For the last couple of months or so, The Killingworth Castle has been tagging us in numerous Instagram posts – pictures of delicious looking food, cosy log fires and candle-lit tables. A couple of weeks ago we gave in and ventured out of our little Oxford bubble, beyond the ring road to a small village just outside of Woodstock, to check out ‘The Killy’ as it’s affectionately known.
The Killingworth Castle is an upmarket gastropub with rooms, set on the outskirts of Wootton. Sister pub to The Ebrington Arms in Chipping Campden, the 17th Century coaching Inn is run by landlords Jim and Claire Alexander. As well as running both pubs, Jim and Claire launched their own range of craft beer – Yubberton Brewing Co – which is served in both venues along with several others locally.
Take a look at the sample menus on Kilingworth Castle’s website and there are plenty of appealing choices. Starters fall around the £7/8 mark, including a terrine of locally bred chicken, or a soused Cornish mackerel with dill, cucumber chutney and horseradish. Mains sit in the region of £13-19, not cheap, but not top end either. ‘Pub Classics’ of fish and chips, sausage and mash, burger or gammon are made more appealing by the promise of Yubby ale batter for the fish; a bacon, red wine and parsley sausage to accompany the mash; aged steak and locally reared smoked bacon for the burger; and a pineapple chutney with duck egg for the gammon.
This clearly isn’t just pub grub, it’s a menu that reads restaurant quality.
Arriving for a Saturday lunch as a family of four, we decided to eat in the bar, where for an early lunch there was a bit more life. Seated opposite the bar we had a couple of tables to one side, leading through into another room with a few wooden tables. On our other side, a cluster of tables near the lit fireplace, perfect for an early winter excursion.
To the rear of the bar is the main restaurant, and outside a small grassy garden with Aunt Sally pitch, leading round the front to a series of guest rooms, recently converted from a barn. Parking is at the rear of the pub, with plenty of space for a pub full of people.
As for the food, ‘The Killy Burger’ – Glympton estate venison patty with beetroot and blue cheese, served with hand cut chips – was good, but not excellent according to my dining companion. He felt the blue cheese overpowered the meat and didn’t enjoy the addition of beetroot. However, the richly truffle flavoured celeriac soup, the ‘SaltPig‘ charcuterie board and the duck breast were all excellent.
Of particular note was the warm n’duja (a spicy spreadable salami which is a favourite of mine) on the charcuterie board, and the main of duck. The latter consisted of beautifully pink breasts with perfectly crisp skin, married with delicate squares of buttery potato gratin, slices of beetroot, prune ketchup and a duck leg faggot. In fact, the duck was absolute heaven, one of those dishes you don’t want to end.
The children both enjoyed a plate of sausage and chips, which tasted a tad salty for children, but were polished off in no time.
Thankfully I’d taken along some pens and paper to keep the kids entertained, which came in useful for limiting annoyance to other diners. I got the impression lively children would be frowned upon by the pub’s usual clientele, despite a warm welcome from pub and staff, which can make for a less relaxing experience when dining with children. It’s somewhere I’d probably prefer to go as a family when the children are older, as an adult only meal, or at least with a higher ratio of adults to children.
Killingworth Castle is a beautiful pub in a lovely setting, serving up good grub – no wonder it’s popular and receives rave reviews. Definitely one to try if you haven’t visited yet, and certainly worth adventuring beyond the ring road for.
We dined as guests of The Killingworth Castle, all views remain entirey our own.