EAT: The Mole & Chicken, Easington
Hmmm, you’ve reached an older feature - let’s get you up to date! Read our latest EAT OUT features here.
You know when you’ve kind of made your mind up about a place, without having been there for a couple of years?
That’s how it was for me and The Mole & Chicken in Easington. I’d been several times in the past, but the last time would have been around 2008. Obviously I hadn’t been impressed on that occasion because, despite being a short cab ride away from me, I’d scrubbed it off my local restaurant list.
So I feel a bit flippin silly now because I went for a meal there two weeks ago and it really was knock-the-doors-off fantastic. Mr Muddy and I kept looking at each other in an ‘OMG, this is great!’ kind of way.
The pub, if you don’t know it, sits on a tight bend just past Long Crendon towards Bicester. The interior has been stripped to its skin, and hammered with cream walls and loads of oak-in the Home Counties’ tradition of country pub upgrades. As you probably know, it’s not my favourite interior look. BUT the pub retains its oak beams, exposed stone, some character, various nooks and crannies and the loos are modern and spacious (because frankly I’m at an age where I care about such things – don’t you?!).
So to the food, because this is really why you’d come to The Mole & Chicken. Despite the fact that the bar lady looked confused when Mr Muddy asked for a bellini to start off the evening (I know, it’s camp – but it’s better than the Moscow Mule he usually requests), things looked up after a strong G&T at the bar.
The starter menu didn’t have masses to tempt me, but I went for the asparagus, goat curd, peas & crispy poached egg (£7.50) and nearly fell off my perch because it was so tasty and looked beautiful too, if you can see it via my terrible photo below. I’m afraid I was scoffing too fast to take too much notice of what the other half was eating.
Then it was onto the pan fried cod, gnocchi, samphire, brown shimps and capers (£16.95) which was just sublime. Meanwhile, Mr Muddy went for Crendon pork belly and scallops, mash, apple and black pudding (£17.50) and gladly polished off the lot.
In the Muddy house we regard desserts as we do arguments. Frankly there’s no point in going out for a romantic meal and not having one. The vanilla panacotta was tantalisingly wobbly, and the cheese board, while offering no particular surprises,was perfectly good.
We visited The Mole & Chicken on a mid-week night and it was pretty much full, so I think it’s fair to say the chef has hit the sweet spot with his cooking. Don’t expect the vibe to be particularly trendy or massively buzzy – if you’re looking for that you might be better off with a city brasserie. The pub has quite a sedate character actually, mostly locals on an evening as you’d expect (though if you’re traveling from further afield they do have rooms here) and with prices on the higher end of average, a fair smattering of older guests.
But who cares? The service was friendly, the food was excellent and I learnt my lesson in judging a restaurant on a meal 5 years ago. The Mole & Chicken is firmly back on my local favourites list. Let me know if it gets back on yours too.
Best for: Anyone for whom food is a god. Really, what’s not to like? There’s outdoor seating overlooking fields on a sunny day and a bar menu that includes a smattering of kid-friendly food.
Not for: Younger couples might find it a bit middle-aged. Anyone seeking somewhere trendy will be disappointed.
£££: Higher end of average. Expect to pay £17-22 for a main course. Wines were reasonably priced.
PS Mr Muddy has a bit of a phobia about me taking photos when we’re out so you’ll have to excuse the fact that there’s bloody well no-one in the shots!
The Mole & Chicken, Easington, Nr Long Crendon, Bucks, HP18 9EY. Tel: 01844 208387. www.themoleandchicken.co.uk.