EAT HERE: The Chequers, Berrick Salome
I reviewed this attractive flint and brick pub in the quiet rural village of Berrick Salome, near Watlington, about a year ago, when it just been bought by Mark and Sandra Duggan, ex Carluccio stalwarts who’d left to make a success of the small, foodie The Three Tuns in Henley. At the time I enjoyed it, but it was early days for the reincarnation, particularly as The Chequers was still holding onto a less than stellar reputation from the previous owners, so it was fairly quiet when I visited and it had the vibe of potential rather than than polish.
Last month I returned and, hats off to the Duggans, they’ve pulled off that most tricky of combinations – a quality food offering at a now atmospheric, popular local pub.
The interiors have been tickled up a little since my last visit but the basics are already in place. The bar area in particular has a lovely warm relaxed vibe – it’s where I chose to eat both times I visited. But the main eating area is attractive too, with plenty of design interest from the settels to the old Britwell post office sign that adorns the walls.
The pub is actually very deep and continues to second small sitting area that winkingly suggests a traditional living room…
… and makes attractive use of what is actually a walkway between the dining room and the refurbed, high-ceilinged Granary room out the back (below) which feels slightly set apart so works well for private bookings.
The food was good last time I ate here but it’s excellent now. Check this out for a starter – parma ham with feta, leaves and compressed watermelon ‘bullets’, with a lime and yoghurt dressing.
For mains I went for a chicken caesar salad, as it happened to be a really warm day, so it didn’t really test the kitchen, though here they serve it with a with a crispy breadcrumbed poached egg which was an interesting touch.
Dessert was drop dead gorgeous, a wobbly vanilla panecotta with peaches soaked in wine and vanilla and a raspberry coulis in flirty dollops.
If you’re thinking that The Chequers is veering to close towards fine dining you can relax – there are plenty of pub staples, including pies, fish and chips, steaks, burgers and mac n cheese, and there’s also a really good kids menu that doesn’t dumb down the menu but definitely ‘little people’s it (the Duggans have two small kids themselves) – so children can order fresh sausages, pasta, chicken, fish and chips and there’s a possibility of beans with virtually everything.
If you happen to be close to Wallingford, Watlington or Stadhampton, dip in and check it out for lunch. For those further afield, it’s probably more of a Sunday lunch stop. Those with kids will be pleased that there’s a large garden out the back with picnic tables, a small play area and games, though this is an area I think can probably be further developed next year as it feels maintained rather than spruced up. For now, it’s a convenient space for children to burn off steam or play out their temper tantrums in peace.
Berrick Salome is quiet and rural, so if you’re making the effort to come here for lunch you can try this this walk (Walk 2 on the list, a 4 mile tromp from Benson through Berrick Salome and then back again). It looks doable for families with kids, or couples who want to stretch their legs before tucking, but I haven’t done this walk myself so don’t kill me if you suddenly find yourself stuck in mulch on a boggy field! If anyone knows a better walk, please let me know and I’ll pass it on.
Alternatively if you just want a mooch around the village, there’s the quartet of Berrick Salome, Berrick Prior, Roke and Rokemarsh you can walk around, or if you really want to conserve your energy wander for five minutes to Berrick Salome’s St Mary’s church – definitely worth visiting, if like me, you love history and architecture and peering at old Romanesque fonts (hey, don’t judge me, I can’t help it).
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: families, relaxed gatherings with friends, a pop in lunch or dinner if you want a superior meal without pretension. The Sunday lunches have an excellent reputation.
Not for: anyone looking for a more urbane buzz, families looking for all singing-all dancing outside areas – the garden is perfectly decent with children’s play equipment but we’re not talking kids play park here.
£££: Mid-range prices Two course weekday lunch menu £10. Starters £6-9, Sunday lunches £13-16. Two course kids menu with a drink £8.95.
Please note the pub is closed on Tuesdays!
The Chequers, Berrick Salome, Wallingford. Tel: 01865 891118. OX10 6JN. chequersberricksalome.co.uk