Sometimes, when it all gets too much, you just need to escape and curl up in a room away from home, sleeping at inappropriate times, eating an inappropriate amount of food, and forgetting about all the important stuff that constitutes life.
Jacobs Plough isn’t a million miles away from where we live. About an hour away, it’s in Bicester so just a few minutes from Bicester Village if you’re a shopping fan yet also tucked out of the way so you only have to get involved in the chaos of tourist shoppers and designer bargain-hunters if you really want to.
There’s something about the building that gives you the home-from-home feeling that you’re after in an escape from life. Maybe it’s the building itself and its olde-worldy feel or maybe it’s the tried-and-tested House of Jacob treatment (those behind the Woodstock Arms and several other successful establishments) that gives it such warmth.
After an equally warm welcome, we’re taken through the courtyard garden that looks like a winning place for an afternoon of summer fun if the sun ever shines (which it hadn’t for about a billion months at the time of visiting) and through a separate door up to our room. It feels like an attic room, low-ceilinged and far away from any hustle and bustle of the pub, adding to that feeling of escape.
The low ceilings might be an issue for some particularly tall people but for me it added to the cosiness, alongside wood panelling, a snuggly big bed and a little seating area near the window. Along with everything you need from a hotel room – tea and coffee stuff (with a bottle of fresh milk – no little long-life sachet things here), a minibar, all the info on Jacobs Plough and the area, and a TV. It’s got charm and style and I speak from experience when I say it’s the ideal place to have an unconventionally-timed nap at 5pm.
The bathroom was a quirky little set up, well-planned to deal with limited space. If you want to luxuriate in a bath then sorry, you can’t in this room but if you want a decent shower (good water pressure, hurrah!) complete with White Company toiletries and the obligatory (yet often lacking) fluffy towels and robes to snuggle in afterwards then you’ll be happy here.
After our gorgeously inappropriate nap, we shower and head downstairs for a Sunday night supper. The bar was busy (unlike this picture which was taken early the next morning in case you’re wondering) with people celebrating Mother’s Day and enjoying the warmth of a log fire and an escape from the rain outside.
We were tucked into a cosy table for two and fetched drinks from the wide selection while we revelled in being so close to home that we could sneak a Sunday night break yet far enough to have left all the chaos of work, DIY and everything else behind.
Being a Sunday, we could have opted for one of their roast dinners but decided to go for the normal menu. I started with Tamworth pork rillette which came with pickled vegetables and toasted sourdough. Not the most photogenic of starters, but taste-wise was good. It didn’t knock my socks off but did the job and was tasty enough and a generous portion to boot. The pickled vegetables were a nice addition and added contrasting colour, flavour and texture all in one go.
Mr M went for baked goat’s cheese with pear, pomegranate and walnuts – a welcome change from the usual goat’s cheese starters you see around and something that really worked. The cheese was breaded and deep-fried which was unexpected but didn’t take anything away from it, while the pear added sweetness alongside the pomegranate seeds which brought their own slight crunch and burst of flavour added to by the crunchy walnuts.
If the starters hadn’t won us over completely, the main courses certainly did. Mr M’s Aubrey Allen ribeye steak was as high in quality as you’d expect and cooked perfectly. I have to admit the blue cheese hollandaise was purely for my benefit as I wanted to try it and certainly wasn’t disappointed by the silky, naughty cheese goodness.
They’d run out of ground steak burgers by the time we came to order but lucky for me they’d added a wild boar special and I’m happy to say, it was a seriously good burger. A meaty, tasty patty that was moist and tender without being fatty. Piled high with gherkin, tomato, cheese and a relish that complimented the meat perfect. I’m no burger connoisseur, you’d have to go to Full to the Brum for real knowledge, but for me when a bite of a burger elicits a shoulder shrug and a moan of pleasure then it counts as good. This was that!
How I ploughed (see what I did there?) through that whole monster, and chips, and Mr M’s hollandaise, then still wanted dessert I’m not sure, but I’ll put it down to being away for a special treat and embracing indulgence completely. We compromised by sharing a chocolate brownie, though we were tempted by a selection of cheese from their very well put together cheese board, and ended the night on a sugar high that quickly dissipated into more tiredness, despite our cheeky nap earlier.
After an epic night’s sleep devoid of disruption or disturbance (thanks in part to the absence of the dog who we’d left at home but mainly due to how wonderfully tucked away our room was) we staggered downstairs for breakfast. The breakfast menu is the usual mix of full-on treats like a Full English or all sorts of egg offerings, as well as more healthy alternatives.
Mr M went for the full English – bacon, sausage, big fat field mushroom, tomato, poached eggs and Jacobs Plough’s own homemade baked beans which were a real triumph (and served separately in a small bowl which I know for some people can make or break a breakfast). After the gluttony the night before I tried to make some sort of healthy choice and went slightly off-menu, building my own brekkie of scrambled egg on toast (done just right, I’m happy to say, creamy not rubbery) with some sliced avocado.
We left rather reluctantly, departing for a quick wander round Bicester Village in the rain before returning to responsibility feeling rested and refreshed and ready. If I’d been wondering whether the Woodstock Arms was a one-off success, it seems not.
Jacobs Plough is another demonstration by the guys at House of Jacob that they understand what people are after in this kind of place – relaxing and cosy yet with attention to detail for all the little things that are so often missed. And when it comes to the food – good quality ingredients, well executed, with an understanding that people want what they know and love but are willing to experiment when those things are slightly varied and tweaked.
Sometimes relaxation isn’t necessarily about luxury that you have to sit on ceremony for but is about a few extra treats on top of all the comforts you have at home without any of the responsibility. That’s what we had here and next time I need a little breathing space, I’m heading for my little room at Jacobs Plough for 12 hours of escape.
I was invited to Jacobs Plough for a complimentary stay. I wasn’t asked to write a positive review.