Like many people, we were supposed to be on holiday last week – in France, so what better way to spend our Oxfordshire staycation than in a pub garden on a gem of a late summer’s day.
The spectacular weather was a bonus for our lazy, long lunch date at The Bear and Ragged Staff in Cumnor, and the gardens and socially-distanced courtyard dining arrangement were the perfect backdrop to what was going to be a very memorable lunch – for all the right reasons.
The Bear and Ragged Staff is expansive – lots of indoor and outdoor seating options, and rooms as well for anyone who wants to make a night of it and explore Oxford.
We planned a lunch and then a walk by the Thames which made for a perfect afternoon as there are good footpaths very close by.
Clearly much-loved by locals, the pub is welcoming, and the friendly and attentive staff are managing the necessary Covid-19 restrictions seamlessly, clearly very happy to be back at work. We chose a table in the sunny courtyard for our three-course luncheon feast.
The pub enjoys good relationships with food and drink suppliers and supports many UK producers. Local beer and cheese, bread from The Brown Sugar Bakery and fresh fish from Brixham, are some of the products on the menu along with ethically-sourced coffee and English sparkling wine.
The specials board was particularly enticing, and I chose king prawns with chilli, fennel and peanut and coriander salad, Inspector Morsel is a sucker for whitebait and we also were powerless to resist a ‘small plate’ of padron peppers with seasalt and some succulent scallops.
Paired with a chilled bottle of Picpoult this was a devine start to a late summer’s day lunch – the portions are generous and everything tasted juicy, sharp, salty and utterly delicious. We were wondering how we were actually going to make it through three courses as the small plates of deliciousness were already filling us up. Inspector Morsel said: “I am relieved we skipped breakfast.”
Next the mains, I went for the hot and sour salad with chilli, mooli, cucumber, peanuts and sesame and it was bright, vibrant and refreshing with a real kick – I added halloumi croutons because I am just weak when it comes to the salty, squeaky cheese.
Inspector Morsel chose the slow cooked beef brisket in a bun with fries which he basically inhaled and muttered that he enjoyed it so much he could probably have eaten all over again…while patting his stomach and kicking back with another glass of wine.
Puddings next and it was back to the specials board. I went for the coconut panna cotta with passionfruit, pineapple and crispy, delicate shortbread toile. This was the perfect option to cool down after my spicy salad and probably the tastiest version of this classic pud that I have ever eaten. Inspector Morsel went for the cheese selection because he wanted to try the local Rollright which was gooey and delicious and again a very generous portion.
We were very full and the specials board is one of the best I have seen recently with a good variety of meat and fish dishes. It would be really good to see some more vegetarian and vegan options on there too, and I am sure this will happen soon.
We had a fabulous staycation lunch at The Bear and Ragged Staff, the staff really go the extra mile for their customers and the kitchen is delivering some seriously good food.
As Inspector Morsel said: “Really why go away on holiday? Oxfordshire has some great pubs doing some great food and this is definitely one of them.”
We did manage to heave ourselves out of our sunny seats eventually, and walk off at least some of our lunch but we will be back.
The Bear and Ragged Staff www.bearandraggedstaff.com