little 15th Century pub that’s the perfect place to rest and refuel after exploring the lovely countryside nearby.
Still slightly full from our feast the night before, we met up with Jamie’s brother and his wife – who happen to live just down the road from The Peacock – for a dog walk and a catch-up before the four of us headed in for lunch.
It’s as charming as you’d expect from the outside – a proper village pub with an air of warmth and cosiness but a sense that it’s had a bit of a spruce up in recent years and has been given some TLC.
Inside there’s a modern-looking restaurant area that I could definitely imagine enjoying an evening meal in, and a more casual bar area where we snuggled up near to the fire (and resident labrador Henry’s bed) to enjoy lazy lunch and a chat.
You may be wondering why you’ve been treated to a picture of a load of beer and cider pumps. If you’re a fan of Cornwall, as we are, you’ll know that Rattler is big down there. Mr M LOVES it. We’ve been to Healey’s Cyder farm where they make it, he regularly consumes too much when we’re down south, and he always wants to bring some home. So imagine his shock, joy and general naughtiness when he realised that yes, he can get it all the way up here in the Midlands.
I’m not sure if it’s true, but Jamie reckoned someone told him the guys who own The Peacock bring the Rattler back from Cornwall themselves and when it’s gone, it’s gone until they go back. Who knows, but they had some when we were there which made for two happy boys (turns out his big brother loves it too!)
Onto the food. The menu is an appealing array of traditional dishes like the Peacock’s Pie of the Day (one of The Weekend Tourist‘s favourites I believe) and ‘Peacock ale battered cod fillet’, along with gastropub-style dishes like duo of chargrilled halloumi with marinated feta or homemade crab ravioli, and even some really healthy options like a superfood salad. Something for everyone then.
Still nursing a bit of guilt from the previous night’s gluttony, I tried to be slightly less greedy and went for the salmon fishcakes served with wilted spinach, poached egg and Hollandaise sauce – one of several dishes that you can have either as a starter or a main. If I was looking for something small, I definitely picked the wrong dish. But in every other way, it was oh so right.
Plump, moist fishcakes full of flakes of salmon and creamy mash. Runny, perfectly-poached eggs that oozed over the fishcake as you cut into it and then blended with the rich, buttery hollandaise sauce. A generous portion and pretty darn tasty, I have to say.
Mr M went for a classic, the aforementioned Peacock ale battered cod fillet with pea puree, chips and tartare sauce. The fish was fresh-tasting and its ale batter was crisp and light. The chips had the skins on and were chunky and rustic which seemed appropriate for a country pub – none of that skinny fry malarkey out in the countryside – while the pea puree presented in its little pot added a touch of sophistication to a dish that we’re all used to eating out of paper on our laps.
Hayley couldn’t help but opt for the pie of the day – an impressive, clearly-homemade pastry fortress with a side helping of jus. I’d be lying if I said I could remember what was in said pie, but I think it was beef. I did, however, take notes of her comments. The pastry, apparently, was great and she enjoyed the pie but could have done with more gravy or jus with it.
The final dish, Jamie’s big bro’s, was the pan roasted hake with ratatouille, crushed new potatoes and a caper , parsley and butter sauce. Given that one of my mother-in-law’s family favourites is her ratatouille, it could have been a risky choice but as soon as we all saw it, I think we knew it would be good. A balance between pretty and substantial, with generous sculpted piles of potatoes and ratatouille with the hake perched on top.
Apologies in advance for the bad language, but having tried a mouthful myself, Paul’s description seems to sum it up: “f***ing great”.
Feeling suitably chuffed with our main courses, we were thinking about calling it a day – until the blackboard of desserts arrived. Again, a mixture of classic pub puds and a few slightly more refined ideas to tempt us – from hot chocolate fondant and sticky toffee pudding to ‘black forest mess’ and opera gateau with macaroons.
Jamie went for the hot chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream. The sponge was light, the ooze was good, and he even had the bonus of a little pot of coulis that remained completely untouched by the chocoholic who was only interested in the naughty stuff.
I decided to go for the vanilla pannacotta which came with a choice of either salted caramel or raspberry coulis. Unable to resist the former, I enjoyed an indulgent dessert of creamy pannacotta that yes, did have ‘the wobble’ slathered in salty sweet saccharine heaven that I may or may not have polished off after my pannacotta was gone by pouring it directly onto my spoon.
Hayley opted for a more homely classic of apple and rhubarb crumble which I’m told was very nice along with its jug of custard.
But the real test was Paul’s sticky toffee pudding – a favourite of his and Hayley’s and something I have come to understand they take VERY seriously. In fact, a few days before we visited The Peacock, they had been served a sticky toffee pudding “on a plate”, which definitely hadn’t gone down well.
I’m happy to say The Peacock’s version was a hit. Yes, it came in a bowl and it blimin well needed to with its moat of sweet sticky sauce that was slowly melting the scoop of ice-cream. The pudding itself was all kinds of rich spongy loveliness and I’m fairly sure this pudding went some way to restore Hayley’s faith in her favourite dessert.
I think you can probably tell there were four happy people by the end of our lunch. We left feeling exactly as you should after a lazy pub lunch during a dog walk – full, slightly sleepy and content. The atmosphere in The Peacock is warm and welcoming, the food just the right mix of classic and imaginative, and the service swift and smiley.
I always leave places like this hoping that they’re always as good as I’ve experienced and that everyone enjoys it as much – that they receive the same treatment. Lucky for me, I have some secret spies in the form of Paul and Hayley who, without any prompting from me, have already been back to The Peacock several times since we visited and tell me that yes, it really is that good. That’s good enough for me!
I was invited to The Peacock in Oxhill to review for this blog. Two of our four meals were complimentary but we paid for the rest.