The Ben Jonson at Weston on the Green has been on the Ox In A Box radar for about a year.
Despite a colourful and rapid turnover history, it is under the new ownership and watchful eyes of Kayleigh Beadle and Lee McEvoy, and certainly deserves a place on Oxfordshire’s culinary map if our meal there was anything to go by.
Keen to establish The Ben Jonson as a destination restaurant, the team is doing a grand job there, and our visit was worth the wait.
It is a beautiful, old building that has been lovingly revamped for modern dining, and the staff are clearly enjoying rising to the challenge of creating a covid-safe dining experience.
Our date night dinner was all the more special as Inspector Morsel has strong family connections with The Ben Jonson, it being his grandfather’s, and great grandfather’s, local. Pictures on the walls show his family enjoying the pub in a bygone era, so it was good to keep the connections alive.
The menu is impressive and Kayleigh and Lee pride themselves on using local, fresh produce, with a great offering of salads, burgers, lots of veggie and gluten free options, and some more complex dishes, something to suit everyone then.
As we observed other diners receiving their food it became apparent that it wasn’t going to be easy to choose.
We had the halloumi fries (£7) to nibble on while we deliberated and they set the tone for the whole meal. Because there are halloumi fries and Ben Jonson halloumi fries! They were the best we’ve ever tasted and trust me on this one, with our penchant for fried cheese, we’ve tried a lot!
A generous portion of divine, chunky, crispy, golden bars of utter loveliness served with chilli jam – just the right amount of squeak and just soft enough in the middle. The ultimate autumn comfort food.
The bar had already been set high (did I mention the halloumi fries) and luckily our meal followed on in a similarly impressive vein with our starters; the red wine baked pears with walnuts and vale of Camelot stilton (£7), plus the baked mackerel fillet with beetroot, roquette and red pepper. (£8.50).
Both dishes were bright, vibrant and fresh with a bit of a zing. I could have doubled the portion and eaten the pears as a main they were so delicious. Inspector Morsel’s mackerel was another hit – a generous feast for the eyes and tastebuds.
A little rest, deep breath, and a good glut of red wine and we were onto the mains. This time it was the immense sounding £19 rump of lamb with fondant potato, savoy cabbage, baby onions and red wine jus.
The lamb was cooked to pink perfection and according to Inspector Morsel “melts in your mouth”.
I went for the mediterranean gnocchi with pesto, herbs and sun-dried tomatoes from the specials board. Gnocchi can go either way, a bit like risotto, and can be deliciously comforting or utterly bland. Ours was delicious and plentiful and a great choice for a vegetarian main course.
Puddings were required – not because we were still hungry but because we couldn’t resist. An apple and cinnamon crumble with custard, and the most beautiful blackberry panna cotta with chocolate crumb (both £6) emerged and were demolished in silence, accompanied by a knowing look that we would be back at The Ben Jonson very soon for more of the same.
But more than that, the ethos at historic pub is as important as their excellent menu, because it works closely with local businesses to source the majority of its ingredients locally, and sustainably, and that’s what we like to hear.
The Ben Jonson,
Weston on the Green,