Thursday 28 November 2013

Foodie Events - DECEMBER

Location: Oxford, UK
Saturday, 23 November to Sunday 6th January 
Hyde Park, London
Free Entry
This year promises even more thrills, spectacle and Christmas magic at Hyde Park, where we’ll be open 10am till 10pm every day until 5th January (excluding Christmas Day). As always Winter Wonderland is FREE to enter, so you can wander through the park, soaking up the festive atmosphere and enjoy all the free entertainment on offer. Attraction tickets are on sale for Ice Skating, The Magical Ice Kingdom, the Giant Observation Wheel or Zippos Circus. Book ahead to avoid disappointment. At Winter Wonderland there’s something for everyone, whether you want to make your child’s dream come true at Santa Land, brave the exciting thrill rides, or just warm up on a mulled wine and join in the fun in the lively Bavarian Village. Come along early for a browse around the Christmas Markets, take a rest over some festive food and drink at one of the many eateries around the site, and enjoy some of the fantastic free live music.

Every Friday, Saturday & Sunday from 29 November until 29 December at 4.30pm
Waddesdon Manor
£16.50 per person
A selection of open sandwiches, celebration pastries, plus teas from Jeeves and Jericho of Oxford.

Wednesday, 4 December, 11.30am - 2.30pm
The Montpellier Chapter, Bayshill Road, Montpellier, Cheltenham GL50 3AS 
£15 per person  
We love our food. Fresh, simple, seasonal and really tasty. And it’s all prepared in our open theatre kitchen so you can see our team of Chefs at work. Our restaurant is a place for people who share an enjoyment for truly great food. Our Cooks Clubs are now running into their third year. We enjoy sharing our knowledge of cooking with you, then enjoying a delicious lunch. Each month the club will start 11.30, offering an hours demonstration before you enjoy a two course lunch featuring a dish that has been demonstrated that day.                

Thursday 5th December - Italian Christmas Sweets
Friday 6th December - Chocolate Truffle Making          
Friday 13th December - Christmas Puglian Style
Various Oxford Locations
£60 per person
Our classes pop-up regularly in venues across Oxford. Most classes last for around 2 1/2 to 3 hours, and are suitable for anyone, from beginner to confident cook. We provide all the ingredients and equipment so you just need to come and enjoy the lesson! Our nomadic style gives us the freedom to offer an exceptionally wide variety of courses, from basic pasta making to constructing glamorous gateaux with our experienced tutors. We all cook together (hands-on is our middle name), then we sit down to taste the fruits of our work, washed down by a glass of wine. Our style is informal, enjoyable, enthusiastic and full of delight in the pleasures of the home kitchen. Sophie Grigson’s Pop-Up Cookery School is for anyone who enjoys cooking with great produce and wants to share that experience with others.

Friday 6th to Sunday 8th December, 10.30am-4.30pm
The Glasshouse, Waddesdon Plant Centre 
Normal admission charges apply
Stalls Include: Hot Food; Christmas Drinks; Chocolates and Sweets; Chutneys, Pickles, Oils and Vinegars; Fresh Meats and Fish. 

Friday 6th, 13th & 20th December, 7-10pm
c£25 per person for three courses
For the winter season The Field Kitchen Oxford has teamed up with Oxfork of the Magdelene Road, who have kindly opened its doors to Rupert every Friday night for his exclusive use to run The Field Kitchen Oxford - Bacaro Campo, an indoor warm and cosy take on a typical Venetian Tavern, serving small plates and sharing plates            

Friday 6th December, 7.30pm 
Tetsworth Memorial Hall, Back Street, Tetsworth, Oxfordshire, OX9 7AA            
£40 per person for four courses and 1/2 bottle of wine
The Wandering Kitchen is a pop-up, mobile kitchen offering a selection of high quality, homemade and locally sourced food to the people of Oxfordshire. The Wandering Kitchen’s Supper Clubs will pop up in Oxfordshire towns and villages bringing with it four courses of amazing food, rustic charm and a magical atmosphere. 
The Supper Club menu offers a taste of home with an elegant twist. Dishes such as belly pork, lamb shank and mushroom wellington and lovely homemade desserts such as sticky almond cake and crème brûlée. This combined with majestic décor and fabulous atmosphere make for a perfect evening with friends.     

Saturday 7th, 14th & 21st December, 6.30pm
Waddesdon Manor
£85 per person
Visit the 'Winter Light at Waddesdon: Bruce Munro' exhibition in the Gardens, before an exclusive guided tour of the East Wing and Bachelors' Wing in the House. A glass of Glünwein will then be served in the old kitchen of the manor followed by a gourmet four course dinner inspired by an Austrian Christmas with wines to suit each course. Dress code: Lounge Suit.

