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Review: The Mole Inn, Toot Baldon

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As weekly visitors to The Mole Inn, my mum and dad have talked up this rural gastropub for years – they even offered to buy us a meal here one Christmas for a present, which goes to show how much they rate it!

You’ll know if you read the blog regularly how very many pubs and restaurants I visit in Oxon and Bucks (not all of which make it onto the page), but I can tell you from the off that The Mole Inn is a total shoe-in, because it does the essentials so well.

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First off, the food is fantastic. ‘Gastro’ is a word that’s gone out of fashion for pubs these days, now that everyone who presents a burger with a garnish claims to be the ‘g’ word, but if I was to claim it back for really superior, well-presented, ‘cheffy’ pub food, this would the place.

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Roast cod, black pepper mash, French beans and seafood vinigrette; a classic creme brulée with shortbread; and an amuse bouche to start

I ate a mid-week lunch here and it was pretty buzzy actually – I’d say 7 or 8 tables including mine, and a range of guests from business types to locals.

The other thing I like about The Mole Inn is its decor, which strangely reminded me of The Mole and Chicken in Easington (close to Thame) – relaxed, tasteful, not trying too hard and no need to because the building itself has character. No surprise at all then to find that it’s  owned by the same people! I guess the clue was in the title *sigh*

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Service was professional and slick, but friendly – it’s the sort of place you could easily bring the kids to on a weekend, and in fact there’s a very sweet kids menu that tries to combine foodie-isms with young tastedbuds: a fettucine bolognese, mini steak and chips with house salad, but if all else fails… baked beans on toast! I thought that was a lovely touch.

I didn’t have much chance to walk around the village though it looked pretty enough. the Mole Inn is next to what looks like a working farm, and there are fields behind the pub, though not sure about their accessibility. Marsh Baldon, the village next door is lovely (I have a friend there so know it a little) so you could always park there and walk across to Toot Baldon, but if anyone knows of brilliant walks, please let me know and I’ll pass it on.

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The other fab option would be to combine a lunch at The Mole Inn with the lovely Harcourt Arbortum a 5 minute drive away – I spent some really lovely hours mooching around there in the summer, and it will still be worth a gander over winter.

THE MUDDY VERDICT:

Good for: Those looking for an informal but polished pub. Families, large get togethers, lazy Sunday lunches, or a destination pub. The food is the thing here really though there’s also a sweet outdoor courtyard and tables for eating on summer days (dream on – only 6 months to go).

Not for: Trendies after the next cool thing. The Mole doesn’t care about fashion or whim, it’s an unashamedly rustic pub – tasteful and timeless.

£££: Tickling the upper end of average. £7-8 for starters, £13-15 for most mains. Sunday lunch £15-16, and steaks £22-26. Good value for the quality though.

The Mole Inn, Toot Baldon, Oxford OX44 9NG. Tel: 01865 340001. moleinn.com

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