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REVIEW: Ox in the Box

"IT’S SHOWTIME! FINE DINING IN FARINGDON AS NEW HEAD CHEF SAMUEL SQUIRES OPENS AT THE OLD CROWN!"


Let’s start with the bread. It was never going to be ordinary under the ambitious auspices of new head chef Samuel Squires, but what arrived at our table in The Old Crown Coaching Inn former ballroom stopped us in our tracks.


The pink of the blackberry and cassis butter served with truffle muffins was stunning, the beurre momentarily sharp, then soft, perfectly matching the oaky, nuttiness of the muffins. They disappeared in a trice, making us sit up and pay attention, to focus on what was to come.

We were therefore momentarily distracted from admiring the dramatic transformation of the Old Crown Coaching Inn in Faringdon. After all, the paint had scarcely dried since the extensive refit, transforming the historic building back to its former glory. And with 14 new rooms, a sexy wine bar and an elegant dining area to enjoy, the gloves were off. It was showtime.


WITH 14 NEW ROOMS, A SEXY WINE BAR AND AN ELEGANT DINING AREA TO ENJOY, THE GLOVES WERE OFF. IT WAS SHOWTIME.


Faringdon is having something of a renaissance at the moment; its restaurants, pubs and bars booming, from gin to tapas, gastro pubs to grill houses, the town once more frequented by a burgeoning, appreciative and gastronomic crowd.



Which is why father and son partners Nick and Seb Evans took on The Old Crown read about it here having also opened The Black Horse in Standlake and The Waggon and Horses in Southmoor to great acclaim.

FARINGDON IS HAVING SOMETHING OF A RENAISSANCE AT THE MOMENT; ONCE MORE FREQUENTED BY A BURGEONING, APPRECIATIVE AND GASTRONOMIC CROWD

And while an enormous undertaking, the results are stunning; the dining room (the former ballroom) a huge, light, airy space framed by those wonderful Georgian windows and high ceilings.


Sam Squires, for those who haven’t come across him before, was head chef at Hibiscus, Northampton, the AA rosette-awarded restaurant, whose CV also boasts the 5-star Grove Hotel in Watford, The Ritz in London, and the 3 Michelin-starred Remy.


And he’s here to impress with his six course menu with bread and bits thrown in for good measure at around £85 a head, and a veggie/vegan offering to run concurrently should it be required.

And so rolled out an elaborate, seasonal and ambitious but gentle menu, full of contrasts and tastes, the perfect introduction to Samuel’s food.


The cured sea trout for example came with smoked trout agnolotti (like ravioli) with cucumber and lemon, the effort going into each element, displayed so beautifully and minimally on the plate an absolute delight. A dill sauce poured on top was the piece de resistance, ensuring the contrast of sharp and sweetness, crunch and silkiness were all evidenced.


The fermented beetroot tartar with seaweed, hazelnut and blackberry was another inventive addition, one diners favourite, another’s least, but certainly original, again seasonality and texture playing as important part as the flavours themselves.


The chicken liver parfait up next was a more traditional addition framed with apple, beetroot and brioche, pretty as a picture on the plate (see main pic) and just the right portion size.


Our vegetarian friends were eating equally sumptuously on a roasted garlic tart (pic above)with pickled vegetables and lemon gel which defied belief. Everyone dived in, the crunch of the legumes set against the softness of the tart filling and the crispy pastry. Truly accomplished. And then mushroom cigars, like cigarrillo biscuits, very clever.



The pumpkin with pearl barley, pumpkin seeds and Roscoff onion had to be seen to be believed, while the carnivores munched on Barbary duck, king oyster, fennel, celeriac and duck jus. What a feast. Really. Samuel was defying all expectations.

A breather, more wine and then dessert – a cleansing champagne sorbet followed by caramelised apple with a blackberry and cider sorbet, nut crumble and candied baby apple, oh so sweet and succulent.


Replete and still bathed in wonder, there was no doubt in our minds that The Old Crown is going to make a considerable impression on Oxfordshire and beyond with Samuel at the helm.

I take my hat off to Nick, Seb and Samuel for not only breathing life into such a historic building again, but really going that extra mile to heighten you experience.

Faringdon is the new place to be!

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