Newly reopened and refurbished, The Fox Inn sits just six minutes outside of the ring road in Boars Hill. Part of the Heroic Pubs chain, a small chain of seven venues across England, the pub has a large but segmented dining area, with additional seating outside, part of which is an appealing terrace with beautiful views of Oxford’s countryside, and one of the biggest parasols I’ve ever seen.
Visiting for Sunday lunch as a family of four, we were seated in a wood-beamed nook away from the bar. Sensible placement with kids in tow, but a snug fit once other diners were seated alongside. For a Sunday lunch, the menu was extensive. Three roast meats were available (ranging from £13.50 to £14.50 for dry-aged rump of beef, slow-cooked lamb shoulder and pork loin, or £17 for a mixture of all three) plus butternut squash & spinach nut roast. Alongside this was a whopping eleven other main courses, including four vegetarian offerings, PLUS three more mains on the specials board – a fish, a veggie and a meat.
The starter selection was almost equally extensive – everything from charcuterie boards (£16) and honey baked camembert (£12.50) to share, to venison Scotch egg (£6.75) and salt & pink pepper squid (£7.50).
The children’s menu (1 course £5, 2 courses £8, 3 courses £10) was actually pretty inventive, not just the usual offerings of chips/mash with sausages/chicken goujons/pizza (although chicken goujons did feature). Starters included the standard houmous and crudites, or nachos. But offerings of ‘build your own’ pizza wrap, ‘build your own’ pancakes or strawberry and banana milkshake lollies with chocolate dipping sauce and coconut showed creativity and thought, offering something that sounds exciting and would prove entertaining for kids. Although it could easily go the other way, images of kids smothered in chocolate sauce and throwing cheese all over everyone spring to mind!
We wanted to try several things, so ordered the houmous with carrot sticks and nachos for the kids, plus chicken liver pate with plum & chilli compote and toast (£7.25) and roast cauliflower cheese soup with cheddar and onion fritters (£5.50) for starters, with slow roast lamb shoulder (£14.25) times two, a children’s roast lamb and a ‘build your own’ ham pizza for mains.
Houmous arrived in rustic form – rough in texture and heavy on the oil, but pleasantly flavoured and a hit with our littlest diner. Nachos were plentiful, although missing their guacamole and with a melted cheese topping that covered only the central few chips. Guac requested and appearing promptly, Dillon happily tucked in.
While my cauliflower cheese soup was good, the star of the show was the cheddar and onion fritter – warm and gooey with melted cheese in the middle and crunchy on the outside, they added a welcome texture to the soup and a pleasant salty tang.
Mains were good, not exceptional, but good. All the individual ingredients were cooked well but didn’t quite sing. The lamb came served as a thick steak from a rolled and deboned shoulder, which made it fall apart in large, harder going chunks. I imagine was done to manage cooking en masse with such a broad menu, with the joint cooked in advance then reheated on demand, but it wasn’t as welcome texturally.
The homemade mint sauce looked, on first glance, pretty dull and dry, but was flavour packed with the correct balance of sugar and vinegar. Another thing we did love was the offer of additional veg and gravy – not enough venues do this.
The ‘build it yourself’ pizza wrap – the wrap part being a tortilla base – came out pre-built, which thankfully wasn’t an issue and may have ultimately been easier. Add this to the missing guac, no offer of table water, and an off pint than Andrew received, though quickly replaced, and you have a series of minor mistakes that more attention to detail would fix.
Overall it was a decent meal, certainly above average but not quite a destination spot for me quite yet. It has plenty going for it – a decent sized car park, outside seating with a view, good decor – so give it some time and possibly a smaller menu to focus on and it might become something more.
We dined as guests of The Fox Inn