Mike North at the Ox IN A Box Food Awards

The accolades are falling out of the sky for The Nut Tree in Murcott at the moment. First its Michelin star was renewed for the 14th year in a row, then chef patron Mike North won Best Chef at the Ox In A Box Food Awards and it’s just been awarded 3AA rosettes. A smorgasbord of culinary riches.

What makes this news even more heart-warming is that we recently reported that The Nut Tree had to be remortgaged just to survive Covid, (READ ABOUT IT HERE https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/exclusive-we-had-to-remortgage-to-survive-the-pandemic-joy-for-thriving-michelin-starred-nut-tree-after-surviving-covid/), so everything they reap is as justly deserved as it is heart-felt.

Mike North receiving his Best Chef award at the Ox In A Box Food Awards

Luckily we’d popped in just before all the awards came flooding in. It had been a while, Michelin starred restaurants so often falling into the ‘special occasion’ category which means we don’t visit them often enough.

our meal was an epic reaffirmation of why and how The Nut Tree has got this far

Until I realised I didn’t need an occasion, I could just book and turn up on an ordinary winter weekday for lunch with a friend. And that’s what we did.

The Nut Tree bar

We had also fully intended to go a la carte and not indulge in the eight course £80 a head taster menu. We didn’t need to go the whole hog, we could abstain and who wants to eat that much anyway?

Us as it turned out, because when we realised the bill would be about the same either way, and we’d miss out on so many of the amazing dishes wafting past us, we succumbed in nano seconds. It really was that easy.

And thank God, because our meal was an epic reaffirmation of why and how The Nut Tree has got this far. Almost as importantly, the service was surefire and quick, no twiddling of thumbs between courses, our waitress charming, unruffled and beautifully efficient.

The Nut Tree dining room

The light, new, contemporary dining room offers a nice alternative to the darker wooden 15th century interior, although by the time were seated we were almost vibrating with anticipation. Our lunch didn’t disappoint.

‘They could have ushered me into a cubicle, blindfolded me and fed me their homemade bread with local ampersand butter, until closing time’

The bread gets a special mention all of its own. They could have ushered me into a cubicle, blindfolded me and fed me their homemade bread selection, and Grant Harrington’s Ampersand butter (https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/the-man-making-gold-out-of-butter-right-here-in-oxfordshire-and-his-michelin-starred-fans/) until closing time. As it was I had to limit myself which was purgatory.

The Nut Tree pickled red cabbage and beetroot tart with horseradish

The amuse bouche – a rich cauliflower veloute with white truffle oil and a cheese straw soon shut me up, set the tone for the rest of the meal with its indolent, sensuous silky smooth, light potage.

We had the vegetarian and carnivorous menus – so I won’t bore you with every course, and as always its here attention to detail here that counts.

The soufflé’s at The Nut Tree piled high with truffle shavings

Take the tiny pickled red cabbage and beetroot tart with horseradish, the tart case was thin but crunchy and firm (See above), its ingredients spilling out, adorned with flowers and herbs, a wonderful combination of texture and seasonal flavour. Its alter ego – the luxurious strip of Loch Duart salmon with horseradish, beetroot and Avruga caviar was a suitable companion and pretty as a picture.

The Loch Duart salmon at The Nut Tree

The courses kept on coming – the herb barley risotto taking us completely by surprise – more of a broth topped with espuma and herbs, truffle shavings and tiny diced pear, a far cry from the stodgy offerings endured in so many establishments.

“the twice baked old Winchester cheese soufflé was piled high with shaved truffles, the mustard cream sauce indecent enough to make you blush”

THE HERB BARLEY RISOTTO AT THE NUT TREE

The slither of wildsea bass sat on atop a herb puree and doused in a fish veloute with herbed quenelles sticks in the memory, the twice baked old Winchester cheese soufflé deserves a mention, piled high with shaved truffles, the mustard cream sauce indecent enough to make you blush.

And then Aubrey Allen beef fillet with roast celeriac, black winter truffle, beef and beer gravy, the plump almost quivering fillet allowed to remain the star of the show.

The Nut Tree Aubrey Allen fillet of beef

Even the crunchy salt baked honey roast celeriac, perched so ceremoniously amidst the soft roast celeriac puree and pickled trompettes was almost too beautiful to eat, but we managed.

Wild seabass at The Nut Tree

If the deserts weren’t so damn good, and the portion control so clever, we’d never have managed puddings – but the acclaimed Nut Tree chocolate egg is revered which is why it remains defiantly on the menu come rain or shine, greeting you like a long lost friend – a whole egg shell with the top and insides removed and then layered with salted caramel, chocolate mousse and Chantilly cream, with the added surprise of the popping candy to keep you awake after such gluttonous heights.

Just don’t eat it whole as one of my friends did while rather inebriated.

The famous Nut Tree chocolate egg

The blood orange soufflé with chocolate sorbet and Grand Marnier was another masterpiece, all washed down with some very carefully chosen glasses of wine. £95 all in, each.

“Yes it’s a treat, yes it’s an indulgence, yes you might have to eat gruel for a month, but for food like this, once in a while, it’s worth it”

The blood orange soufflé’

And the thing is I’ll remember it until the next time. The Nut Tree was good as I’d remembered. So dont wait for a special occasion, go now and revel in its glory.

Yes it’s a treat, yes it’s an indulgence, yes you might have to eat gruel for a month but for food like this, once in a while, it’s worth it.

Mike North in the kitchens at The Nut Tree

The Nut Tree, Murcott: https://www.nuttreeinn.co.uk/menus/

Katherine MacAlister