We had been admiring the complex and original dishes coming out of the kitchen at The Carpenters Arms in Fulbrook on Instagram.
Chef patron Tom Addy, his wife Siobhan, and friend Ryan Humphrey, who met in the hospitality business, took over the Cotswold pub four years ago.
It had been shut for eight months at that point ,after a fast turnover of landlords, and was known as more of a boozer than anything more gastronomic, but that didn’t deter the trio, who had always wanted their own place.
Viewing The Carpenters Arms as a labour of love, they quickly transformed the 18th century inn into a welcoming, local, foodie pub, where we arrived for lunch on Saturday.
To give you an idea of what to expect food wise, Tom was previously Head Chef at at 5-star hotel Stoke Park, while Siobhan and Ryan worked at Cliveden House Hotel.
I could have just eaten the CIDER WELSH RAREBIT WITH SHALLOT PICKLES, drunk my tea and gone home happy
There is nothing stuffy however, about their endearing pub, a stone’s throw from Burford, but far from the madding crowd.
Warm and cosy from the word go (see main pic), it was full of families and friends enjoying a delicious lunch, or a pint, in front of a blazing fire. Dogs, children, laughter and the wonderful hum of conversation followed us through to the second bar where we were seated.
the carpenters arms is certainly somewhere to return to for some more exciting culinary adventures
And it was an exciting menu, full of novel dishes such as crab and scallop lasagna, sticky lamb faggots, venison and black pudding scotch eggs or the beetroot tartare.
The cup of tea I ordered, arrived on a beautiful wooden board covered in a pencil sketch of the pub, complete with a tiny square of treacle tart and a chocolate truffle. It’s the details here that count.
And that was in evidence when the first bar snack arrived: cider Welsh rarebit with shallot pickles for just £4.
I could have just eaten that, drunk my tea and gone home happy. The colour, the crunch, the strength of the cheese mixed with the booze and mustard, the sour pickles cutting through the cheese, piping hot – it was the best wintery lunch I’ve come across.
But of course there was more – keeping it simple on the one hand with a house burger and the BLT sandwich, even that wasn’t straight forward!
The BLT came with a shot of carrot soup and was piled high with ingredients, although it said ciabatta on the menu and definitely appeared with plain brown bread. But the triple cooked chips and salad were an added bonus, and great value for £9.50.
The burger was as plentiful and juicy, it accruements consisting of Smoked Applewood cheddar, a toasted brioche bun, tomato, baby gem and skinny fries, again excellent value for £16.
But the piece de resistance was the salt baked celeriac (£16.50) which came with an onion bhaji, raisin puree, cucumber & mint raita and coriander oil, and sounded so intriguing I had to try it.
We all tried the salt baked celeriac with onion bhaji, raisin puree, cucumber & mint raita and coriander oil and marvelled at its sheer inventiveness
A genius of a dish; the celeriac was juicy, flavoured and perfectly cooked before it meets the crispy crunch of the generous bhaji, slathered in raita (yoghurt and cucumber). Really clever and assiduous. We all tried some and marvelled at its sheer inventiveness. No cauliflower steaks here then!
Pudding was a more curious affair – as inventive – but the pistachio choux bun with pistachios and blood orange sorbet (£7.50) was perhaps more suited to a sunny day, the sorbet inside rather cold and hard to eat.
The coconut rice pudding crème brûlée (£7.50) was delicious with its tappy top, but the creme brulee description rather deceptive – more rice pudding than baked custard.
Food here is at the epicentre of what they do
But with a second cup of tea, more treacle squares and chocolate truffles, and a very reasonable bill, we were suitably impressed when we ventured back out into the bleak midwinter of January.
Moments of brilliance then at The Carpenters Arms and a menu that suits everyone, from those who fancy a pint and a sandwich to the more suited and booted.
Food here is at the epicentre of what they do and it’s certainly somewhere to return for more exciting culinary adventures.
The Carpenters Arms, Fulbrook, Burford, Oxfordshire OX18 4BH. https://www.thecarpentersarmsfulbrook.co.uk/eat