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A lovely rural local: Home Sweet Home

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If you read Muddy regularly you’ll know that I spend a lot of time reviewing pubs and have the waistband to prove it (just watch that baby strrrrrrretch). There are some places that immediately blow my mind, and I know that people will travel for miles and miles to get there – maybe the pub has  a whopper garden, in a stunning position, or the food is vastly superior.

But not every pub wants to be shimmying its tassels at customers, and there are plenty of pubs worth mentioning that have a more gentle allure. I’d put Home Sweet Home into that territory, a very pretty 16th century pub in the quiet rural hamlet of Roke, a couple of miles outside Wallingford, with a husband and wife front of house team and a definite decision made to create good, homely pub food.

 

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With a name like Home Sweet Home you can imagine the interiors – lots of bookcases, board games, quirky walking sticks, lovely large inglenook fireplaces, exposed brickwork and a lovely lived in warmth to the bar area particularly but also to a lesser extent the restaurant side too. Outside there’s an attractive garden that runs the length of the pub with the usual benches and umbrellas – perfect for a pint and packet of crisps.

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It was a sunny day when I came to review, and I brought my three Mudlets with me – the ultimate test for any unsuspecting landlord or lady, but owners John and Lynn were absolutely lovely with them, very accommodating, friendly, and patient when the youngest couldn’t decide on a drink and insisted on going through every single permutation of fruit juice options before ordering…. apple juice.

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The food here kind of what it says on the tin. It’s homely, but tasty. No Michelin awards peaking around the corners but it’s a seasonal menu, and the kids raved about the fish and chips (£13.50), and my more expensive, technically tricky halibut with crab & chive croquettes, brown shrimp butter and samphire (£18) was probably pushing the gastro end of what I’d order at a pub, but it was elegantly put together.

We shared an Eton Mess for desert, which by definition is a bit of a mess, and so low on gastronomic intricacy even I can make it, but again it suited us on the day. There’s apple crumble and those basic dishes but also a trio of panecotta or a bailey’s cheesecake so I woudn’t rule Home Sweet Home out for a good rustic dinner either.

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When would I use this place? I’m too far away to use it like a local (though if you are nearby Rokefest 2016 starts next Friday 27-29 May, the annual charity event of live music, real ales and cider!). Personally I will have it on my list as a relaxed family option for a Sunday lunch – the oldest Mudlet plays a lot of rugby so it’s very likely we’d find ourselves around Wallingford at some point over the Autumn.

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Or perhaps a stop off for a light lunch on a walk from around Benson and Ewelme, or from Wallingford itself. Here are a couple of Benson/Ewelme walks I found via google as a starting point. They don’t tag in Roke but it’s so close you can just do a simple detour. Roke itself will stretch your legs for 20 minutes or so around the large roaded loop of the village if that’s all your after.

THE MUDDY VERDICT:

Good for: Families, locals, groups of friends. The eating area is large enough that you and your little people will be able to relax. There’s a proper bar area (rather than a proxy dining waiting space) so a pint and packet of crisps mid bike ride, or walk either inside or in the pretty garden would work well.

Not for: Fine diners. Home Sweet Home is unashamedly traditional in its approach. A friendly local, in a pretty spot, providing decent fresh food – if that’s not you, move on.

£££: Pub staples are very reasonable. £5-7 for most starters, mains starting £11 up to £22 for a ribeye steak, all puddings £5.

Home Sweet Home, Roke,Wallingford, Oxfordshire, OX10 6JD. Tel: 01491 838249. hswroke.com

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