The Plowden Arms

Reading Road, Shiplake , Henley-On-Thames, RG9 4BX

1 reviews

41 British Oxfordshire

SquareMeal Review of The Plowden Arms

A pretty roadside pub rescued from mediocrity by passionate owners Ruth and Matt Woodley, The Plowden gives a deliciously historical flavour to British cooking. Low, white-panelled ceilings festooned with hop branches, mahogany tables, antique cutlery and a candelabra match a menu brimming with step-back-in-time inspiration. Matt loves Victoriana, updating ‘soles in coffins’ as expertly cooked lemon sole perched on hollowed-out potato skins in a glossy girolle-mushroom sauce; likewise, devilled kidneys are teamed with lamb’s lettuce, croûtons and a silky cauliflower purée. Neither the approach nor the pricing are outlandish; pheasant terrine paired with apple jelly costs £6.95, for instance. Desserts might feature Trinity cream (the original crème brûlée), sticky toffee pudding with its own boat of butterscotch sauce, or gin and tonic sorbet and meringue. Even the drinks list incorporates ‘forgotten’ cocktails alongside well-kept ales and a broad but kindly priced wine list. Efficient staff lend effervescence to an evening. 

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Food & Drink: 9.0

Service: 8.0

Atmosphere: 8.0

Value: 8.0

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

Jenny L. 25 March 2013

It took me a while to stop peering round the dining room to see if Nicholas Lyndhurst had just stepped through the door, as arriving at The Plowden Arms, is – in the style of 90s sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart – a little like stepping back in time to the 1940s; topped off by the glamorous manageress (perfectly coiffured hair, cherry red lipstick and Land Girl style “slacks”); and Gin Fizz (forgotten cocktail of the month) And the time-travel doesn’t stop there. The menu explicitly celebrates traditional British dishes that would make Mrs Beeton and Elizabeth David proud, albeit served with a flourish that mixes contemporary gastro-pub stylings with a healthy dollop of chintz: Whitebait (in a deliciously light tempura style batter) came served in a cone of newspaper on a wooden chopping board; whereas the mains (steak with bone marrow and Sea trout, mussels and shrimps) were presented on mis-matched blue and white china. Each dish was well prepared, and made full use of inventive ingredient combinations, whilst maintaining a solid foot in tradition. Perhaps a little heavy handed on seasoning, and the toilets are more country pub than gourmet restaurant, but otherwise a great foodie find in an unassuming Brakespear Pub in Shiplake