Saturday 7th December  
Village Hall, Piddington, Oxon OX25 1PU 
Free Entry 
Can you believe it? The Pantry is a year old! Come and help us celebrate our first anniversary. There’ll be lots of stalls offering a huge range of interesting local gifts and crafts, locally sourced produce, great offers and promotions on Pantry food and drink – including deals you can’t afford to miss on our popular local beer and cider stall. Get Christmas all wrapped up, then reward yourself with a bacon bap at the coffee shop. Jewellery – Handbags – Accessories – Cheese – Local Meat – Deli – Fruit & Veg – Artisan Bread – Local Beer & Cider – Homemade Cakes – Coffee Shop.
Twitter: @pidding_pantry

Saturday 7th December 2013, 7.45pm 
£22.50 per person for five courses
North Oxford’s first – and brand-new – popup home restaurant, serving glorious food from around the world, for love not money. My popup’s for grown-ups who like food and intelligent company, and it’s run not-for-profit. I’m doing this not as part of a career path to super-foodie stardom- I’m simply keen to find a bunch of keen foodies to cook for without leaving my door! I charge enough to cover costs only, so you get amazing value for money. The idea is you come alone, with your partner, or with one or two friends, and encounter new and interesting people sitting at the table with you.

Tuesday 10th December, 10am-3pm - A Northern Italian Christmas
Bearn Cottage  
£95 Per person         
Bookings are available for the CiCi-CoCo Cookery School. Some great locations and inspirational locations. E-mail to book you place, buy a voucher for a friend or create you own bespoke day. Prices start from £65.00 for a 3 hour course where you can make pasta and take enough home for a dinner that evening. Our longer courses range from £95-115.00 and run from 10-3pm where you will prepare a menu and eat a lunch together! 

Fish Night @ The Fishes, Every Friday
Tagine Night @ The Oxford Retreat, Every Tuesday
Steak Night @ The Fishes, Every Wednesday
Steak Night @ The Oxford Retreat, Every Wednesday
Pie Night @ Victoria Arms, Every Sunday
Steak Night @ Victoria Arms, Every Tuesday

All these events AND MORE on the Foodie Events Calendar
you can even download events straight to your own calendar!

Wednesday 27 November 2013

The Pub is Dead, Long Live the Pub

Location: Aylesbury, UK
Published in Nov/Dec edition of Vale Life Magazine

FoodieOnTour Food Column
Nov / Dec Edition of Vale Life
According to a recent article in The Telegraph, an average of 16 pubs are closing in the UK each and every week; only a month earlier, The Independent reported on The Good Pub Guide quoting expected closures were “at the bottom of the pecking order, the Bad Pubs” adding “It’s high time they closed their doors.”

So with the Great British Pub becoming somewhat of an endangered species, there is an on-going debate as to whether better quality food could be deliverance or destruction for the old dog.

Being partial to a good gastro pub, I'm always pleased to hear of an ‘average’ food pub, that’s been content with serving up Aunt Bessie style cook-from-frozen spuds (other brands are, I’m sure, available), upping the ante and serving better quality food – but, there are those who mourn the loss of the ‘traditional boozer’, citing gentrification as the murderer and cold hard cash as the motive. 

So what is the answer? Personally, I think it’s a matter of supply and demand – if there’s enough demand for an old fashioned two-pints-of-lager-and-a-packet-of-crisps pub, then it will remain; if, however, the majority rule that they want better food with their beer; or, even more controversially, GREAT food, then surely that’s just progress. 

You may have guessed I fall into the latter category (though I do prefer a nice Chablis to a beer), but I in no means wish the old fashioned boozer dead as a dodo – there’s nothing wrong with variety. A number of people see the changes as a bad thing, complaining about hiked up prices for “ludicrous foodie nonsense”; personally, I think it’s more about getting back to home cooked, decent, fresh food. Maybe Britain has become acclimatised to lazy, passionless, throw-it-in-the-fryer, 50-shades-of-brown food, and all we’re doing is demanding something better. 

Look at the recent National Restaurant Awards, a pub won the 2013 top spot. You heard it… a PUB, winning Restaurant of the Year! Not just any pub though, this was Marlow based Hand and Flowers, which also boasts two Michelin stars. 

