The Rose & Crown, Ratley
October 28, 2015

Mr M and I often talk about living in a village one day. Away from noise and traffic. An idyllic life that inevitably involves long walks with the dogs (we don’t have them, but we do in the fantasy), followed by a drink and maybe some food in our cosy, perfect ‘local’. When we were planning our latest house move, we considered villages (before realising we might have to wait a bit longer) and found that those without pubs were written off immediately, while our favourite village had not one, but two, nice watering holes that also happened to serve nice food.

It turns out that while we were busy dreaming about our life in the country, Jamie’s brother and his fiancée were going ahead and doing it. They moved from the outskirts of Rugby to a village called Ratley, about 20 minutes away from Banbury. The village pub? Just next door. How smug are they!

I’d been to another pub just down the road at Edgehill (before blogging times I’m afraid), which served lovely food, with great views in a rather spectacular castle-style building. So when we went to visit them recently, I was eager to see if the Rose and Crown lived up to its neighbour.

The Rose and Crown, Ratley

The village itself is pretty idyllic, all cute little cottages and winding lanes. And when it comes to fitting in with this picture perfect vista, the Rose and Crown certainly doesn’t disappoint, both outside and in. Cosy and comfortable, complete with a snug and an inglenook fireplace. And the best part – it’s not one of those locals that you walk into and the whole room falls silent. You get a warm welcome and, for a greedy guts like me, instant temptation from some specials chalked up on the boards on the walls.

We were only popping in for lunch, so as we snuggled into a cosy corner near the fireplace, it required most of my meagre restraint not to dive into the food menu, and most of the specials. Epic-looking Steak and Bombardier Ale pies with jugs of ‘real gravy’ from the main menu sounded and looked tempting, while steaks served with an option of an accompanying warm salad of saute potatoes, chorizo, red onion and balsamic reduction would probably have got my vote for an evening meal.

And that was after I’d already resisted the specials of minted lamb hotpot and seafood linguine. Again, if we’d been having dinner, I could easily had given in to a rather nice-looking wine list – someone here obviously realises that local pubs no longer have to stick to just a basic few bottles, but can branch out a bit and offer a nice tipple to go with their great food.

Sausage baguettes at the Rose and Crown, Ratley

Since it wasn’t dinner time, we all opted for the sausage and caramelised onion baguettes. Great baguettes, the right mix of crusty on the outside but soft inside. Tasty sausages, packed with meat rather than meal, and sticky, dark onions adding sweetness plus a choice of an array of mustards, as well as any ketchup and mayo. The baguettes came with lovely shoestring fries, crispy and light, as well as a nicely-dressed salad. Needless to say, it didn’t take us long to polish them off.

Sausage baguette at the Rose and Crown, Ratley

Feeling rather virtuous that I’d avoided eating a huge meal, when the word “pudding” was thrown out there, I was quick to grab the menu. My eye had already been caught by the orange cheesecake with orange sauce on the specials board, but I’d also been told that the sticky toffee pudding was the best thing my sister-in-law-to-be has “ever put in her mouth”…… Make of that what you will.

Clearly, it must be that good, because there was none left! Instead though, we could have a similar-but-different gingery, treacley cake, with ice cream. Yep, that’s how it was described. Three of us opted for this, while Jamie couldn’t help but pick the chocolate brownie (you know how he is).

Ginger treacle pudding at the Rose and Crown, Ratley

My gingery treacley pud was all the things you want on a chilly autumn day. Rich, sweet, warming and gooey. I could happily have had it a lot more gingery, but given it was surrounded by a pool of treacley sauce, it was the right mix of light but sweet. Jamie’s brownie was one of the richest things I’ve tasted in a long time, literally making your teeth ache as soon as it hit them. I’m still not sure how he finished it, but he did, and only just about resisted licking the bowl.

Chocolate brownie at the Rose and Crown, Ratley

Virtue wasted, I thoroughly made up for my choice of a baguette with that dessert, but it was well worth it. If it wasn’t for the need to do various other things, I could easily have wiled away the rest of the afternoon in that cosy corner until the time came for some more food. We left already planning a return to Ratley, involved an evening meal at the Rose and Crown. And while I have yet to try out the chef’s skills on a full blown main course, I’m fairly sure it’s going to be pretty good.

I could be proved wrong I suppose, but at first impressions, the Rose and Crown seems to have it all. Great atmosphere, picture-perfect location, and fab food. It’s everything your friendly local should be. Well, according to this little dreamer, anyway.

Do you have a favourite local pub? Let me know in the comments.

We paid in full at the Rose and Crown. Well, Jamie’s brother treated us, which was rather nice of him 🙂