The sister and I spent countless hours travelling over 1,000 miles this Christmas, all in the name of family. And I was driving for most of that. Never again! Of course there were some wonderful moments in between all that travelling, and some pretty fabulous meals. So it wasn’t all bad.
Our very last trip of the season involved lunch at Marco Pierre White’s newly acquired Black Boy Inn in Milton on the very edges of the Cotswolds. At least they say it’s the Cotswolds, but my dad, who lives one village over says it isn’t, and his sister, who lives one village over the other side also says it isn’t. But who are we to argue.
pub restaurant reopened about 3 months ago, and has received mixed reviews from locals (locals being my uncle Brian who has very strong opinions on the mater) but seems to be a general hit. The local gripe may stem from the fact that what was once a local pub for local people, with a nice long bar and log fires, is now a restaurant with a teeny bar at one end and some rather sour faces. It’s been my dad’s local for years, he doesn’t seem to mind, there’s still room for him and the dog, but the place has definitely lost it’s cosy & familiar pub vibe.
We were there for Sunday lunch, and the menu had all the staples you’d expect – roast beef with Yorkshires, steak and ale pie, fish and chips etc. along with some delightfully narcissistic and self-indulgent dishes such as Belly of pork Marco Polo (yes, I know that’s an actual dish, but you see where it’s going…), The Governor’s this, The Governor’s that, Mr White’s rice pudding, Sherry triffle Wally Ladd recette Michel Bourdin (oh please) and Cambridge Burnt Cream (yes, I know that’s a thing. It’s the same thing as crème brûlée only less pretentious).
We’d been warned that the food was rich and the portions generous (and we’d only recently finished second breakfast) but we didn’t let that deter us, we’re Taylors after all. We started with Potted duck with green peppercorns & hot toast (me), Finest Quality Smoked Salmon with brown bread and butter (The Sister) and Warm baked St. Marcellin with hot sourdough toast, parsley (Dad).
It was all pretty delicious. And rich. And filling (lesson learned). The toast for my duck came wrapped in a napkin, which I thought odd as although it kept it warm, it also kept it nice and soggy from the steam. Warm and crisp would have been better than hot and damp.
We followed that with Belly of pork Marco Polo with butter beans & roasting juices (me), The Governor’s fish & triple cooked chips with mushy peas and sauce tartare (The Sister) and Roast Bronze Turkey with stuffing and red wine gravy (Dad, because he didn’t have turkey on Christmas day, bless him).
The pork was incredible. So tender and moist, and the intensely flavoured pan juices and genuinely buttery butter beans (which are so often dry and mealy) were the perfect compliment. The sticks of cracking on the top were the kind of thing people give their grannies for, and if I had any grannies to spare I’d have handed one over in return for seconds.
The Sister’s fish and chips was pretty good, but not stellar. The fish could have done with draining on paper before it hit the plate, it was pretty greasy, and the ‘triple cooked chips’ had been barely cooked all 3 times, resulting in pretty average pub chips (but at least they weren’t stacked on the plate, a saving grace). The veg was beautifully cooked (if a little over seasoned) and served in mini cast iron pans.
We even managed dessert (we Taylor’s are made of pretty tough stuff you know) and opted for the Cambridge burnt cream and the Bitter chocolate mousse (which both came with a handful of raspberries and a teeny spring of mint, yawn. Is there no other way to serve dessert? The restaurants I worked in 15 years ago weren’t boring enough to serve desserts like that.) The burnt cream was heavenly, the custard was quite softly set, but still sublime. The chocolate mousse was also pretty great, but just that bit too rich (which I’m guessing would have been the case even without two breakfasts).
The service was very good – friendly, not at all formal and hard to fault. We drank 1 beer, 2 glasses of prosseco and a lovely bottle of Côtes du Rhône, and our bill was just shy of £125 for the 3 of us.
We’ll definitely go back (more out of habit than anything) and I daresay we’ll have plenty more delicious meals.
Black Boy Inn, Milton, Banbury, Oxon, OX15 4HH
Tel: +44 (0)1295 722111