The Mole and Chicken in Easington has been taken on by the same fantastic team as The Mole Inn in Toot Bladon – under the masterful helm of head chef Johnny Parke and owner Sarah Heather Holt.
Sarah took over in Toot Baldon almost two years ago now, and the pub has gone from strength to strength, winning Best Newcomer at our coveted Ox In A Box Food Awards.
Which meant that lunch at The Mole Inn in Toot Baldon last week was heaven. It was a sunny day and the garden was scattered with a wonderful array of little private hedged dining areas, hidden outdoor tables, lavender, flowers and sculptures.
Quintessential in every sense, indoors the pub is also a wonderful combination of historic, cosy and inviting.
The menu followed suit – everything required for a divine for lunch in the sun – a punchy chilled gazpacho soup, stuffed courgette flowers with a truffle and honey drizzle, generous zingy Thai fishcakes with a lime aioli and the shorthorn burger with smoked bacon, house sauce, cheddar and fries, oozing with juice, sauce and the crunch of hot chips. It was a triumph of a meal.
We made room for the sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream which lived up to all expectations, and as for the raspberry and cardamom creme brûlée with sable biscuits – well, the perfect finish.
So to discover a week later that the same team had opened up at The Mole and Chicken in Easington had me hotfooting over there faster than you can say Wind In The Willows.
Both pubs were owned by Sarah’s family, and her father, nicknamed Moley, hence the pub names, is now 76 and pleased to pass them both over to his daughter to run.
Sarah is thriving there and, having only opened last week, she’s recruited Jack and Kelly, formerly of the The Nut Tree to run front of house. Kelly is the new general manager and having worked at The Mole and Chicken years ago – her first job in hospitality – she knows lots of the locals already!
There’s still work going on – the builders are busy building a huge decking area out the back – but it will mean that even more customers can enjoy the charming views stretching out over the fields.
Oh the view, it’s worth the trip alone, the Chilterns unfolding in front of you as far as the eye can see, sheep grazing in the nearby fields. It almost distracted us from the menus! We sat on the terrace entranced.
“the garden was filling up, quite impressive after just a week, word spreading fast no doubt”
But back to the food! We tried the pea soup with crispy egg and goats cheese to start – smooth with a wonderfully sticky bite, and the Perl Las blue cheese, pear, chicory and candied walnut salad which was light, crunchy and refreshing, as well as some of the irresistible potted Salcombe crab and pickled kohlrabi – rather greedy between two of us, but we couldn’t resist.
Then the variation on a theme – courgette flowers with the same honey drizzle but with a chorizo picante addition – and the special of the day – sea bream with samphire, cauliflower puree and a fish cream sauce, which was delectable, succulent and beautifully cooked, a masterpiece on a plate.
We followed with the cardamom pannacotta with a plum compote, which was soft, delicate, wobbly and daringly plump. A suitable finale, all delivered with beautiful service.
By now the garden was filling up, quite impressive after just a week, word spreading fast no doubt.
But then the pub’s reach is wide, situated between Bicester, Aylesbury, Thame, Brill, Long Crendon and Wheatley, and with the five rooms having been updated, it will soon become the perfect getaway pad as well.
Sarah must be delighted then? “We are really excited,” she says. “The Mole Inn in Toot Baldon has done so well, so we jumped at the chance to take over The Mole and Chicken as well.
“Lockdown has provided the perfect opportunity to get the work done so we have renovated The Mole and Chicken to maintain its nice cosy feel, added the decking and redoing the kitchen.
“It has a totally different feel to The Mole Inn and we’ve installed head chefs in both pubs, working under Johnny, and change the menu regularly at both.
“I’m really enjoying it, in a slightly sadistic fashion,” Sarah smiles. “We have a really great team here and I think you can tell that when you visit, because it is, after all, a family business, so it’s full steam ahead.”
And with that she’s off, back inside, to make sure her customers are happy. And why wouldn’t they be? They’ve got it made.
For The Mole at Toot Baldon go to: https://themoleinn.com
For The Mole and Chicken go to https://themoleandchicken.co.uk