It was a tip off from someone in the know. Had I been? Why not? I had no defence. And having visited The Eyston Arms in East Hendred there was no excuse because it’s excellent.
Plus, it’s also been hiding one of the best people in the industry, Lidia Dhorne, whom I first came across as Front of House at Killingworth Castle and then The Greyhound in Letcombe Regis. So that’s where she’s been hiding.
Which boded well for our meal, and I wasn’t disappointed. The pub for a start is instantly enveloping; a beautiful historic building, cosy, busy, obviously frequented by delighted locals, cartoons of the regulars lining the bar, somewhere you’d definitely want to hang out.
It’s the little details that count like the place mats of the pub. The menu was equally as enticing with a great specials board to make your decision even harder.
But after quizzing our waiter perhaps excessively in our zeal we ordered – the spiced sweet potato and coconut soup with crusty bread (£7.25) which offered enough chilli to hit the back of the throat before the smooth silkiness of the Asian broth followed through.
It was accompanied by the hugely generous gratin of king prawns with a rich red pepper and tomato sauce, shaved parmesan and crusty bread (£11.25) for my friend, which came on a gorgeous skillet, bubbling with cheese, begging you to dive in.
The crispy pork belly main with a crunchy mustard and chive croquette (£25.50), perfectly soft inside, accompanied by a tasty, tart, caramelised apple puree, green beans and Aspall cider jus (£25.50) was heavenly. A great pat on the back of a dish, beautifully executed, proving that whoever is in the kitchen means business.
We met Zolton Fodor afterwards, a great chef to have at the helm, as the rest of our meal proved.
The wild mushroom, broad beans and petit pois risotto which came with baby spinach and herb oil (starter portion £8), may have been a slightly unoriginal veggie option but absolutely delivered on taste with its blanched fresh veg and just the right bite.
As for The Arms treacle tart and custard (£8.50), it was something else, the perfect finish to a really great meal. Zolton can really cook.
The menu has changed since then and is now bursting with spring produce, which I have no doubt will be of an equally high calibre.
So the Eyston Arms really ticks a lot of boxes and is a wonderfully gastronomic way to spend a lunchtime or evening. I’d pay it a visit.
The Eyston Arms, High Street, East Hendred. OX12 8JY. Go to https://eystonarms.co.uk