Back to food. A couple of weeks ago, I had downloaded a funky App for my iPhone called 'The Good Food Guide' (it cost me £4.99 so it had better be bloody good). Basically it is a guidebook that has been compiled by foodies who visit the UK's eateries and then if they cut the mustard, they make the guide. Even better, because the iPhone has GPS, you can use the App to search for good restaurants near you - no matter where you are. How cool is that?
So today, that App was put to the test...... and it came up with a suggestion which looked rather interesting..... a gastro-pub called The Bell, in a village called Hampton Poyle.
'That'll do' I thought, and so we jumped into the car and drove down the twisting country lanes bathed in sunshine, until we arrived at Hampton Poyle. First impressions were good...... very good. Hampton Poyle was more of a hamlet than a village, and The Bell was one of only a few old sandstone buildings, but it looked like it had been meticulously renovated amalgamating traditional and contemporary styles...... an essential element for any respectable gastro-pub, yes sirree.
Pic.No.1. The facade of The Bell, Hampton Poyle
Once inside, The Bell continued to impress. We were immediately greeted by the host who booked us a table and showed us to the bar area whilst our table was prepared.
Pic.No.2. Izzy in the bar area of The Bell
I sat back with a drink and languidly took in the surroundings. The place looked as though a major refurbishment had just been undertaken by someone with huge attention to detail - I mean everything was meticulous. One feature that I particularly liked was that it had a spotless open kitchen so that you watch the two chefs at work...... so watch I did (people watching is my favourite). They were calm, totally absorbed in the food they were creating and completely coordinated in their tasks. Ummmm..... good sign.
Pic.No.3. The open kitchen facing the bar area. Yes that is Izzy in the chair, and yes she is wearing a crown. Where'd you get that Lady M attitude from girl?
'Ah!' I hear you cry, 'but what was the food like?'
Click here if you want to view The Bell's menu
Well, I decided to order a Burger, which is a good way to judge just how imaginative and tasty a menu is. Plus I ordered a parma ham and goat's cheese pizza for Izzy.
Pic.No.4. My burger
Pic.No.5. My burger, the 'money shot'
The answer is that the food was fantastic and way better than it looks in the photo. The burger was served on a large wooden platter with a mixed leaf salad tossed in a lemony type dressing, skinny fries and fresh gherkins. As you can see, the presentation of the aforementioned burger was somewhat unusual in that it was served on garlic-infused slice of baguette with an onion jam garnish, and topped with a grilled blue cheese and cress.
The only flaw in the plan was Izzy's pizza. The strong flavour of goat's cheese combined with parma ham proved to be too much for her four-year-old palate.
"Don't like it," she said, clamping her mouth shut.
"Yes you do," I retorted. "Give it another try.
"No," she frowned at me, "I don't want to, it's horrible."
So despite being in one of the best gastro-pubs in Oxfordshire, Izzy ended up eating fries and pizza crust whilst the rest of the pizza went to waste. You wouldn't get that in the olden days. Children would have been served the pizza cold for every meal ad infinitum until it was fully consumed.
Pic.No.6. That's me in The Bell that is..... looking a bit dopey for some obscure reason
So, after a very pleasant lunch, it was time for me to drop Izzy and her dad off at the coach station, so that they could get on their way to the snowboarding holiday in France.
Everything went like clockwork - we arrived at the station just as the coach arrived. The bags were loaded into the hold, and before embarking, Izzy turned and gave me the biggest hug ever, whispering into my ear, "I love you more than Dora the Explorer cakes".
Oh, the power of children. That sweet little statement in my ear made the tears well up, and I waved and watched the coach pull away with little Izzy waving frantically, changing her position so that she could still see me as the coach turned the corner out of the station.
I got back home and everything was oh, so quiet. I made a cup of tea and went to the fridge to get the milk....... and there, sitting on the shelf were twelve carefully-crafted Dora the Explorer cakes.