It was an unlikely excursion – lunch at Frilford Heath Golf Club being a first – any golf club actually an unusual choice for lunch considering we don’t know one end of a golf club from the other.
But news that former Anchor chef patron and Branca head chef Jamie King was heading up the kitchens, and we were there, memories of his excellent cooking aiding us on our journey to South Oxfordshire.
Its definitely a golf course, rather than a restaurant, the three greens busy with putters, the car park full, but once in the club house we relaxed, choosing a table overlooking the green for lunch.
Divided up into an accessible range of areas after significant investment, including a cafe, restaurant and private dining facilities, one of Jaime’s famous sell-out gourmet nights was being laid up, giving us an inkling that we were in for a treat.
Even the menu, which looked rather perfunctory, contained hidden depths, proving that appearances can be deceptive, because it’s not what you see, but what you taste that counts, and here Jamie delivers on every front.
So while the golf club staples of ciabattas, paninis and rolls, sandwiches and soup are readily available, go off piste and you’ll be rewarded.
Which meant that the mushrooms & poached egg on toast with grilled sourdough, Swiss cheese and chives (£10) was exceptional, thick with cream and herbs, entirely indulgent, the sauce soaking through to the sourdough beneath, its a dish found on many menus, but here absolutely delivers.
And the goats cheese salad with beetroot, fragrant with tarragon and pine nuts and a herb oil, the beetroot sliced like a tartare and dressed beautifully. Really delicious.
The pork, sage and parmesan meatballs came immersed in a roasted tomato sauce, the meatballs becaustifully flavoured, proper peasant food.
So far so much better than expected, but it was the Frilford cheeseburger and fries which stole the show.
Every element, from the sesame seed brioche buns which were firm and chewy (Mark’s Cotswold Bakery) but had just the right level of bounce, to the juicy burgers, oozing double cheese, bite of pickle, soft tomatoes, crunch of lettuce, and then the chips – exactly as you want them, crispy but still slightly bendy, salty, hot, oily. Everything.
Price wise the burgers were equally as stunning at just £13.50 a pop, and the best we’ve had for a long time. Who knew?
It was the desserts though where Jamie and his team really got to shine. A ginger pudding with homemade rum and raisin ice cream, a steam ginger coulis and a pistachio brittle. So good. The ginger pudding was treacle and dense, the ice cream sang and the brittle thick with nuts with a satisfying snap.
So yes, with Jamie in charge it was a mighty fine lunch. He’s been there for five years, brought in to enhance the dining offerings.
“We want Frilford to be synonymous with fine food and great golf. We want it to be really inclusive. So whether people come in for a bacon roll, a great lunch, afternoon tea or the gourmet dinners, we hope it’s not just great value but also a real experience. There is certainly an appetite for it.”
And after our lunch we can vouch for that!
FRILFORD HEATH GOLF CLUB LTD, Oxford Road, Abingdon, Oxon, OX13 5NW https://www.frilfordheath.co.uk