With a riverside setting, as the name implies, you can stop be for a spot of food before hopping on a punt for a leisurely drift along the River Cherwell. We’ve heard some good reviews, but the Bitten team are yet to be blown away. Understated but upscale European dining on the river, with a creative menu and punts for hire.
The Cherwell Boathouse News & Reviews
Jacqui – Jun 2013
If you’ve read my previous reviews, you’ll know I’m a big fan of eating out for breakfast, so when I heard The Cherwell Boathouse were launching a breakfast menu from their Teahut Bar, this sounded like a perfect time to check them out; MrF and I had actually been talking about going to eat there anyway, so the timing was spot on. With MrF’s Brother (S) and family (K&C) visiting last weekend, we decided a Father’s Day brekkie was in order. Having heard good reports of lunch and dinners at Cherwell Boathouse, we were hoping for good things…
Making our way past some stunning, big, period houses, we turned right down a narrow track towards the river, parking up in a small car park just before the restaurant. The Teahut is on the right hand side, with the seating area in front – which, to my surprise, wasn’t outdoors. I don’t know why I thought it would be, but I’d pictured an al fresco breakfast on the banks of the river; turns out it’s a large decked area, with fixed sides and large plastic ‘windows’ which can be rolled up. Sounds odd but it’s a great idea – the entire sides can be opened up if the weather’s great, if not you’ve got full cover.
It wasn’t completely clear when we arrived that this is where we should be sitting, as there were no other diners and no one obvious to ask; sticking my nose into the Teahut I found someone to help, but we did feel somewhat left to our own devices. Anyway… we got ourselves settled in the ‘indoor/outdoor’ decking area and another lady arrived soon to provide menus, take drinks orders and fit a booster seat for MiniF.
Taking a look at the menu, there was quite a lot to be tempted by: a simple Bacon or Sausage Butty, Eggs Benedict (can’t frickin’ wait to eat one of these after the baby!!), Mushrooms with a Duck Egg on Sourdough Toast, French Toast with or without Bacon, Full English, Porridge, Berries…. seriously spoilt for choice and a very enticing breakfast offering.
MrF & S both ordered the Boathouse Eggs Benedict (£6.75), K ordered The Boathouse Half English (£6.75), C chose Le “Ooh La La” French Toast (with maple syrup and bacon… £6.75) and I requested The Boathouse Full English Breakfast (£8.75) to share with MiniF. On requesting if I could have my eggs scrambled rather than fried, I received a rather terse “no”, with no further explanation, so requested mine without (am not being fussy, you just can’t eat runny eggs these days when pregnant, and who really likes well done fried eggs?!). A few minutes later the same lady returned, much warmer this time, explaining she would speak to the chef to see if he may be able to accommodate given the circumstances – thankfully he was and scramble I would have! I’m not sure what inspired the 180, but my dining companions were suspicious it may have been the photos I was taking – was my review rumbled? Difficult to tell, but I was grateful of the change.
Drinks delivered (one apple instead of an orange juice, but not a big deal), we relaxed while out breakfasts were being cooked; it felt like a pleasant place to be – the sun was trying to shine, the temperature was comfortable, the riverbank setting appealing.
Upon arrival, the food all looked good… expect for the hollandaise sauce on the Eggs Benedict, which had split – not that the boys bothered complaining (I don’t think they wanted to wait for it to be recooked). By this point we were all pretty hungry, so conversation subsided in favour of consumption.
K and C enjoyed their dishes, C wasn’t a huge fan of the bacon with the sweet French toast, but that was purely personal preference. MrF and S weren’t overly happy with their Eggs Benedict – they felt it was far too vinegary, overpowering the whole dish – to me though the eggs were also a little undercooked, I could see pockets of uncooked egg white while MrF was tucking into his, although he wasn’t bothered.
So… the Full English – my favourite test of quality for a breakfast venue: the scrambled eggs were cooked perfectly, still a bit soft but cooked though; the mushroom juicy and warm (they do go cold so easily); the tomato, well it was a tomato – nothing more nothing less; the potato cake was a great addition, if a little greasy – it was well flavoured and a lovely fine texture; the bacon was tasty, thick cut and fairly well done – perfect for me; the sausages…. while they tasted great, one of mine was undercooked and pink through the middle. Argh…another restaurant serving me undercooked sausage – I’m always the one that gets them.
On highlighting the porky problem, the lady from earlier advised it was because they were wild boar; after I pointed out only one was pink, she immediately apologised and took it away to be replaced. So, with one sausage sent back, I tucked into the rest of my food. It was a bit disappointing to see no toast served up on the side, and some may prefer to have beans included, but otherwise this was an enjoyable full English.
Soon, two replacement sausages were delivered – unfortunately, both still pink with one even more pink than the first! What is it with these undercooked sausages?! Again, the lady apologised, seemingly a bit mortified by the progress, and assured me I would get my sausage! Just as I was finishing the rest of my food, the sausage did indeed turn up, butterflied open and cooked on both sides, clearly this was the one I could finally share with MiniF – success! I would like to point out here that my breakfast was removed from the bill, as a gesture of goodwill and apology.
Throughout our breakfast, there was a fair amount of activity going on around us – not from other diners though, there were none of those to be seen – the activity was from people apparently setting up for the lunch service. It wasn’t ideal; it made us feel like we were in the way, it also made it feel like the breakfast sitting was more of an inconvenience than a focus. I found this very mildly annoying, as was happy to take in the setting, however MrF was thoroughly unhappy with it – adamant he had no interest in returning.
Overall, I just don’t know what to make of The Cherwell Boathouse – on the one hand, they have a lovely setting, some good quality produce and lovely menu, on the other hand, they didn’t get the basics right and the service seemed to be hit and miss.
I do have a theory about restaurants in beautiful locations falling short on quality and service – so hope this isn’t the case for the Boathouse. Personally, I may consider trying them again, possibly for lunch or dinner rather than breakfast, but I think I’d have to seriously twist MrF’s arm to get him to join me, so I doubt we’ll be there for some time.