No-frills food of high qual­ity at one of the UK’s ‘posh­est’ pubs

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - Dining Out - MARK TAY­LOR The Bull Inn, Sheep Street, Charl­bury, OX7 3RR Tel: 01608 810689 www.bullinn-charl­

JUDG­ING by the ap­palling house price guess­ing game we had when we ar­rived in Charl­bury, Kirstie All­sopp and Phil Spencer will be re­lieved to know that their jobs as hosts of Lo­ca­tion, Lo­ca­tion, Lo­ca­tion are well and truly safe.

“It’s all about the OX7 post­code, mate,” whis­pered J with a cer­tain de­gree of con­fi­dence as we ap­proached a mod­est ter­raced prop­erty with a ‘for sale’ board out­side.

“This is prime Chip­ping Nor­ton ter­ri­tory with your Beck­hams, Camerons, Clark­sons and Soho Farm­house – I bet this place is on for at least £450k.”

A few min­utes later, we came across the es­tate agents’ win­dow with the pic­ture and de­tails of the small house we had just walked past and our jaws soon dropped when we saw a ‘sold’ sign next to the £750,000 price tag for what was only a three­bed­room prop­erty.

But then Charl­bury is one of the most sought-after gems of the Cotswolds and one of the few towns with a rail­way sta­tion and di­rect trains to Lon­don Padding­ton.

It also has three pubs within short walk­ing dis­tance of each other, the best known of which is The Bull Inn on Sheep Street.

When so­ci­ety magazine Tatler ran a story about the ‘posh­est pubs in Bri­tain’, The Bull Inn – and its sib­ling The Swan at As­cott-un­der-Wy­ch­wood ten min­utes away – were both fea­tured. This pair of well-man­i­cured pubs are run by Char­lie and Wil­low Cross­ley, who Tatler de­scribed as look­ing ‘as though they should be in a Ralph Lau­ren ad­vert’.

Wil­low used to be a model and fash­ion jour­nal­ist who is now a florist, stylist and designer. One of her close friends is model Chloe Delev­ingne, who has ap­par­ently vis­ited The Bull with her model sis­ters Cara and Poppy.

Be­fore ar­riv­ing in the Cotswolds with their three chil­dren, Char­lie ran posh Chelsea pub the Hol­ly­wood Arms and the cou­ple also had a beach res­tau­rant in St Tropez, close to where Char­lie’s prop­erty de­vel­oper fa­ther owns a vine­yard.

It took the Cross­leys just six weeks to trans­form The Bull from a stick­y­car­peted old boozer into the stylish and fra­grant pub-with-rooms it is to­day.

A 16th cen­tury pub that even pre­dates Charl­bury’s fame as a town known for its glove­mak­ing, the dif­fer­ent ar­eas for drinkers and din­ers wrap around a cen­tral bar.

With its real fires, rug-strewn floor­boards, sump­tu­ous arm­chairs and low beams, it’s im­me­di­ately wel­com­ing.

Just after 12.30pm, the space in the bar was pretty much taken up by lo­cal yummy mum­mies with gur­gling ba­bies and trac­tor-sized bug­gies, so we headed for the res­tau­rant, al­though you can eat any­where you like.

Din­ers at The Bull are clearly too posh to peel prawns. The ice-cold, firm and sweet At­lantic prawns (£5) had al­ready been peeled for us and draped around the top of the glass be­fore be­ing dipped in the spicy Bull Marie Rose sauce.

The food at The Bull is fa­mil­iar and not try­ing too hard to rein­vent the gas­tro­nomic wheel. It’s clearly a pub that knows that its cus­tomers want no-frills com­fort food done well.

A starter of gin and beet­root cured salmon (£7.50) was fault­less – three thick slices of mus­cu­lar, earthy cured fish with a perky pea shoot salad, dill-flecked cream cheese and toasted sour­dough bread.

My mate is still talk­ing about his warm pot­ted smoked had­dock, Gruyère cheese, spring onion and chive (£5.50), which he rightly hailed as be­ing like ‘the off­spring of a clas­sic omelette Arnold Ben­nett’. High praise in­deed.

He was equally gush­ing about his short rib of beef, gar­lic mash, kale and truf­fle red wine sauce (£17) – the ten­der meat lit­er­ally col­lapsed into the sauce and the truf­fle scent wafted across the ta­ble with each fork­ful.

My 21-day aged rib­eye steak (£26) was spot-on – per­fectly cooked medium-rare as re­quested with a prop­erly sea­soned crust, warm and herby béar­naise sauce, crisp and salty fries and a gen­er­ous rocket and to­mato salad.

As J tack­led the £10 board of lo­cal cheeses with onion chut­ney, grapes and quince jelly, I ne­go­ti­ated my dark choco­late fon­dant (£8) – a molten puck of rich choco­late paired with salted caramel ice cream.

Be­fore drinks and ser­vice, that not in­con­sid­er­able lunch cost around the £80 mark, which for such a plea­sur­able meal in what has been de­scribed as one of the ‘posh­est pubs in Bri­tain’ seemed more than rea­son­able, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the qual­ity of the cook­ing and ser­vice.

If only our prop­erty val­u­a­tions were more de­pend­able than this pitch-per­fect Cotswolds pub.

RAT­ING 4.5/5

The Bull has been fre­quented by the likes of model Chloe Delev­ingne

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