When we left The Hand and Shears pub in Church Hanborough, head chef Patrick Moore was chatting to one of the regulars outside (see main pic), having finished his shift in the kitchen. It exemplified perfectly why he and his partner Sally are the perfect landlords.
Because having taken over in August, not only is Patrick already making a name for himself as a chef to watch, but the couple have obviously embedded themselves into the local community within just a few months.
Tucked away between Witney, Eynsham and Woodstock, it’s a charming spot, the historic pub recently renovated to embrace its 1775 heritage, with a front bar area and large dining room at the back.
But it’s the food that makes it stand out, the menu bursting with interesting, unexpected with really unique dishes.
The composite ingredients alone needed time to be metaphorically rolled around on the tongue – raspberry vinaigrette, tarragon aioli, sherry vinegar marinated grapes, smoked tomato ketchup, tomato and dill oil, cucumber and fennel caviar, cranberry gel. Patrick’s culinary imagination is exciting, refreshing and lively.
Patrick is also into his local produce, as evident throughout his menu with additions such as Hanborough honey from down the road or Mayfield eggs.
we left with the firm knowledge that we had stumbled onto a little gem right there in the centre of Church Hanborough.
While pondering the options we opted for the pickles and bread, which certainly set the scene. Huge hunks of moreish homemade focaccia arrived at our table with a bowl of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We devoured the lot unable to resist the warm, crumbly, moist Italian bread and the homemade pickles. It also meant that we peaked too early. Our downfall was inevitable.
Not that deterred me from my Dionyssian Hanborough honey roasted figs and goat’s cheese, candied walnuts, raspberry vinaigrette and herb crouton starter (£7.75) which was not only a vision on the plate but a wonder to eat – the soft figs plump and bursting with juice and sweetness, the honeycomb glistening, set against the crunch of the walnuts, the sharp soft goats cheese and the bitter raspberry.
The sliver of crispy pressed belly of pork with tarragon aioli, toasted pine nuts, Hanborough honey and sherry vinegar marinated grapes (£7.50) was as equally well received.
The main menu was more hearty – burgers, pies, fish and chips, roast lamb, pasta…. Patrick is determined not to err into fine dining and keep things simple and traditional – good pub food done well. But what he does is ensure that every single addition to the dish is as perfect as possible. It’s this attention to detail that singles Patrick’s cooking out.
The pan roasted rump of lamb (£18), celeriac puree, roast shallots, buttery kale, mashed potato and real meat gravy (£18) was far more delicate than it sounded, beautifully presented and perfectly cooked.
The pie of the day (£15.95) was goats cheese and veg, served with mash and salad, but even that was exquisite. Beautiful to behold, the pastry was thick and crumbly, the salad scattered with herbs a piquant vinaigrette and slices of crisp radish. The mash was light, fluffy and herbed. Patrick pays the same homage to every layer of his dishes and it shows, you can taste it.
The burger selection is extensive, but the vegan Moving Mountains option (£15) with beef tomato, gem lettuce, garlic aioli, gherkins, vegan cheese and a brioche bun with skinny fries sounded interesting. Could I tell the difference? Not really. Delicious and juicy, it was so generously filled that eating it was a challenge. I managed!
By then we were so stuffed that despite the enticing dessert menu we only managed to share a portion of the lemon posset, blackcurrant and raspberry granola baked Alaska (£6.95), another surprising and delicious invention hailing from Patrick’s kitchen. Genius.
And with the last light fluffy sugary crumbs of meringue still on our tongues we traipsed out into the clear night, with the firm knowledge that we had stumbled onto a little gem right there in the centre of Church Hanborough.
The Hand and Shears is certainly one to remember and looks set to become a real foodie destination. I loved it.
The Hand and Shears, Church Hanborough is athttp://handandshears.co.uk