The Chequers, Churchill
The Chequers in Churchill is one of the Oxfordshire Cotswolds' loveliest pubs - now with new owners, an interiors makeover and a brand new Muddy review!
Churchill is a typically lovely Cotswold village, just 3 miles or so outside Chipping Norton, all honeyed buildings, bucolic cricket green, to-die-for church and of course an outstanding village pub. The Chequers is clearly at the heart of the village, with subsidised events for locals such week-day happy hours, no-corkage Mondays and seasonal treats. Even better The Chequers welcomes well-behaved dogs so Rocket, my beloved 11 month old puppy, could stretch out and doze happily after our earlier tramp though the Oxfordshire countryside.
Last year the pub was taken over by boutique pub group Country Creatures which has been quietly honing the space. Stylish, cosy and unpretentious, it’s a winning mixture of old and new, and manages to pull off the almost impossible of feeling welcoming but also cool in a ‘can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on-why’ way.
Downstairs there’s a bar with a fantastic open fire, and then further back it’s about the stunning vaulted ceilinged dining room, which still feels intimate because of the dark walls, leather banquettes and beams. Upstairs there’s an elegant private dining area (loving the soft blush velvet seats) plus bar – ideal for parties. Outside there’s a bijoux dining space that’s perfect for summer nights.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The Chequers staff themselves describe this as ‘no-foam pub grub’ – in other words, non-pretentious, British classics, with the emphasis on the best ingredients (local where possible of course – the venison is delivered from the nearby shoot – but it’s more about the overall quality here, so they will look elsewhere when necessary).
I had to have the twice-baked soufflé to start whereas my husband plumped for the devilled kidneys on sourdough toast. The soufflé was delicious – light but comforting but with the obligatory crusty top, and an absolute treat. My husband’s kidneys (that sounds weird) were also beautifully flavoured but I definitely made the right choice.
Obviously we ordered drinks. My date kept it real with a pint of local Hook Norton beer and I was persuaded by Vincent the manager to try French chardonnay Henri Nordoc. I’m not usually keen on the chard, but it was a revelation and went beautifully with my starter. I ordered a second glass though just to be sure (yep still delicious).
For the main course my husband ordered the venison bourguignon pie – a proper pie with a pastry bottom not a casserole with a lid. And it was indeed ‘proper’. The pastry was buttery and flaky accompanied by a smooth creamy mash and greens.
I indulged my slightly weird love affair with liver and had it with mash and oloroso onion and a side order of greens. When I write my offal guide to England this one will be right up there- top slot at the moment.
It was truly delicious and was also beautifully proportioned – no piling up the plate or making us take out a magnifying glass to find the food. It’s surprising how many pubs get this wrong and you’re struggling to make it through to dessert. Not an issue for your reviewer, who topped off an excellent meal with sticky toffee pudding.
Rather annoyingly for me it didn’t contain nuts (my husband is allergic to nuts) so rather than the spoonful he was allocated he ate more than half of it and he doesn’t even like puddings.
OUT AND ABOUT
The untouched architecture and Cotswold countryside are the big stars of this part of Oxfordshire, so start with a walk to the lovely church and its fabulous replica church spire to Oxford’s Magdalen College Spire, where you’ll also find the green and its gorgeous views.
There are plenty of lovely circular walks that will take in other famous foodie villages like Kingham, but to occupy you for more than a few hours, head into Chipping Norton, a handsome town with plenty of independent shops. You’re also very close to Daylesford Farm (only three miles away), Soho Farmhouse if you’re lucky enough to have membership or can hoik an invite off a mate, Blenheim Palace (just over 20 mins away), the Rollright Stones (think Stonehenge without the tour buses).
Or you can use Churchill as your launch point to head into the Gloucestershire Cotswolds, with Chipping Camden a half an hour drive.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: City slickers looking for a stylish, authentic Cotswolds pub. Friends gasping for a decent Sunday lunch. Romantics propping up the bar. Families hoping to find a pub that won’t be too ‘on ceremony’ to put up with their children.
Not for: There’s a children’s menu and little people are clearly welcome but with a limited outside space in the elegant dining courtyard it’s not as ‘let them off the leash’ as some other, more grassy, local pubs.
The damage: Starters are £9 – £11, whilst mains range from £13.95 for fish and chips up to £23.95 for steak. There’s also a children’s menu priced around £8 and a Sunday Roast menu with dishes for £18.