The Bell at Langford’s Sunday lunch was so busy yesterday they pretty much sold out, which, considering the countryside pub near Burford is closed, is quite something.
But having turned things around quickly to man a shop and a thriving takeaway service, co-owner Tom Noest is hopeful things will continue in the same vein throughout the coronavirus crisis.
He is delighted that the locals are being so supportive, adding that the pub sold as many takeaway roasts as Sunday lunch meat cuts from their onsite shop this weekend.
“The takeaway menu is going really well; we have a classic menu with dishes from around the world and the locals have been really encouraging.
“It’s beneficial for them to be able to come here to buy their meals, instead of going to a busy supermarket, and they can buy fresh, local eggs, bread and meat here, from steaks to sausages, chicken breasts and of course venison, to support the local economy.”
Ah yes, the venison – currently to be found in the pub’s venison burritos which are flying off the takeaway menu and up next in a venison curry, The Bell having great relationship with Tom Marshall, Cornbury Deer Manager.
“We have had a partnership with Cornbury for the past two years, basically since we opened, and get a delivery every week. We use the whole animal – the offal, the cuts, the loins…. our game faggots are legendary,” Tom Noest says.
You can also look out for Cornbury Park venison scrumpet, or Cornbury Park venison with celeriac and redcurrant jelly on the menu.
And it’s business as usual where the venison is concerned: “We will get our usual Cornbury delivery this week because we want to keep supporting them, particularly now, when demand is so low,” Tom Noest adds.
Cornbury Park Estate is owned by The Lord Rotherwick and home to the famous Wilderness Festival. The estate covers 6,000 and the deer park at Cornbury is a big part of the park management, with 450 acres of enclosed parkland. The deer have free roaming there, and reared in one of the most natural environments possible, while being managed carefully by the estate.
The Forestry Commission do an annual estimated count there of the Muntjac, Roe, Fallow and Sika deer population and issue Cornbury with a cull target. This means customers can buy carcusses with a guaranteed age and consistency, something which can’t be achieved with wild deer.
Tom Marshall, Cornbury Deer Manager comments: “With venison as popular as it is now we are trying to offer customers, butchers and restaurants a product which is basically premium wild so it’s from an enclosed park where they live as naturally as possible.’
The Bell also host feasts with The Game and Wild Life Conservation Trust to showcase how wonderful wild game is and how diverse a menu can be when you use the whole animal.
And if you want something to look forward to, at the end of the venison season in 2021 the Estate and The Bell Inn will be hosting the first ever end of season ‘nose to tail’ venison dinner at Cornbury Park Estate for one night of feasting under canvas. More information will be released at the end of the year.
As for The Bell, is Tom Noest confident in its future? “We were only 10% down this Sunday but we will see. This is all very new but people are pretty sensible. I know lots of places have had lots of stock to sell because the announcement to close pubs and restaurants was made so suddenly, but people are still ordering food and takeaway beer from us, and this is a way for us to keep going.”
The Bell at Langford has done extraordinarily well in the two years since Peter Creed and Tom Noest opened up, with the country’s top restaurant critics flocking in their droves: from Giles Coren and Tom Parker Bowles to Marina O’Loughlin, as well as being awarded a Bib Gourmand.
Peter and Tom have since opened The Little Bell at Soho Farmhouse, the Farmyard Shack there serving a hearty, classic, British menu with wood fired dishes, whole fish and joints of meat paired with organic and natural wines, communal seating and a daily changing, seasonal menu, the whole site currently closed indefinitely.
“We have been very lucky,” Tom continues, “but now we just have to keep going until this is all over and we can re-open properly. The success of the takeaway and shop will make all the difference in keeping us alive. It’s good for the locals and good for us.”
The Bell takeaway and shop is open from 12 noon – 9pm every day for lunch and dinner. https://www.thebelllangford.com or 013 6786 0249
The venison season runs from August to January and you can purchase Cornbury Park venison from www.denshamsbutchers.co.uk