All that jazz
The restaurant/bar at architectural salvage troopers LASSCO in mid-Oxfordshire now has regular live music nights and a fab new food offering.
I think ‘convenient’ is the best description – there ain’t no verandahy vistas for this supercool architectural salvage yard and restaurant/bar that hugs Junction 7 of the M40. But to give you some context, it’s a 5 minute drive from Thame, and a hop and a skip from the pretty villages Great Haseley. Don’t worry, once you step through the doors you will remember why you decided to venture out this way.
Quirky, stylish, eccentric, channelling a kind of fusty cool and unlike anything else around these parts really. I enjoy the mooching amongst the quirky objets d’art and bigger salvagey bits (it’s bigger than you think with a ground floor, upstairs and also a massive courtyard out the back), but more than that I love the restaurant and bar because no two visits are the same – something’s always sold and you’re sitting under a different downlighter or eating from a new table. There was a really groovy set of electric blue lights when I was there a few weeks back (below) and I betcha they’ve since gone to a good home.
The food offering here has rung the changes over the years, from cute cafe to fine-dining-ish and though the grub has always been quality, it’s never quite hit the sweet spot of bums on seats. Now though, I think the Three Pigeons team is onto something. First big plus – the addition of regular jazz nights on a Thursday and Friday, in an area that seems little blessed with live jazz. Even better, you can sit and eat while you’re listening, either in the bar area with the band, or in the adjacent room a little further away from the volume.
The jazz here was really good – on Thursdays it’s Alyn Shipton & friends including musicians such as the multi award winning saxophonist Alan Barnes and Alec Dankworth, and on Friday it’s the Mellow Fellows, session musicians Kevin Barrett and Robert Markham playing piano (there’s a fantastic grand beast in the corner) and bass. On the Thursday that I reviewed, the music was perfectly pitched – not so loud we couldn’t talk in the bar, but enough to carry through to the second room. It also afforded plenty of good people watching opportunities at the bar – some slightly older ale-drinkie types who have clearly made this their regular social outing, plus a smattering of glamorous local women.
On the food front, they’re keen to develop the dinner market – I had a delicious rib eye steak that was a total steal at £19.95, and my friend Catrina went for crab crusted salmon fillets. You can wash the food down with cocktails, wines and spirits though perhaps I’d err against trying all three at once.
If it’s tricky for you to make an evening, the Three Pigeons is a good option in the day with sour dough-style breakfasts or sharing board/bar favourite lunches. I often have business meetings here, or take my laptop for a change of scene for a few hours.
Well I wouldn’t let an enthusiastic toddler loose amongst the antiquities unless you want a large bill attached to your visit, but well-behaved kids who can sit still will be fine for brunch or lunch. The vibe for evening is a bit more grown up though – it’s no surprise that the restaurant space is utilised a lot of pop-up dinners.
OUT & ABOUT
Er, well, um, you’re on a motorway junction, so frankly nothing of interest is walkable. However, you’re a mere 5 minute jaunt in the car from Thame (best shop there by a country mile is concepty gift store FROM, above) ; you’re close to the super-pretty villages of Great and Little Haseley, and if you’re absolutely minted you can go stay the night at Le Manoir de Quat’Saisons – it’s literally 10 minutes down the road.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: The jazz music/restaurant/bar should be on your list as a great alternative to the same-old-same-old weekend meal out. It would work brilliantly as a place to take parents/in-laws and if you get enough of you together, a boozy mate’s dinner.
Not for: I’m not sure I’d come on my own with him indoors – it’s more of a mate’s place I’d say rather than a twosome romantic job. Children will find its charms a bit limited once they’ve had their fill of taxidermy and marble sculptures.
£££: Reasonable. Rump steaks for under £20 is great value, and there are plenty of sharing/pub classic options for those who don’t want to go OTT on cost.
LASSCO Three Pigeons, London Road, Milton Common, Oxfordshire OX9 2JN. Tel: 01844 277188. lassco.co.uk
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