It’s been a while since I dined at Killingworth Castle in Wootton near Woodstock, give or take some mighty fine outdoor hotdogs and the most dirty, dirty fries this side of Vegas during lockdown.
So to be able to eat there, with only a mask when required, was a massive privilege because I’d forgotten how prestigious the food is, how it raises the bar every time I visit, and how excellent our meal turned out to be.
The occasion? A friend’s birthday dinner which started with cocktails and bubbles in the extensive and classy garden, followed by dinner laid on inside.
Owned by Claire and Jim Alexander, who have just sold their sister pub The Ebrington Arms in the Cotswolds, they have turned all their attention to The Killy by adding a new dining room at the back, and brining head chef Adam Brown with them for the ride
There was a moment of awed silence when the starters appeared, as if we’d all forgotten how impressive dining out can be
Awarded the UK’s No 1 Pub for Food in The Telegraph & Sawdays, Adam boasts an impressive pedigree including Gordon Ramsay & Le Champignon Sauvage) and inherits a talented team the kitchen.
The food reflects that and there was a little moment of awed silence as the starters appeared, as if we’d all forgotten how impressive dining out can be.
CONVERSATION took A BACK SEAT as it dawned on us that this was no ordinary gastro pub food but something much more ambitious
Take the pea custard for example (see main pic). Yes it sounded rather intriguing, but we all gasped when it arrived, pretty as a picture and making the most of the seasonality, sustainability and organic produce The Killy is now renowned for.
It tasted even better, the sweet softness of the pea sauce contrasting with the crunch of hazelnuts added like a crumble topping, framed by the al dente fresh spring/summer vegetables. A truly accomplished dish.
Even the bread (Mark’s Cotswold crunch sourdough with cultured butter since you asked) defied belief, as we tried to resist the temptation to wolf down the entire bread basket.
Or the rabbit terrine with carrot, chicory jam and pistachio. Regardless of its complex flavours, just look at it!
And as it dawned on us that this was no ordinary gastro pub food but something much more ambitious, we sat up and paid attention, conversation taking a back seat in anticipation of the mains, which didn’t disappoint.
The sirloin shorthorn beef & shin, gem lettuce, black garlic and morel sauce, led the way, a lovely alternative to your bog standard steak and chips, with its unusual components. although the morel sauce was slightly overpowering.
Price wise it was easy: £28 for two courses and £35 for three, the only hardship whether to eat pud of not
The Peking duck was another example of a luxurious twist on a classic – served with turnip, apricot, shoots and grains and malted barley, and almost unrecognisable to its Chinese restaurant counterpart.
Even the risotto – sweetcorn with trumpet mushrooms and herb oil – was taken to a whole new level, although it could have done with more seasoning! And a side of spring greens with toasted almonds was coveted by all.
Price wise it was easy: £28 for two courses and £35 for three, the only hardship whether to eat pud of not.
We compromised by sharing the 54% dark chocolate delice, salted caramel cream, realising too late what a mistake that was, as we fought over it like the crown jewels.
Which leaves the big question! With3 organic stars from the Soil Association already under their belts two AA rosettes under their belts will they get the revered three?
If our meal was anything to go by, they’re definitely heading in the right direction.
But don’t take my word for it! I urge you to go yourself because Killingworth Castle is head and shoulders above the competition and really pushing the boat out. And after everything we’ve all been through in the past 18 months, hospitality especially, that’s quite something.