Pub review: Jacob’s Inn, Wolvercote, Oxford
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Jacobs Inn opened in the Summer to almost immediate success. Wolvercote hardly ‘needed’ another pub – the beautifully situated The Trout is literally down the road, while The Perch is a lovely meander down Port Meadow. But the owners of the divine Jacobs & Field cafe/deli in Headington obviously had a hunch about the place, and the appetite for a good fight, because they’ve really pulled something fabulous out of the bag.
It sits fairly inauspiciously in the village, next to another pub The White Hart, adjacent to terraced houses and looking out on a small municipal playground. The building itself is attractive from the outside without quite melting your heart.
Once inside you realise just how large the Inn actually is, though low ceilings, log fires, warm walls and the clever interiors styling create nooks, crannies and areas of interest that make it feel intimate and welcoming. It feels relaxed and elegantly thrown together – but I’m certain its retro insouicance took a lot of time and effort. Every shot I took below looked like an interiors stylist had worked her magic.
The main bar is very chilled out and was popular today – it’s the more cosy side of the Inn, the place to grab something quick to eat, have a chat, keep it simple.
We went over to the restaurant, which was quieter, with two other couples eating. I like a buzz when I’m eating out, but actually it was rather lovely, sitting on a banquette by the windows (just to the left of the chimney below) and next to a log fire, looking out over the restaurant, and catching up with my brother.
We started with nibbles – fresh anchovies, chorizo, tapenade and some bread. So far so good, though of course it’s not much of a stretch to a kitchen to provide those.
So for mains we tried something more adventurous. My brother had the fish stew, which he proclaimed amazing – I tried a little of the sauce with its samphire and aniseed and it was really fantastic. (Yes, the pic is upside down because I’m across the bloody table!)
I attempted restraint with pan-fried plaice, rocket and caramelised shallots (below), managing to entirely ignore the fact the fish came with chips (oops) and was cooked in lashings of glorious butter. Excellent calcium levels then. I’m not quite sure how to justify the anchovy hollandaise. Um, protein?
I really shouldn’t have gone for a treacle toffee pudding for dessert – my belt was squeezing my midriff alarmingly at this point, like a kind of gastronomic torture device – but I am nothing but your servant, and, well, I’d seen one at the other table and it looked really good.
Readers, I can confirm that the treacle toffee pudding is treacly, toffee-y, puddingy and stickily irresistible. I polished it off in about 20 seconds, while my brother thoughtfully munched his way through three cheeses and a quaff of port. All in all, it was a terrific meal. I’d go back in a flash.
A general point about where to sit: Although there’s a general split in more foody food in the restaurant and snicky snacks in the bar, you can really eat what you like where you like. Jacob’s Inn seems very relaxed about such things, and offers all sorts of combinations – late breakfasts, early pancakes, kids portions of adult dishes wherever possible (in addition to the usual kids menu options), Sunday lunches a go-go and loads of specials.
Staff are helpful and welcoming and the feel of the place is very much one of quality, confidence and informality. I’d be perfectly comfortable bringing the kids into the bar area or restaurant for a weekend brunch or lunch, or going for a couply dinner, or a friend’s get-together. I imagine that those low ceilings and log fires really come into their own as the sun goes down.
As you’d expect, food is locally sourced where possible – in fact, they have chickens and pigs penned up in the garden that children can feed until the (gulp) Big Day arrives, when the piggies become sausies and the chooks say hello to the olive oil.
I confess I didn’t really take a long look at the wine list, just long enough to order a chenin blanc for the meal and clock a dessert wine I would have had to top it all off if I wasn’t driving. But given the quality of everything else yesterday, I’m sure it’s a well-chosen list.
The Muddy Verdict:
Best for: sociable foodies, big get-togethers (they have the space for it), Sunday lunch fans, families. Bloggers who like taking pictures of groovy toilets. (Is there a name for this kind of compulsion?).
Not for: I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t like it really. The outdoor area is heavily paved for tables and chairs and the view into the village isn’t massively attractive – but over winter, who cares?
£££: Reasonable good pub food prices. £14ish for a main, £6ish for a starter. Nothing to horrify those who are watching their pennies and plenty to delight those who aren’t.
Jacobs Inn, 130 Godstow Road, Wolvercote, Oxford, OX2 8PG. Tel: 01865 514333. Facebook