Banana & Goji Berry Loaf, Gluten & Dairy Free

 

Blog B&G loaf

I have been playing around with a few recipe ideas this week, in a bid to get a flavourful breakfast loaf. I think I’ve managed to crack it with this recipe, and the best thing of all? This scrumptious loaf cake is dairy, gluten, and refined sugar free! A year ago I would have probably clicked straight past this recipe as any sweet bake that is free of all those things, I assumed, would taste pretty horrid. However, give this recipe a go. It is so sweet with the banana and the only tell tell sign that it’s not your bog standard banana bread, is that its just a bit denser. Other than that, you won’t be able to tell the difference! I’ve added goji berries to the recipe to balance out the sweetness of the banana with the slight sharpness these berries have. Feel free to leave them out though, or substitute them with other berries or raisins.

Ingredients:

225g gluten free plain flour (I used Glebe Farm)
50g ground almonds
1tsp vanilla extract (or seeds from 1 vanilla pod)
3 ripe bananas (the riper the better)
2 eggs
half a cup of gluten free oats
2 tablespoons coconut oil
150ml almond milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
50g goji berries
pinch of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C

2. Put all the ingredients apart from the goji berries into a food processor, and blitz until smooth

Dairy free B&G bread

3. Add the goji berries to the mixture and stir to combine. Pour mixture into a lined loaf tin. (I used a 24cm tin. However you can use any tin, loaf or round, and just adjust cooking time accordingly)

Blog B&G Bread berries

4. Bake for about 1 hour or until golden. A skewer inserted into the middle should come out fairly clean when cooked, however there will be a slight stickiness to the loaf due to the berries.

Blog B&G Plain sliced

5. Leave to cool, or serve warm (the best way!) topped with your favourite spread. I love mine with Pip & Nut honey cinnamon cashew nut butter. Enjoy!

Blog B&G bitten

 

 

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Graff-Reinet, Eastern Cape, South Africa

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It has been a long time since I last wrote a blog post due to a number of things going on, but I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things by updating far more regularly, both on here and on Instagram. I would also like to bring in some more lifestyle content, so if there is anything in particular you would like me to blog about, just leave me a comment below.

Over the Easter holidays, I flew out to South Africa for the graduation ceremony of my brother who has been studying out there for the last three years. We decided to combine this with a road trip along the Eastern Cape of South Africa, a part we have never done before.
Although this post is dedicated to Graff-Reinet, I thought I would tell you about another favourite part of the trip.
We started off at a game reserve called Kwandwe, just outside my brothers university town of Grahamstown. Having visited this reserve a few years ago, I was eager to return as I had had such a wonderful experience. I had been diagnosed with a number of food intolerances a few weeks before this trip and so was apprehensive as to how they would be dealt with in South Africa. Upon arrival at our camp, Fish River Lodge in Kwandwe, the head chef greeted me to ensure me that he had dealt with everything and the menu would be adjusted so as to accommodate my dietaries. As I have often experienced, this usually results in me receiving a rather plain and boring meal. However, this was certainly not the case in Kwandwe! They pulled out all the stops and even made a gluten and dairy free coconut cake for my birthday. Considering we were in the middle of the African bush, I could not have been more pleasantly surprised, and will be singing their praises for a long time yet!
We had fantastic game sightings at Kwandwe, including many rhino sightings, which for me was the highlight, as their plight for survival is a cause very close to my heart. Another favourite sighting was that of two lion cubs. They had found an old piece of water pipe, left over from the farms that were previously on the reserve. They were fighting over the pipe like two kittens until they were distracted by a passing Blesbok…
Everything about Kwandwe is perfect, from its setting and wildlife, to the staff and accommodation. If you have the chance, I would urge you to make a visit.

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Lion cub with water pipe 

We then travelled down the Eastern Cape, past Plettenberg Bay where we stopped for a night at the Kurland Hotel. This was previously Relais & Chateaux, but has now lost this accolade under its new ownership. This has the makings of a stunning hotel as it is set in a beautiful setting with gorgeous grounds. The rooms were also of a high quality and of a large size. Nonetheless, the food was just not up to scratch and the management quite frankly needed replacing. With just a bit of investment, it could very easily be transformed back into the destination it was. However at the moment, for the prices being paid, I would not return here.

From here we travelled through the Prince Alfred’s pass to Uniondale and onto Graff-Reinet. The Prince Alfred’s Pass is certainly not for the faint hearted, particularly with the fruit trucks haring past you on the edge of the mountains, however for the view you get to see, it is certainly worth it. The pass finished in the fairly odd town of Uniondale, a place that seems to have been forgotten in time. Even finding a place to stop and have lunch proved quite a challenge!

