We went to the Nut Tree for lunch after a morning shopping in Bicester. It's about a 15 minute drive away, but feels a million miles from the hurly burly that is Bicester on a Saturday before Christmas.
Driving down winding lanes through pretty Oxfordshire villages totally erased all the shopping-induced mania , and we were thrilled when we saw the Nut Tree's pretty thatched roof and cosy interior.
The pigs in the sty in the garden are very friendly, rushing over, squealing, to be fed. Some people may be squeamish knowing that they will end up in the Nut Tree's kitchen, but it's all about provenance, and how better to know that the pork is top quality and not pumped full of antibiotics?
We were a bit disappointed to be seated in the modern extension rather than the more atmospheric original pub, but on the plus side the extension is very bright and airy so we could see the beautifully presented food better than we would have in the dark but cosy pub.
The Nut Tree's tasting menu looked lovely; the pick of the best things from the a la carte, and at £55 per person (plus £35 for matching wines) is pretty well priced compared to London.
We ate from the a la carte, with the girls having two starters after gorging ourselves on the fabulous bread (the walnut and raisin was particularly good).
The pan fried terrine of pigs head and black pudding, served with sauerkraut, piccalilli dressing and fried quails eggs was delicious and beautifully presented; meltingly soft and the gutsy piccallii cut through the dense pork flavours really nicely. The parfait of chicken livers with fig chutney and toasted brioche was rich and creamy. The grilled diver caught scallops with butternut squash puree, cavalo nero and ras al hanout caramel were plump and juicy, perfectly cooked – not at all rubbery or overdone. Lastly, the pave of Nut Tree smoked Loch Duart salmon with whipped horseradish cream, Avruga caviar and salmon skin biscuit was really good – the horseradish cream was a nice light touch.
The grilled fillet of aged Oxfordshire beef with triple cooked chips, baked tomato, onion rings, béarnaise sauce was nice but not as good as Chez Bruce's chateaubriand.
For dessert we shared the chocolate fondant with orange jelly, which was decadently oozy, and the prune and armagnac souffle with caramel ice-cream. The souffle had a touch too much armagnac in it for my taste, but was light and fluffy.
The bill came to £120 including tip for a glass of manzanilla, 5 starters, a main and two desserts.
We really enjoyed lunch and will definitely be back.