The real ale selection was Greene King IPA, Old Speckled Hen and Olde Trip and we settled for the last, which was fine if unmemorable. We were then guided to the restaurant area at the back. The Festive Menu featured four each of starters, mains and desserts and cost £17.45 for three courses.
For starter I had Brie and Cranberry Filo Parcels. The said parcels were of decidedly modest proportions with the brie not more than a smearing; this deficiency was counter-balanced by a big dollop of very sweet and not very nice cranberry sauce plus a bit of salad. Not a great start for me but Jane was more than happy with her Prawn Cocktail – sizeable juicy prawns, a well-balanced sauce and a decent helping of salad. The presentation (everything scattered over a large plate) was the only down-side.
Jane struck gold again with her main, Slow-Cooked Beef in a Tuscan Red Wine Sauce. Jane prefers her meat completely lean and cooked to the point of dropping to bits which was very much the case here. The sauce was rich but not overwhelmingly so and the accompaniments (chestnut mushrooms, roasted onions, garlic and thyme)were spot on. I didn't really anticipate Hand-Carved British Roast Turkey Breast with All The Trimmings attaining any great culinary heights but at that time of year, well, you have to, don't you? In volume terms, the turkey couldn't be faulted but it was decidedly on the dry side and became rather hard work. The best part of the trimmings was the generous slab of tasty stuffing.
I was bound to come good on the pudding, surely? Alas, not so. Marscapone and Madagascan Vanilla Cheesecake with Spiced Mandarin and Red Berry Sauce sounded glorious on paper – but the cheesecake itself was bland and the sauce far too sweet. Needless to say, Jane found her Christmas Pudding utterly delicious, the pudding moist and the custard rich and creamy.
Many years ago I described a friend's footballing prowess as “useful but not inspired” - something I don't think he's ever forgiven me for. From my perspective I'd say the same about this meal, though Jane's experience was entirely more positive. Anyway, it'll all be worthwhile when we're relaxing in our Banbury Old English Inn come April.