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A pit stop at Aberdeen in the Karoo

The reason this post is dedicated to Graff-Reinet, is because it is one of the places you just must go and visit. After driving for hours from Uniondale, through miles and miles of desolate Karoo landscape, you reach the haven of Graff-Reinet. It is the fourth oldest settler town in South Africa, after Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Swellendam. It is incredible to think that the hours of driving we did in a car to reach it, the fore trekkers would have done in horse and carts. The town itself sits almost in a basin, with the streets layed out in a very orderly, grid like fashion, a clear trait of the Dutch who founded the town. The main museum in Graff-Reinet is certainly worth visiting. Here you can find many of the old horse carts that were used to bring materials to the town, as well as coffin carts, priest carts, and even an ambulance cart.

Another weird and wonderful place worth visiting is the Obesa Cacti Nursery. Here they have over 7,000 species of cacti, and it is quite a surreal place to be, surrounded by cacti of all shapes and sizes. According to the owner, it is the second biggest cacti collection in the world, with the largest being in Arizona.
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If however, you only do one attraction in Graff-Reinet, let it be Desolation Valley in the Camdeboo National Park. This is truly a sight that you will never forget. Desolation Valley is on the outskirts of Graff-Reinet, with the mountain you drive to reach it, overlooking the town. Here there is a lookout point where you can study the town from above, with the birds of prey swooping just above your head in the warm air thermals.IMG_6032
From the look out point you continue up the road until you reach the parking for the Desolation Valley. It is then just a short walk to the edge. Looking down into the depths of the valley, you realise just how small you are. All you can hear are the echoes of the birds that are flying down into its depths and that perch on the opposite cliff face. It really is a sight that cannot be translated in just a photo.

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Desolation Valley

After admiring this, we decided to take the Crag Lizard trail around the point. Here you may spot some of the mountain wildlife, for us it was of course the Crag Lizard itself, as well as a lone Kudu, which, as we were on foot, managed to get close to and watch as he finished his lunch of some rather dry and crispy looking Karoo foliage!
After paying entry into Desolation Valley, you are able to use your ticket to visit the adjoining wildlife reserve. This is a lovely drive. The game viewing was pretty slim (or perhaps they were all just hiding!), however it was a great way to while away a couple of hours.

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My ‘slave house’ bedroom

Throughout our time in Graff-Reinet, we stayed at the Drostdy Hotel. The hotel was reopened at the end of 2014 after undergoing a major refurbishment. What was so special about this hotel is that it has retained its original architecture and features and the revamp has simply enhanced these snippets of history rather than try to cover them up. One such architectural nod to the Drostdy’s history, is that many of the bedrooms sit in the former slave houses along pretty cobbled streets that retain a sense of charm. As well as the architecture, the food at the Drostdy was fantastic with many local ingredients used, which is always good to see. The head chef also came out to speak to me on arrival to discuss dietaries and had even made sure that the nibbles in my room were also adapted. All in all, the Drostdy was a winner of a hotel for me, and was the perfect base for exploring Graff-Reinet and the surrounding Karoo landscape

I have only touched on a few parts of my trip here, as I simply would not have the space to write about them all! I do hope though that it has inspired you to take ‘the road less travelled’, in South Africa, particularly if it is a returning trip, as there are so many wonderful places to visit that are not on the standard tourist trail, and are little unpolished diamonds, waiting to be stumbled upon.

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Charlecote, Warwickshire

Autumnal BlissGourds

As we are now into the depths of Autumn, I thought I would share a suitably themed post. This week I was lucky enough to find this blissful spot in a village called Charlecote in Warwickshire. This plant and flower centre is opposite the gates to the Charlecote Park National Trust property, and was just teeming with pumpkins, gourds and squashes of every variety imaginable. What made them even more special, was that none of them were imported, all were grown right there in the grounds.

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Although when I visited it was a less than pleasant rainy day, the sight of so many pumpkins of all sizes and colours, soon bought a smile to my face and brightened up my day.

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I mean, have you seen these Turk’s Turban pumpkins?! They were so glorious and unusual I wanted to buy them all! Picking just the one was certainly a challenge…

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Who wouldn’t want a miniature pumpkin?

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After seeing all these I have to admit, it will be hard to ever go back to buying a standard orange pumpkin from the supermarket, a collection of these on the table looking far superior to a carved pumpkin.

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What makes this plant centre even better is that it also has its own organic fruit and vegetable shop. The goods of such a quality that you will wish you lived next door.

