Ingredients from its farmland take prime position on the menus of this cavernous Cotswold restaurant – and head chef Charlie Hibbert does some wonderful things with them. The 19th-century former oxen house of luxury estate Thyme is now a 56-seater restaurant, aptly named Ox Barn. Part of a huge redevelopment of the Thyme estate, this is a worth-the-trip-from-London newcomer which gives the village of Southrop a serious destination restaurant from a team with impressive credentials.
Hibbert, who cut his teeth in London kitchens including Quo Vadis, expertly heads up the (open) kitchen which turns out farm-based and plant-inspired dishes that showcase his ‘love of the land’ and are visually as scenic as the restaurant’s surrounding countryside. As would be expected, menus change with what’s in season on the farm, but lunch and dinner dishes can include the likes of braised leeks with truffled egg (already a firm favourite), brill with oyster and salsify sauce and hazelnut cake with poached quince and cream.
On our visit, we dined at the group-friendly Chef’s Table, which lends itself more to family-style sharing dishes. We started with a satisfyingly rustic snack of ricotta and pickled pumpkin crostini before diving into inventive and large sharing salads, the yakon (a pear-like, South American root vegetable), Stichelton, hazelnuts and quince being particularly memorable. Supple roast hogget with braised beans and salsa verde was simple and earthy, while dessert beautifully championed the abundance of crab apples on the estate in an indulgent yet delicately constructed tart.
Restaurant manager Damian Daszynski (ex-Chiltern Firehouse) and his team keep service both formal yet familial, reflective of the estate’s hospitality style (it’s owned by Hibbert’s mother Caryn who also designs the pretty, hand-drawn menus). This also gives the cavernous space, which features a vaulted ceiling adorned with 65ft Canadian oak beams, a cosier atmosphere than you’d expect. Once dinner is over, head to The Baa bar next door – inventive cocktails are inspired by the herbs, fruit and vegetables outside.