Owzat! The Bat and Ball
It's Sunday lunch deluxe for families, locals and casual dropper-inners at this friendly pub in mid-Oxfordshire.
I’m always keen to find pubs slightly off the beaten track – the ones you’re unlikely to drive past unless you detour. That’s The Bat and Ball for you, an attractive stone pub at the heart of Cuddesdon, a quiet village a mile or two off the busy A329 that takes you past Le Manoir in Great Milton (because like me *cough* you must be going there every week, right?). It’s a pretty country drive past Denton taking in one of my favourite recent insta-snaps (below) to the village, whose principle claim to fame – if that’s not slightly over-egging it! – is for having Ripon College, the biggest Church of England clergy training centre.
Warm, inviting, villagey. The pub has had a revamp since I visited some years ago – it’s pared down some of the cricket memorabelia to ball door handles and bats on the walls, and the modern dining area at the back of the building has been given the white paint treatment.
Personally I prefer the main bar area in terms of vibe, as it feels more pubby and lively with its cake-laden bar and fairy lit paintings…
…while the cool walls and slate floor of the dining room where I ate are more stark in comparison – I’d love to have seen more bold art on the walls, but that’s totally just personal preference, you may love it as it is. It was certainly buzzy enough with a large party in celebrating a party and my kids thought it was very swish.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The Sunday lunches are getting a rep and you can see why. Portions to fell a giant. It’s not quite gastro territory but it’s definitely excellent local pub fare – my beef was exquisite, tender and perfectly pink, and the cauliflower cheese was delicious though I’d have like the cheese sauce a little thicker and my gravy on the side, rather than pre-poured (Am I being fussy? yes probably!). Service was super-friendly and my children (9 and 10) were apoplectic with excitement when their food came out, possibly due to the hulking Yorkshire pudding that took up half the plate, just the way they should.
Worth mentioning that the pub makes it own butter, bread and sorbets, and OMG the veal butter with the home made bread (£1.50) was amazing. The sorbets were unusual and interesting – clementine, pineapple and grape were all on the menu and surprisingly my kids both went for them over more traditional stodgy fare, so that was a big tick. Great news for me too, because in the interests of trying lots of different food I could then scoff the black treacle pudding which arrived with a tuille, some peat/earthy accompaniment that looked interesting but I didn’t quite dig (boom boom!) and cream.
If you don’t want to go roast, there are the usual array of crowd-pleasing pub classics like beer battered fish and chips (£13.95), minute steak (£11.95) and 80z burger (£12.95) and children’s portions are conveniently half-price, and there’s also cakes at the bar if you’re literally looking for a quick drink and sweet treat.
OUT AND ABOUT
Cuddesdon itself won’t trouble you for long as it’s a small rural village, but if you want to stretch your legs and get some views across this piece of mid Oxfordshire, there’s a 4.5 mile circular walk starting at Cuddesdon itself and going around Great Milton where Le Manoir presides in its gastro glory. I haven’t actually done this walk myself so can’t 100% vouch for it, but I know the area and surrounding villages well and it looks to me like a goer! If you’re meeting friends, you’re only five minutes from Junction 7 of the M40, and you’re around 5 miles to South East of Oxford should you want to take a spin around the spires.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Relaxed families, casual drop inners, Sunday lunchers. Older kids can escape through the car park to the recreation land directly behind.
Not for: Those looking for super-trendy interiors or a posh gastro experience. The Bat and Ball is relaxed and more local than ooh-la-la. The lack of immediate outdoor space, bar a basic patio, might put off those with toddlers.
££: Middle of the road on price, with Sunday lunches coming in at £17-19, pub classics from £12-14 and kids mini burgers and fish and chips are £5.95, with Sunday lunches half price.
The Bat & Ball Inn, High St, Cuddesdon, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX44 9HJ. Tel: 01865 874 379.