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Very sadly, the owners of this delightful centre are retiring, and with no-one willing to take it on, it will be closing its doors for the last time on the 5th November, and I’m sure, will be sorely missed by the local community. So, if you have the chance, and are in the area, make a trip here, even if just to marvel at such an extraordinary collection of Autumnal vegetables, as it seems many there were doing. I don’t blame them one bit.

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Barbados

Barbados is a small island located in the Eastern Caribbean. At only 21 miles long it is fairly small in size and has under 300,000 inhabitants. What favours Barbados over the other Caribbean islands, is that it is only a short 8 hour flight from the UK, as opposed to the more lengthy island hopping and transfers that are needed to visit many of the other islands. As well as this, Barbados can boast of some of the best food in the Caribbean which is a huge plus point if you have visited the other smaller islands and know the food variety is somewhat limited.

Although Barbados is small, there is certainly plenty to do and visit. Bridgetown is the capital of Barbados and offers a small number of shops. However Bridgetown is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, so hopefully with this, it will see a revival of more individual shops, cafes, and restaurants.

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If you want to see more of the local culture, head to the fruit and vegetable market in Bridgetown on a Saturday morning where you can see the huge array of fresh  produce and spices being traded.

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In the North Eastern part of Barbados is the ‘Scotland district’, is St Nicholas Abbey. This 350 year old sugar plantation house is certainly worth a visit. It still produces its own rum and sugar, and if you are visiting in the right months, you can still see the sugar cane being processed.

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st nic sugar press

Another way to learn more about the history of the island of Barbados, is to visit Harrison’s caves. Recently updated with a tram network this is a fantastic way of seeing how the island is made up of over 85% coral limestone. If you take the tram tour, you can explore the beautiful crystallised limestone caverns under the ground.

Another attraction to visit is the Flower Forest. Here you can explore Barbados’ rich flora and fauna and can easily while away a couple of hours winding your way through the different pathways and admiring the brightly coloured flowers on display.

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For a similar, but far more eccentric experience, head to Hunte’s Gardens. Created by well known horticulturist Anthony Hunte, this is truly an extraordinary work of art. Anthony has created a beautiful garden in a sinkhole with royal palms peeping out the top and classical music tinkling in the background as you explore. Afterwards you are likely to be invited into his house that overlooks the garden and have a drink, read poetry, or perhaps be asked to play the piano! All in all, a weird but wonderful experience.

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Finally, if you want to join in with what the locals do on a Friday night, head to Oistins Fish Fry. Here you enjoy dancing to music of two kinds, modern or older music whilst taking in the buzzing atmosphere. This is an informal place so dress down in t-shirts and shorts.

In terms of cuisine, Barbados has a lot to offer. Most of the good restaurants are situated on the West Coast of the island, so these are the ones I will be focusing on.

Lone Star used to be a petrol station but has since been turned into a restaurant. It has some quirky features that have been kept from its former days, such as the waiting staff being dressed in mechanic overalls. Lone Star has a great following and is always full, however the food is basic and nothing to rave about. It seems to be trying to do too many different things, and Chinese duck pancakes and macaroni cheese are not the sort of things you want to be seeing on menus in Barbados.

Fish Pot is quite far out as it is up towards the North of the island. The food is also fairly basic but good with, as the name suggests, an emphasis on fish on the menu, however there are plenty of other options too. What makes the Fish Pot a worthwhile visit is its cosy setting on the water, and the food and atmosphere seem to make this a firm favourite for family dining.

Tides is also a restaurant that seems to always be full. Again it has a waterfront setting and the food is good. Although I would return here, I feel the menu needs updating, so some may feel the menu is a little old fashioned.

Cin Cin is a very modern restaurant and has a delightful setting. The menu is great and the food was of quality, however for me, the menu was a little too long and needed cutting down.

The Cliff restaurant has the finest setting out of all the restaurants in my opinion. It is set literally on a cliff, and when you arrive, you look down onto the water crashing onto the rocks below. The food is pleasurable, however the bill less so. This restaurant is more of a special treat than a frequent haunt as it has probably the highest menu price on the island.

For exceptionally good food, head to restaurant 13°/59° in the Port Ferdinand marina. This newly opened restaurant offers exquisite food with local produce being used in the dishes. For me the setting was not the best, as you are dining in a marina which is a  fairly boring outlook, but if you are interested in fantastic cuisine, this is without a doubt the place to head.

The Sandy Lane has to be my favourite place to eat, due to the whole package. Their main restaurant L’Acajou is formal with an excellent menu, however for a food indulgence, book one of their buffets. Although they are all delightful, the best in my opinion has to be the Asian Buffet on a Saturday night. I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you what is served, but I can say you will not be disappointed. After dinner there is live entertainment,usually a singer, which you can enjoy listening to with one of their many scrumptious cocktails. What really puts the Sandy Lane experience ahead of the others, is the staff training. Their informal approach to the customers is perfect and makes you feel relaxed as soon as you arrive. A special mention has to go to Stacey who was just the most perfect host.

