Sunday, 20 October 2013

Restaurant Review - The Flowing Well, by Phil B

Location: Sunningwell, Oxfordshire OX13 6RB, UK
 FoodieOnTour Guest Restaurant Review

My name is Phil and I can usually be found talking about all things coffee over at my own blog, coffeisseur. I am here at the invitation of Jacqui, writing a guest blog post while she does whatever it is mums do when they have a newborn on their hands. All I know is that it involves a lot of noise, mess and not much sleep - which probably explains why I have no children…

I didn’t have to think for too long when pondering where I should visit for my review, opting for The Flowing Well, a fabulous little place located only 5 miles from the centre of Oxford in the picturesque village of Sunningwell. Refurbished just under two years ago, the pub/restaurant has become a popular location for Oxfordshire diners and a hub for the local community and the surrounding villages.

Visiting early evening on a random Thursday evening we were warmly welcomed and given the choice of the tables not already reserved for the diners coming along later in the evening. Taking a table by the window we were handed menus and offered drinks, which arrived soon after.

The menu at The Flowing Well covers all the bases in a concise manner while managing to slip in a few surprises that manage to stand it apart from your usual pub fare. I went for the starter of Garlic, Chilli and Coriander Prawns with a lemon dressing while my OH sat it out to leave room for her pudding later. My starter arrived at the table soon after and it was delicious; well presented on the plate with fresh flavours, a nice dressing on the salad and the chilli providing background heat without being overpowering.

Oxfordshire Restaurant Review
Garlic, Chilli and Coriander Prawns with a Lemon Dressing

For the main event it was a simple choice for me as I opted for the Spiced BBQ Baby Back Ribs served with coleslaw and french fries while my OH went for the Quesadilla with Char-Grilled Mediterranean Vegetables. All too often the only veggie option available seems to be an after-thought to the menu and comes in the form of a predictable goats cheese tart so was good to see something a little different on the menu. The waiter helpfully suggested I include a portion of onion rings to go with the ribs which seemed like a fine idea! I think it is a good thing that suggestions are made when ordering, not in the ‘do you want fries with that?’ manner but when they really add to the meal or if a side is necessary then I am all for it.

Oxfordshire Restaurant Review
Spiced BBQ Baby Back Ribs served with Coleslaw and French Fries

Before long the food was presented before us and mine looked mouth-wateringly good, a big rack of ribs slathered in BBQ sauce together with a healthy portion of fries and inviting mound of coleslaw. I must confess that I have always been put off trying ribs when I see them on a menu, thinking they would be a bit of a faff to eat or that I would end up in a mess. As it turned out I couldn't have been further from the truth as these ribs were an absolute pleasure to eat, the meat literally fell off the bone. No scraping or gnawing of bones needed at all as they lifted clean away leaving the perfectly cooked meat ready to pop in your mouth. The BBQ sauce was tangy, smoky and unctuous (I have always wanted to use that word, coffee doesn't tend to be unctuous and you have to include it in a food review right?).

Oxfordshire Restaurant Review
Quesadilla with Char-Grilled Mediterranean Vegetables

The verdict on the Quesadilla wasn't quite as glowing as my ribs, my OH found that the ‘chive sour cream and mango salsa’ lacking and appeared to just be chunks of mango. She also reported that the vegetables didn't seem to be evenly spread between the parcels, with a couple of them seemingly just cheese filled tortillas. They were still tasty, just not what was expected and unlikely to be chosen again on a return visit.

I was suitably stuffed after a starter, followed by a main of such epic proportions but had to check out the pudding menu regardless... purely for review purposes you understand. I was intrigued by the Don Pedro that came in a variety of flavours and after a discussion with the waiter I was informed they were like a kind of naughty, alcoholic milkshake. While the thought of a bread and butter pudding had my eyes watering the prospect of a milkshake seemed a lot more manageable so I went with the Frangelico option.

Oxfordshire Restaurant Review
Apple & Pear Crumble

My OH had more room so went for the Apple & Pear Crumble which came served with cream. I must explain that she is a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to food so was somewhat dismayed when she was presented with her pudding; which had a roughly broken cakey/pastry style topping, rather like crazy paving rather than a good old crumble topping. Though the topping was a bit of a disappointment, the apple and pear mix underneath was well cooked with a good bite and flavour.

Oxfordshire Restaurant Review
Don Pedro Frangelico

My Don Pedro was very good indeed, served in a large wine glass with a straw it was the perfect mix of cream, alcohol and hazelnut without any of the flavours taking over and dominating. It makes for a great finish to a meal when you don’t quite have enough room for a pudding but want something other than the usual, predictable sorbet.

So, all good so far. The waiter was friendly, attentive and knew his stuff. The setting was lovely with a great atmosphere provided by the open kitchen and background chatter of the other visitors. The food was, for the most part, well cooked, delicious and served at the right intervals.

The sting in the tail came when we received the bill and it had a 12.5% discretionary service charge added on top. I know this practice is becoming commonplace in London and I saw the same thing on a visit to Bill’s in Oxford recently but I put that down to it being a faceless chain. In this instance I didn't say anything and paid the full amount of the bill as I felt the level of service and quality of the food deserved it but I think it sends out the wrong message and I am sure a lot of people feel uncomfortable in asking for it to be removed. A tip should be your choice, a way of showing your appreciation rather than having it forced upon you.

The sad thing is that we left discussing the service charge, rather than the quality of the food and that is a real shame. What do you think about tips and service charges?

Overall score: 7.5/10

The Flowing Well
Nr Abingdon
OX13 6RB
Twitter: @theflowingwell
Facebook: @TheFlowingWellOX13
Phone: 01865 735 846

A HUGE thanks to Phil for stepping in for me with such a fantastic guest review... it's got me hankering for ribs! 
Please do check out Phil's own blog, coffeisseur, you can also follow Phil on Facebook and on Twitter.

FoodieOnTour x

1 comment :

  1. I like the coffee they serve here and as I take it black it's nice to find a good smooth one that doesn't scare the horses.


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