The Mole at Toot Baldon was absolutely packed to the rafters when we arrived for a mid-week dinner, and it was wonderful to behold.
Because things haven’t been easy for anyone in the hospitality industry thanks to Covid, closures, and the massive staff shortages that have left so many businesses floundering.
The departure of renowned head chef Johnny Parke didn’t help, but with the newly appointed Anthony Hohmann in the kitchens it’s business as usual and the appreciative customers were obvious to see.
Fresh from The White Hart at Wytham, where Anthony worked alongside similarly gifted Andrew Carr, The Mole is in great hands and our meal reflected that.
The specials boards spoke volumes about where Anthony wants to take The Mole culinary wise, fresh fish arriving everyday from Cornwall.
Sarah Heather-Holt who runs the pub so competently, alongside its sister pub The Mole and Chicken in Easington, has got a great team there, headed up by general manager Jess Nixon. So despite the fully booked restaurant, it ran like clockwork.
What to have though? The Jerusalem artichoke veloute with white truffle and black treacle soda bread (£7.50) had my name on it, we had to try the miso cured sea trout with avocado puree, pickled ginger, caviar and ponzu dressing (£9.50) and managed to nab the last portion, and we threw in the smoked sweet potato gnocchi with basil espuma and black treacle ketchup (£8) because it sounded too good to resist.
The soup was epic – creamy, deep, elegant, the perfect introduction to Anthony’s cooking – the sea trout was clean and properly marinaded with those sharp Asian flavours, and the gnocchi – well take a look for yourself. Hard to resist!
Then the whole grilled plaice with samphire, roast fennel and a caper and hazelnut butter (£22) whose salty sea tastes were offset by the creamiest mashed potato in the whole world, the soft beautifully cooked fish and the crunchy of the hazelnut. Mighty fine.
As for the crepes – sautéed forest mushroom, celeriac and baby spinach with a gruyere cream gratin – what a wonderfully nostalgic and decadent addition to the menu. A real comfort food favourite, and beautifully done. Rich yes, but offset by the squeaky bright fresh spinach and that sauce, so decadent and absolutely irresistible.
Puds were a struggle, so we settled on the Cereal milk panna cotta, dulce de leche tuille, candy floss, rose spritz (£8.50) mainly because we had no idea what to expect and were none the wiser when it arrived. More like a piece of art it seriously wobbled on the plate but again had all the right contrasts of texture and taste, as well as a massive dollop of humour. And yes we fought over the candy floss.
What a feast! What an introduction. One thing is for sure Anthony Hoffman has made his mark and it’s already being readily appreciated by all and sunder.
When I rang him after our meal he said: “I just love it. I love the atmosphere, the clientele, the area, For me the rewards are the happy customers. So I know they are big boots to fill but a change and a new outlook is always welcome and I love the ethos here at The Mole. Sarah and her team are amazing. And I love cooking. I’ve never wanted to do anything else. I just love it.”
The right man for the job then!
To book The Mole at Toot Baldon go to https://www.themoleinn.com