Overall Barbados, is a place you must make a visit to if you haven’t already. There are so many things to do. Even if you venture no further than the beach, you may be lucky enough to see turtles laying or hatching, and if you venture a tad further, you can swim with them in the sea. The temperature pretty much stays between 28 and 30 degrees all year round, with December to February being the cooler months. So for a relaxing but cultural trip, head to the island of Barbados!

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Taste of London, Regent’s Park

Taste of London is a food festival that celebrates the great culinary delights that London has to offer. It give people a chance to try dishes from the top restaurants for affordable prices, and to engage with chefs and food & drink suppliers. Taste festival started in 2004 at Somerset House in London, and since then it has spread to cities all over the world. What makes these events so likeable is that they take down the barriers between fine food and money. It allows people of any background and income to sample dishes from michelin starred kitchens without paying michelin prices.

This was my first Taste festival and it did not disappoint. The entry was very well organised and quick, considering the crowds of people they had to get into the park. Once you were in you could go and buy your ‘crowns’. This was the currency used to buy dishes from the restaurants, where 1 crown = £1. About 20 crowns is enough to sample a wide variety of dishes with most costing about 4-6 crowns. On the food and drink suppliers stalls you could generally just use normal cash to purchase items. What I really loved about this event when compared to other similar ones, is that there was plenty you could do and try for free. Samples of food and drink were being given out at every other stall, there was music to watch, a silent disco at Mortimer’s Orchard, cookery classes, and talks from many of the chefs exhibiting at Taste.

Chef Gina with Ox heart
Chef Gina with Ox heart

One such talk I attended was by head chef Gina Hopkins from The Drapers Arms. This was a fantastic talk as she talked about using offal in cooking. At the beginning when the crowd heard that this was what she would be talking about, there were a few disgusted faces. However by the end,  everyone was fully on board, mainly because of Gina’s genuine enthusiasm for her ingredients, and no doubt, her menu at The Drapers Arms will be a testament to this.

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Calves brain

Another way that visitors could get hands on with cooking was through one of Taste’s sponsors, AEG. They had set up a cooking theatre, where guests could free of charge, take a cooking class with some of London’s top chefs. I was lucky enough to take part in a session with Jeremy Pang, founder of School of Wok. This was a thoroughly entertaining session, where we learned how to make wontons and venison stir fry, using AEG’s induction cookers, of which we also learnt about. Jeremy helped guide us through each step and taught us the correct way to use a wok. Although my wonton folding technique was questionable, and the end result looked nothing like Jeremy’s (a bit more practice needed I think…), they certainly tasted delicious, and in my mind, that was all that mattered!

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A bit of relaxation was needed after this, so we perused more of the many food and drink stalls, drinking cocktails, and sampling plenty of tasty morsels. We also headed over to Mortimer’s Orchard to take part in their silent disco, the perfect way to while away a summers afternoon. Highlights for me were the Chinese roast duck in mantou bun from Chai Wu, the iconic duck and waffle, from (you guessed it..) Duck and Waffle, macerated strawberries and yoghurt mousse from chef Ben Donkin (one to watch), and of course the gorgeous endless cups or refreshing iced T2 Tea that were being given out, which were appreciated by many I am sure.

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Overall I cannot praise this event highly enough, and I hope to return again next year. What I loved about it was that there was plenty to try and do without having to pay extra, and you could even fill yourself up without having to buy any dishes due to the many samples that were being offered. My only criticism would be that there were perhaps one too many coconut water stalls, but then of course, if you like coconut water, this is just one more strength Taste of London 2015 had to offer…

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Early bird tickets on sale now for the Winter Taste festival at Tobacco Dock London: http://www.seetickets.com/search?q=taste+of+london&search=

