The Chandlers Arms in Epwell has been on our radar for quite some time, rumours of some mighty fine cooking, in the family-run 17th century gastropub, filtering through.
‘Guess how much a lunch of such epic proportions set us back? £38.50. Yes really!’
Michelin obviously think so too, listing it in their guide, but Oxfordshire country pubs are ten a penny at the moment, so could it stand out from the crowd, and where is it exactly?
Somewhere between Chipping Norton and Banbury, slap bang in the middle of the Cotswolds, as it turns out, with a sweet little beer garden, two snug dining rooms and a bar full of eager looking customers.
‘here was somewhere new, different and brilliant, and The Chandlers Arms absolutely met our remit’
My food antennae started quivering, that feeling in my bones that here was somewhere new, different and brilliant, and The Chandlers Arms absolutely met our remit.
From the moment I tasted the amuse bouche – a meringue macaroon with Kingcott Blue, and an unlikely sounding combination, that first soft, salty, sweet, crunchy, chewy mouthful set the standard for the rest of the meal, as did the accompanying version with chicken liver parfait. I could have locked myself in a dark cupboard with a huge bowl of these and been blissfully happy.
Luckily, I didn’t have to because then the home-made bread and butter came, bouncy and soft inside, matched with the creamy waxy beurre, it had us in raptures.
Then starters; the torched goats cheese, roast fig, honey, crispy Serrano ham and pickled plum tomato was beautiful to behold. Crisp, clean and then gooey with cheese and soft fig, the tart pickle having the last word.
Presentation here is everything, but the attention to detail follows through into the food
Presentation here is everything, but this attention to detail follows through into the food and its ingredients.
The Cotswold gin and horseradish cured salmon with compressed cucumber, fallen apple, and crispy cavolo nero followed suit, displaying the same contrast between texture and flavour. Seasonal and delicate, the salmon was allowed to shine without being overwhelmed by its marinade or components. Very clever.
Then the pan roast Banbury duck breast, pumpkin, pickled red cabbage and confit potato – a classic served in a distinguished manner, pretty as a picture on the plate
As for the garden heritage tomato, stuffed with celeriac and charred hispi cabbage, it was similarly inspired; the tomato soft as if it had been poached yet maintaining its juiciness and flavour. The tiny cubes of celeriac fell out when you cut through, the smokiness of the charring and the pickle aiding and abetting.
Original, refreshing and well thought through, this was more than just a token veggie/vegan dish.
Taste wise think of a refresher sweet – that fizz and zing, the freshness arching through. Absolute heaven
But the piece de resistance was the dessert – a lemon curd and raspberry ripple parfait with raspberry and lemon sorbet and lemon balm honey tuile, which was so exquisite to behold it was a shame to eat it. Taste wise think of a refresher sweet – that fizz and zing, the freshness arching through. Absolute heaven.
My companion, who has less of a sweet tooth, chose the cheese served with homemade crackers – a Kingcott Blue, Rollright cows cheese and Wookey Hole mature cheddar, which just about finished us off. A fittingly excellent homage with which to finish off the meal.
Guess how much a lunch of such epic proportions set us back? £38.50. Yes really. (Two courses were £34.50).
a massive tick from us and an exciting find. The Chandlers Arms is really worth writing home about
Chatting with the staff afterwards we discovered that not only was The Chandlers Arms recently opened in 2022 after an extensive refurb, but it’s being run by a family team – Sarah running the FOH and father/son team Anthony and Harry in the kitchens. What’s not to love?
So yes, a massive tick from us and an exciting find. The Chandlers Arms is really worth writing home about. So go and thank us later. It’s an absolute gem.
The Chandlers Arms, Sibford Road, Epwell, near Banbury https://www.thechandlersarms.co.uk/about-3