EAT: The Sir Charles Napier, nr Chinnor
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We weren’t supposed to go to the Sir Charles Napier in Sprigg’s Alley. I’d booked Le Manoir, months back, for Mr Muddy’s birthday. The day before we were due to go, Mr M decided he had too much work on. I had to cancel. Two hours later, he’d decided he didn’t have too much work on. He called Le Manoir and of course the table had gone. Humph.
But these things have a habit of working out. I’ve eaten at the Sir Charles Napier several times, and the restaurant has its Michelin star for a reason. It’s also, like Le Manoir, a bit of a trek to get to, set in its own gorgeous grounds and somehow holds the feeling of a special occasion every time I go.
The weather was warm without quite breaking out into sun, and and we sat out for lunch, firstly having a glass of champers in the garden and then coming back to the courtyard to eat. There were five tables all eating al fresco, a mix of older couples, extended families having an ‘event’ and then me and Mr Muddy, getting half cut on dessert wine and giggling our way through lunch.
Eating outside is a thrill for Brits but, alas, those days are coming to a close with Autumn creeping up. But the restaurant interior is intimate and elegant so it’s not a biggie if you’d rather eat inside.
I’m usually so hopeless at remembering to take pictures of the food before I trough in, but honestly it looked so beautiful on the plate that it prompted me. For his entree (from the a la carte menu), Mr Muddy had seared foie gras with blackcurrant sorbet, red currants and granola (£15.50)
… while I chose from set lunch menu, with beetroot, goats curd, pea shoot and toasted pinenut salad (£9.50).
(Loving that plate by the way!).
So far so delicious.
Then it was Iberico pork loin with croustillant, black pudding and smoked apple sauce (£26.50) for Mr Muddy
… and for me, a gorgeous fish dish that I can’t actually recall lol! Here it is, with chorizo, refried beans and tomato something. It’s off the menu (the menu changes weekly) so all you need to know is, frankly, it’s divine.
Then it was a cheeseboard. By this point we were quite entrenched and incapable of walking inside to choose the cheeses ourselves so our waitress brought out a selection. I’d said no to a ewe cheese but she sensibly ignored this and included anyway. As it happened it was my favourite cheese of the lot. Another glass of dessert wine for both of us (are you getting the theme here?), and a bill for £175. Ta-da!
It’s never a flamboyant experience eating at The Sir Charles Napier (neither is it at Le Manoir for that matter), largely, I think, because there’s a reverence for the food above all else, and also owner and maitre d’ Julie is very calm and businesslike. But as a treat for your mum or a romantic meal with your other half on a sunny day, I think it’s pretty hard to beat.
Best for: Foodies who appreciate the exquisite dishes in gorgeous surroundings. Anyone looking to celebrate a special occasion in refined style. Couples who want to reconnect without children interrupting every three seconds.
Not for: Raucous lads or girls’ nights out. Anyone seriously constrained by budget. Those with young children, unless they’re super-well behaved and/or it’s sunny and you can throw them in the garden and onto the snail.
£££: Expensive (especially if you have to factor in taxi rides) but, with care, a couple can escape with a bill under 3 figures. The 2 course set menu for lunch or dinner is £19.50 (Tues-Fri). The wines are reasonably priced – you’ll get something lovely for £30.
The Sir Charles Napier, Sprigg’s Alley, Chinnor, Oxon OX39 4BX. Tel: 01494 483011