Yauatcha, London

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In the heart of bustling Soho is this gem of a restaurant. What makes this so special is that it manages to combine two very different cuisines seamlessly. How they have managed to connect Chinese dim sum with European patisserie I do not know, but they have done it, with a michelin star for proof. The interior is slick and modern, dim lit low black tables, shelves of tea containers, and a cool blue fish tank wall. Then menu has plenty of choice and everything looks delectable, but for me there were a couple of stars. The first was the ‘char siu bun’. The steamed bun was fluffy and light and the filling of Cantonese barbecued pork complemented it beautifully. (Make sure you don’t agree to share when ordering these because believe me, when they come, you will want to eat them all yourself!) The sticky rice in a lotus leaf with chicken and dried shrimp was equally as scrumptious. In fact the food was so good, I didn’t even get a chance to take photos. The way they had steamed this dish meant that the gorgeous, tea like taste of the lotus leaf absorbed into the rice, giving it another dimension of flavour. menu For mains we shared the aromatic duck and the crispy sweet and sour sea bass. The duck was perfectly cooked, crunchy on the outside and sweet and succulent on the inside, and the pancakes that went with this were very much enjoyed, a classic winner. Perhaps, the only disappointment of the evening was the crispy sweet and sour sea bass. This was because it seems that they had deep fat fried the fish. This was such a shame because the sea bass inside was delicious but was ruined on the outside. I feel steaming would have done it far greater justice and would have kept it moist and flavoursome. So my tip for you if you are going, would be to have the steamed halibut or dover sole instead. Finally I move onto the desserts. Everything looked delicious, but unfortunately my stomach capacity was somewhat limited by this time, so I could only try the pomegranate yoghurt (pomegranate compote, yoghurt, wild flower honey, granola) and the chocolate pebble (65% Amazonian Peruvian chocolate, brownie, mousse, liquid chocolate). The pomegranate yoghurt was a hit with me as it cleansed my palette with its fresh and crisp taste and was not too sweet as I expected it to be. The chocolate pebble was of course the complete opposite, a sure favourite with any chocaholics, this will certainly give you your fix! Also on offer are handmade macaroons and chocolates, an accompaniment to your after dinner drinks perhaps? macaroons Overall this was a superb meal, food wise and service wise, and I cannot wait to come again. However next time I think I’ll leave a little more room to experiment their desserts, of which I’ll leave you with a couple of photos to tantalise your tastebuds… chocolate pebble Yauatcha, 15 Broadwick Street, London, W1F ODL Tel: 020 7494 8888 exotic pandan 2

The Feathered Nest Inn, The Cotswolds

Nestled in the rolling hills of the Cotswolds is a sleepy village named Nether Westcote, home to the award winning pub, ‘The Feathered Nest Inn’. However do not be tricked by the name, this stands far apart from your average village haunt, and the food is a world away from your typical ‘pub grub’. Upon entering the car park, you will be greeted with breathtaking views across the Evenlode valley, the sunny garden being a perfect place to admire this with a cold drink in hand. The interior of the inn does also, not disappoint. It has been tastefully decorated with antiques dotted around, in corners, shelves and on windowsills, giving it a welcoming feel. Upstairs they have four rooms, each one beautifully decorated and different from the other. Next, I move onto the most important part, the food. Although they serve a simple bar menu, the à la carte menu is really what gets your tastebuds tingling. Whilst perusing the menu you are served delicious homemade canapés to give you a taste of what’s to come. There are not many restaurants that I have been to where I want to eat everything on the menu, but this is one of the special few. I have included a few photos of the dishes we had. I’m sorry I haven’t included any mains, but they were so good, they were gobbled up before I could even take a photo.

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Sea Bream, tigers milk, pisco, papaya,chilli, coriander

This starter was fresh and zingy with flavour. The subtle heat of the chilli added a lovely extra hit at the end.

Asparagus, hen egg,  parmesan, savoury custard, chives
Asparagus, hen egg, parmesan, savoury custard, chives

This dish is perfect for this time of year as it is asparagus season, and these were sourced from nearby Evesham. The ‘egg’ is a flavoursome surprise, as it is not actually an egg at all! (I’ll let you go and find out why for yourself!)

Beetroot, ewes curd, yoghurt, pumpernickel, dill
Beetroot, ewes curd, yoghurt, pumpernickel, dill

For the vegetarians amongst you, this will no doubt set your stomachs rumbling. Don’t expect your average bland vegetarian dish here! In fact if all vegetarian dishes were like this the butchers would be out of business.

Burnt cream, gariguette strawberry, red vein sorrel
Burnt cream, gariguette strawberry, red vein sorrel

I had been looking forward to dessert all evening and this did not disappoint. The ‘burnt cream’ was like a beautiful crème brûlée, and the strawberries worked harmoniously with the sweetness to leave a refreshed palette. Overall, I cannot rate this gem of a restaurant highly enough. If you live near The Feathered Nest Inn, or are simply visiting the area, make sure this is a place you will visit, you will not regret it. Make sure you book a table in advance though, especially on the weekend, as apparently they often are fully booked, which is of course, no surprise.

The Feathered Nest Inn,
Nether Westcote,
Oxfordshire,
OX7 6SD
United Kingdom
Tel: 01993 833 030