Living in Oxford, we’re lucky to have lots of restaurants we can get to by foot, bike or bus; so I only hop in the car when I think it’ll be worth it. The Lion in Wendlebury invited Bitten along for a review, and having memories of it from living nearby – and at least one first date there – nostalgia piqued my interest.
Wendlebury is a small, pretty village on the outskirts of Bicester, that basically runs parallel to the A41 between Bicester Village and the M40. Despite that, it’s quite peaceful.
The Lion is Wendlebury’s only pub, and offers a community vibe you’d expect; with events, bedrooms and a cosy welcome. Wooden beams, homely roast dinners, warm decor, log fire, beer garden and traditional ales all feature. Oh, and that great British tradition – Aunt Sally! It’s a sophisticated version of the village local though; somewhere you’d take your parents, or a first date.
It’s a Brakspear pub, so offers a selection of their craft beers accordingly, along with bottled beers and ciders, cocktails, wine and spirits – including 2/3 pages of gin. For those seeking non-alcoholic, they stock Frobishers, Luscombe and Seedlip, while offering mocktails too.
But let’s talk food
We visited on a Sunday, so opted for a Sunday roast – beef for me, pork for Andrew. For starter, we chose a combination of pan-seared scallop with crispy pancetta and pea velouté, tomato bruschetta with vegan feta, and some halloumi fries to share.
While I thoroughly enjoyed my small but tasty scallops, the winning starter was the bruschetta – all down to the vegan feta. Vegan cheese has come a loooong way, and this feta incarnation was possibly the best I’ve tried yet. It had all the salty flavouring of feta, with less of the weight. Creamier and lighter in texture, it turned out to be Violife’s Block Greek white. We’ve had some at home since and it’s actually quite addictive.
Anyway, back to the meal. The halloumi fries came served with jalapeno ketchup, that held a nice sweet punch to accompany the salty cheese.
Starters polished off and steel reeling from vegan feta, mains came along in a timely fashion.
The main event
My beef had been described as ‘roasted native breed dry-aged sirloin, slow-braised beef cheek, Lyonnaise onions & tarragon fritter, Yorkshire pudding, horseradish sauce’ (£17). Punctuation may have misled slightly, as the beef cheek came within the fritter, which continued to confuse as I ate it. It wasn’t the meltingly soft slow-braised beef cheek I’d anticipated, it was less moist and a bit of a hockey puck visually. The fritter tasted fine but didn’t quite meet expectation, and fell short of making an impact.
Andrew’s pan-roasted Gloucester Old Spot pork fillet (£16) disappointed in a similar way, with the promise of slow-braised pork belly turning out to be quite a small cube, somewhat hidden beneath other ingredients instead of being a star player on the plate. I love the idea, but maybe a wasted opportunity.
In actual fact though, the rest of the dishes were really very tasty. The roasties, while looking like they lacked crunch, were full of flavour. The meats were delicious and meltingly tender. Side veg were all accounted for and well cooked, bringing their own flavours to the party. I wasn’t a huge fan of the crackling, being of the puffed-up airy variety instead of the thinner, blistered species that adds a power punch of flavour.
Yorkies were good but a little dry in texture, but otherwise a decent roast dinner for away from home.
We just about managed to save room to sample some dessert. My lemon bavarois (£6) was a little stunner, with feather light lemon pannacotta-esque dessert, served with praline, blackberries, crushed meringue and basil. Andrew swerved the ice creams for a change and ordered choux buns with crème patisserie, chocolate fudge sauce and hazelnuts (£6). He was pretty happy with them, but less keen on the unscripted addition of basil.
Accommodation at The Lion
With it’s close proximity to Bicester Village, The Lion offers a good accommodation solution for visitors and tourists. Offering 13 en-suite bedrooms in classic, superior and deluxe, prices vary from £140-190 per night on a Saturday night. On a Monday those rates drop to £100-135, and on a Sunday evening as little as £50.
They also offer a special Sunday evening package –
Tuck into a meal on Sunday spending £100 and extend your weekend with an overnight stay.. for just £40. Available Sundays only. Subject to availability. Max of two guests per room.
Rooms are also dog-friendly with bed, blanket and treats for them too!
So, if you’re venturing out towards Bicester Village or live nearby, The Lion makes a worthwhile stop off. It’s not quite enough to regularly tempt me away from my Oxford favourites, but I’d definitely revisit if going that way. And if the kids are ever away on a Sunday night, the overnight package is a deal worth exploring!
We dined as guests of The Lion, all views remain our own.