Review: The Mole Inn, Toot Baldon
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.
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.
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*
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.
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