We looked at the local competition, The Royal Oak, which has a prettier setting, but the Earl Of March felt fresher and had a more interesting menu. I don't know if the menu is set for Autumn, as there are a lot of delicious-sounding but substantial dishes. I would have cheerfully eaten almost all of them. Bread was a fine (home-made?) wholemeal, although it came one slice at a time and was accompanied by a silly sliver of butter on black slate. Water was readily provided, and the only quibble a pedant might have with the menu was the circumflex in fraÎche. Tables are bare and quite closely packed, all the better for peering at other diners' dishes. There's also a bar menu and a lunchtime/afternoon seafood shack. ( I don't know why I'm bothering saying. There's a perfectly good website)
We shared half a dozen small but excellent oysters, and then Madame had a pretty plateful of scallops with pea purée, and then a good chunk of perfectly medium-rare fillet of beef with rösti and greens. My main was duck breast with blackberries and hotpot potatoes, a blessed change from gratin dauphinois. With the blackberry sauce and cabbage it really worked. My starter was the only so-so dish – mussels in a cider cream sauce, which was overlarge and undersweet mussels in a heavy cream sauce devoid of cider taste but full of raw red onions. I shouldn't have ordered it, but it's a silly dish to serve as a starter, because it guarantees you won't be able to face dessert.
I had conceded defeat, but Madame launched into an in-depth interrogation on the local cheeses. She then faffed interminably until the excellent waiter, probably despairing of ever again seeing home, offered her a half portion. The staff were very good throughout, although it was a quiet evening.
There's a rewarding wine list, with about 15 wines by the glass, although I wasn't very tempted by the dessert list. Sherry? Madeira? Aussie muscats? We'd already had a glass of Prosecco, a half of Harveys and five glasses of wine. Espresso was made by someone who doesn't drink espresso.
The service-free bill was £105, which isn't cheap for a pub with paper napkins, but was fair given the quality of the ingredients and cooking. Not perfect, but highly recommended.