It’s not often you eat your first Christmas dinner of the year in October, but that’s excatly what happed when The Baskerville Arms in Lower Shiplake opened its doors for a Christmas preview.
So Christmas jumper donned (I kid you not) and mistletoe packed (ok, maybe not), this little elf was ready to kick off Christmas. And what kicks it off better than a nice glass of fizz?! Festive bubbles for the occasion were English and supplied by Fairmile Vineyard, located less than 4 miles from the pub, and wines to accompany the meal were sourced from Woods Wines, also in Henley.
Crackers pulled, our meal kicked off with a choice of smoked parsnip and apple soup, beetroot gravlax, braised pork cheeks, honey roast figs or home-cured smoked goose. Never one to veer manage a full three courses without feeling like Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka, I chose gravlax to start, sliced thickly and purple-edged with beetroot. This came served with a salmon mousse and light fennel and orange salad, dressed in orange and lime.
An excellent start, and the starters around me looked just as enticing. I didn’t spot anyone eating the smoked goose, but I’d like to try it on another visit.
On to the Mains
On to the mains indeed, and ALL the trimmings. Mine looked a bit different to usual this year, as I swapped out the meat for a veggie alternative for the first time. As probably one of many people looking to reduce their meat intake, I’ve been really impressed with the improvement in vegan and veggie offerings I’ve tried this year (possibly something for another article).
I’ve had nut roasts before and, generally, they’re really very good, and don’t leave me with major FOMO. So despite Norfolk turkey being on the menu – along with braised blade of beef and baked halibut – the nut roast was my first choice. It really didn’t disappoint either. Packed full of flavour and nutty texture, topped with cranberry sauce and propped on a pillow of clovey bread sauce, it was excellent. Sharing platters of really very good herby roasties arrived alongside, plus a mixture of roasted parsnips, carrots, sprouts and stuffing. Now sprouts aren’t for everyone, but everyone at Bitten HQ loves them, so I’m always happy for sprout season begin.
As you can see from the pics below, the turkey did look pretty epic too, with sausage in blanket perched on top and plenty of proper homemade gravy – more came along in jugs for plentiful top-ups. Bonus points for this.
Note to all restaurants – don’t ever skimp on the gravy!
And for Dessert
I’m a big fan of crème brûlée, I also see it as a good litmus test for a kitchen. So the cranberry crème brûlée kind of had to be tried. A proper brûlée topping cracked, then gave way to smooth custard beneath, spiked with the flavour of cranberries. A nice Christmas twist to a classic dessert.
My dining partner’s apple and blackberry crumble was huge, and topped with some seriously big chunks of crumble (or rubble, as seemed a more appropriate name), but frankly, I loved the big crumble clusters – traditionalists may disagree.
A cheeseboard and profiteroles were also on the menu, but I didn’t get a good look at these. The whole meal wrapped up over mini minces pies, teas and coffee.
A thoroughly good Christmas dinner.
Get a room!
Now, obviously, The Baskerville isn’t on our doorstep, but it does have rooms to let. You can book a single room from £79 to £140, a double or twin from £89 to £175, or a family room (double with single) from £99 to £185.
Both the food and service were fab – owner Kevin was a warm and amiable host, so it’s one I’d definitely consider making another trip for. If you have friends or family in that direction, it would be a great location to meet in, with parking at the rear and a train station just 2 minutes walk away that takes around an hour to get to from Oxford station. Alternatively, if you’re driving, the journey takes between roughly 45 minutes and an hour.
For a Christmas party, they can seat up to 45 people. Christmas crackers, tea, coffee & mince pies are all included, at a cost of 2 courses for £32, or 3 courses for £38. Pre-orders are required with a £10 per person deposit + 10% Optional service charge. Available 2nd to 24th December.
We dined as guests of The Baskerville, all views remain our own.