While on holiday in Cornwall recently I managed to smash my phone. With my bottom. It turns out wooden stairs + socks is a particularly lethal combination, especially when said phone is in your back pocket and you land on it with full glute force. While the lack of phone was utter torture, the task of having it repaired in Bicester led to a rather pleasant outcome – the opportunity to check out a nearby pub I’d been wanting to visit for ages.
Now I know what you’re thinking, when you think of Bicester you generally don’t think ‘bucket-list dining’. However I’d been drooling over The Muddy Duck’s menu for some time and boy did it look good. Starters of confit duck leg and fig salad with poached duck egg. Uhhh. Or carpaccio of beef with horseradish creme fraiche and dressed rocket. Mains of stuffed and rolled pork belly or pan fried rump of lamb served up alongside fondant potatoes or sage mash and confit apple. It’s like someone sat down and wrote a menu just for me. That’s even before you get to the wonderful seafood selection – baked Cornish crab with beetroot, apple, chilli, parmesan and fennel seeded cracker anyone? Let me live off this menu for a whole day and I’ll give you one very happy Jacqui.
Arriving promtly at noon we took our places in the dining room, which it catered for by a separate menu to the link-connected pub. Service was provided by a well groomed and crisply uniformed waitress, who was just the right level of attentive. The small vaulted dining room itself is immaculate, dressed with a huge swathe of dried flowers, numerous carved wooden ducks and napkins sewn with the work ‘quack’.
Expectations were high.
Finally having the chance to select from the menu, which turned out to be a little different on the day, I chose the pan fried duck breast with .. wait for it… confit duck sausage roll (!!), roasted heirloom tomatoes and duck fat roasted jersey royals (£24). Husband went for oven roasted rack of lamb, with dauphinoise potato, crushed pas and mint (£24). Kids, pleasingly, were offered any choice of meat with pretty much any vegetables they would like, so we played safe with chicken, mash and greens/carrots.
I’ll get straight on to the food, because is was absolutely bloody amazing. The duck cooked expertly with blushing interior and thin, crispy skin. The confit duck sausage roll was groan-worthy deliciousness that went wonderfully with the slightly tart roasted tomatoes. All the components were individually amazing and equally so when combined. Every, single, thing. The micro herbs packed tiny punches of savoury flavour, counterbalancing the sweetness of the duck and pastry.
I was so enthralled with my meal that I barely even acknowledged the lamb across the table from me. By the time I looked up it had gone anyway, snaffled away by a very hungry Andrew, whose delight at the food was obvious – even more delighted by the couple of pints of great ale he’d been sinking no doubt. He didn’t even mind eating peas, which he usually despises (he won’t eat hot and sweet things, don’t even get me started).
The children’s food was some of the best I’d tasted – cooked to perfection, buttery and gently seasoned (still, possibly more than I might for children). I’d have happily eaten their food had they shown a mere hint of dissatisfaction. Which they didn’t. Happy children = happy parents. And with food that good what’s not to like.
Oh, and the service was excellent too.
Why is it we just can’t get this level of quality and consistency inside Oxford? Yes we have some great restaurants, but this was a total 10/10, and we just don’t have any of those in Oxford… yet.