By day The Feathers in Woodstock was packed, the sunshine and live band The Holy Fools proving an intoxicating mix for the locals and visitors alike who flocked to sit in the red bricked garden terrace, passers by continually drawn in by the escaping notes.

We arrived later for dinner when it was still busy, as families and couples visibly enjoyed the freedom of being out, knowing that the food and service at The Feathers would stand them in good stead.

Feathers outdoors

Head chef Ben Bullen (SEE DETAILS HERE) https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/two-aa-rosettes-masterchef-the-professionals-and-a-new-head-chef-position-why-ben-bullen-is-at-the-top-of-his-game-at-the-feathers-in-woodstock/ has made quite a name for himself since taking over the reins a few years ago.

The buzzing scene at The Feathers

As The Feathers has also been doing a roaring takeaway trade during lockdown, its continuing reputation for good food ensured a top night, and Ben didn’t disappoint.

The menu was succinct but enticing and we dived in with a selection of starters – cod croquettes with a dill mayonnaise (£4), crispy calamari with harissa mayonnaise (£6) and a whole baked Camembert with grilled sourdough and chutney (£12.50) to share.

The prices are more than reasonable considering it’s such a smart hotel, making the dining options more than accessible for us all, and our appetisers disappeared in a trice, the cod croquettes crispy on the outside and soft within, the calamari perfectly cooked and the Camembert unctuous and perfectly suited to the evening ahead as the temperatures began dropping.

From the five mains we chose: the chargrilled 6oz rump steak with rocket & parmesan salad with Feathers chips (£17.50), the cod and smoked haddock fish pie with dill mash and mixed greens (£15) and the cheese, onion and potato pie with mixed greens and feathers chips.

The fish pie

All-in-all a great success. The steak was cooked just right, the piped fish pie had the dill running through it with lots of cheesy potato oozing from the dish, and the cheese and onion pie was generous with its cheese sauce rather than dry inside, as is so often the case – the pastry particularly pleasing.

Accompanied by some lovely wine it made for a very convivial evening. And yes it did get chillier (heaters are arriving this week) but didn’t deter us from dipping into some exceptional puddings – the sticky toffee with vanilla ice cream and toffee sauce was as good as it gets, and the vanilla panna cotta with poached rhubarb and ginger crumble was the star of the show – the tart rhubarb contrasting perfectly with the soft wobbly panna cotta and the ginger crumble.

The vanilla pan cotta with poached rhubarb and ginger crumble

The last guests remaining, we reluctantly paid up and left, having enjoyed a really lovely evening. The service was, as ever, immaculate and I must make a quick shout out to our Italian waiter Flavio who makes a great coffee.

The Feathers, Market Street, Woodstock, Oxfordshire. OX20 1SX. 01993 812 291. https://www.feathers.co.uk

KATHERINE MACALISTER