We mentioned a few weeks ago that The Bear and Ragged Staff in Cumnor had been acquired by Peach Pubs who currently have The Fishes in North Hinksey, as well as The Thatch and The James Figg in Thame. After some renovation of the building and their menu, the doors to this village pub reopened earlier this week for a soft launch, with an official reopening party last night.
Externally it looks the same, a low slung long Cotswold stone building and many of the original features have remained inside. However, the new decor is not your standard Farrow and Ball paint by numbers scheme that have made gastro pubs into their own little chain. There may be exposed beams, stone floors and woodburning stoves but there’s also warm tones, wine label tables and dining booths. No sage green or antlers to be seen anywhere!
There is a separate bar area, a split level dining area for over 100 covers along with a recessed private dining corner and the modern equivalent of a snug with long glass windows and an Ikea reminiscent parade of hanging lights. Plus a decent sized car park, a pub garden and a selection of rooms for overnight accommodation – which we didn’t get to see last nihgt as they were all occupied but will be going back for a good nose around!
Generous bite sized canapes of some of their menu dishes were handed around and I’m looking forward to a return visit for larger portions! My absolute favourite was their beef pie (having said just last week that I’d never order a pie when dining out, this changed my mind!) with 14 hour ale braised beef surrounded in pastry. The beef was succulent with a rich, savoury gravy and full size comes with buttery mash and spring greens for £15. Also of particular note was the dinky little shepherd’s pie, made with slow cooked Cornish shoulder of lamb, featured on their set lunch menu, two course for £13.50 or three for £15.50.
We also sampled potted shrimp on sourdough bread, flaked crab on toast with picked cucumber and pate de campagne on mustard buttered sourdough with pickle slivers. Both fish dishes were good but the pate should come with a garlic warning! I love my garlic and this ticked all my boxes, except on the way home when as a result of a few glasses of Prosecco, I emitted a delicate ladylike burp that was pure garlic and made my husband open all the car windows – so do be prepared to share!
Dishes recommended to us by several of the staff but that weren’t available last night included the roast chicken ravioli with crispy skin and Parmesan. The pasta filling for this is an entire roast chicken (deboned!) and includes all those umami chicken juices… Duck bolognese is another dish of note, pappardelle pasta with a duck ragu and crispy duck crumb.
Different menus come into play at different times, breakfast has your full English, eggs royale as well American pancakes, coconut milk porridge and the now obligatory smashed avo on toast served until 11.30am. Then it’s the afore-mentioned lunch menu, and that gets replaced at 3pm with the daytime lighter dining dishes; pate, burgers, grilled cheese toasties etc until 6pm when the evening menu comes in to play.
From what we’ve seen so far, a great pub with good food for both locals and those looking for an authentic village pub feel without going too far from Oxford centre. Now the warmer weather is starting, it’s a perfect stop off on a country walk.