I’ve never eaten indoors at the Parsonage Grill and Bar before. I’ve had tea there and conducted interviews, stayed overnight at the luxurious Old Parsonage hotel itself, and dined outside in the glorious courtyard garden which borders Banbury Road.

But with the rain lashing down, lunch was definitely going to be an indoor affair.

Led through that wonderfully historic wooden door into the discreet, classy, bustling, art-strewn, traditional interior, it was a wonderful escape from modern life.

If you’re going to go out, make it worthwhile which means The Old Parsonage certainly ticks all the boxes

As the hotel only reopened this week, The Parsonage Grill and Bar is now fully geared up for the new socially distanced restrictions. And while new, discreet glass screens now separate some of the tables, otherwise little has changed. It’s as immaculate and seamless as ever.

Sister restaurant to Quod and Gees, it is also the last in Jeremy Mogford’s collection to reopen, so it really is business as usual.

The wonderful waiting staff ushered us to a welcoming table, the rooms flowing into one another, the loyal clientele returning in their droves to its smart, hushed stylish restaurant.

Cocktails at The Parsonage Grill

A treat from the word go, it may be a destination eatery, and worth dressing up for, but in this day and age that’s become even more of a luxurious commodity and one that Oxford is already lapping up. If you’re going to go out make it worth while and The Old Parsonage certainly ticks all the boxes.

Currently running a game option alongside its normal menu, the seasons were much in evidence as we deliberated over what to eat, spoiling ourselves with a cocktail as we chose.

And what I remembered of the Old Parsonage’s excellent food is still the case – that less is more, ingredients are given pride of place and just one or two things on a plate are given star treatment. Simple cooking expertly executed.

Seared king scallops and artichoke puree starter

Which was in evidence with the seared king scallops and artichoke puree starter (an eye watering £15.50), accompanied by a twice baked goats cheese and thyme soufflé with bitter leaves (£9). Beautifully cooked on both counts, the bite of the scallops set against the smooth rich earthy artichoke puree was heavenly, while the soufflé’s was soft and subtle, neither the thyme nor the goats cheese overpowering the dish.

Simple cooking expertly executed

Already eyeing up the puddings, I opted for the seasonal salad of little beetroots, artichoke, cauliflower and salsify (£17.50) which was more than generous, with a lovely tangy dressing, and a side order of perfect chips.

My companion delighted in one of the game menu specials – a partridge, celeriac and Bramley apple risotto, which may have been overtly simple in appearance but more than made up for in the taste test.

The seasonal salad with a side of chips

Dessert was however the highlight. In fact I could return right now for just one more mouthful of that exquisitely creamy, vanilla drenched, tap-toppingly crunchy creme brûlée which was one of the best I’ve ever eaten.

As for the warm bitter chocolate tart with pistachio ice cream (£9.50), it was sensational – rich without being too bitter – the tart excelled and the accompanying chocolate crumb was genius, matched by the delicate yet unmistakeable flavours of pistachio. The dessert chef needs a pat on the back.

The creme brûlée and warm bitter chocolate tart with pistachio ice cream

Regretfully reaching the end of our fine lunch, the room still full, as customers arrived for a late lunch or an early tea, it was evident that not only is The Old Parsonage back with an elegant bang, but that its fans have been waiting with bated breath to return. And after a lunch like that I can see why.

Not for those on a budget perhaps, but certainly worth splashing out on. I, for one, was utterly seduced.

The current game menu costs £18.50 for two courses and £23 for three Monday-Friday 12noon-6pm.

For more details on the Parsonage Grill and Bar go to https://www.oldparsonagehotel.co.uk for more details. 1-3 BANBURY ROAD, OXFORD. OX2 6NN

KATHERINE MACALISTER

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