The Mole & Chicken, Nr Long Crendon

Before you blow a gasket, don’t worry, I don’t expect or want Michelin star pubs taking over the land, but somewhere in between would be heaven for me; and this is where a decent Gastro pub fits – better than the food you might cook at home, but not so fancy you can’t rock up in jeans and a t-shirt having booked months ahead.

So, with great pub food being on the menu, here are a few local food pubs that I would recommend checking out:

If you haven't had chance to pick up a copy yourself, then you can read the whole magazine on-line

Vale Life
Aylesbury & Thame
Twitter: @ValeLifeMag

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Restaurant Review - The Rusty Bicycle

Location: 28 Magdalen Road, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX4 1RB, UK

Ok, so the Rusty Bike is literally 10 minutes walk max from my house, I've visited before and was very happy with the food. For some unknown reason though, MrF got it into his head that he wasn't overly impressed with them, which meant I couldn't persuade him to revisit for ages - that and the fact they don't take reservations (I hate not knowing if I'll get a table).

When my parents popped over for the day recently, I decided I'd waited long enough and leapt at the chance to drag them, kicking and screaming (note the sarcasm), for lunch on me.

Now, I won't lie, I'd snuck in a couple of weeks earlier with another mummy friend, tucking into a wonderful lunch of Slow Braised Sticky Ribs (£12). With four kids between us though, and at least one demanding attention/food/a nappy change/water/etc at any one time, it was somewhat frantic and rushed - I didn't feel it appropriate to review. What it did though, was help me decide what to eat.... I needed those ribs again!



As you may have gathered from the blog, I have a fairly healthy appetite - I like big hunks of meat and creamy dauphinoise - I'm often put off though at the thought of ordering ribs. Images of full racks of ribs turning up in front of me are simply intimidating. The fact I'm a very slow eater also doesn't help, I'd be there for bloody hours! No seriously... ask MrF about the ploughman's incident, he recants it to this day with hints of despair still lingering in his voice.

What I love about the ribs at Rusty Bike are the size, second only to the satisfaction they bring. Glistening, reddish-brown, treacly looking ribs, served on a paper lined tray, with the most delicious chips (some of the best I've tasted in Oxford), alongside some tasty 'slaw and a small pot of sweet, sticky chilli jam.

Slow Braised Sticky Ribs

Heavenly, no... devilish!

The ribs alone were delicious, ample meat with no hint of fat or gristle, basted (not smothered) in a piquant bbq sauce. The fries reached a whole new level when dunked into the chilli jam - I barely looked up from my plate!

Upon remembering I had companions, I asked Mum & Dad if they were enjoying their food. Dad, who'd ordered the same as me, seemed to be equally preoccupied, while Mum was happily tucking into a Chicken & Leek Pie (£10) - though it didn't look a patch on the ribs!

Chicken & Leek Pie

On this occasion, we didn't have room, or time, for more than one course. Had we been lingering for longer, I would have certainly been tempted to indulge. The menu is small but perfectly formed, with around nine small plates/starters ranging from £4-6 per person, eight larger plates/mains costing £9-13 each, plus a selection of delectable sounding ice creams to choose from at £1.25 per scoop.

Starters included Crispy Cornish Whitebait, Soup Du Jour, Baked Camembert, or a Veggie Mezze sharing board - which sounded appealing even to this little carnivore. Mains included a 'Rusty' Beef Burger, Veggie Burger (portabello mushroom & halloumi - again, tempting), Fennel Seed & Ale Battered Fish & Chips, the amazing Slow Braised Ribs, plus a Pie of the Day. If you still have room, you can choose from salted caramel, vanilla, double choc, ginger, rhubarb fool, honeycomb or blood orange ice cream, with a chocolate brownie (an additional £2) on top.


All in all, a damn good meal... twice! I really like the Rusty Bike, in fact I'd be happy to call it my local - if only they took blooming table bookings. Oh well, in the meantime I'll just have to pop in when I'm certain it'll be quiet.

If you're looking for a warm, cosy pub serving up proper lush food (as Tom Kerridge, my latest chef crush, would say), then you won't fail to be impressed with this modern take on a friendly local. If you also happen to have a penchant for great typography, then you will love it.

Overall Score: 8/10

The Rusty Bicycle
28 Magdalen Road
Twitter: @rustybicycle
Facebook: @TheRustyBicycle
Phone: 01865 435298

Sunday 17 November 2013

My Delicious Distraction

Location: Oxford, UK
Those who follow me on Twitter, or are regular readers of the blog, will know the Foodie family was recently extended with the addition of a new MiniFoodie. So, I wanted to introduce you properly to the new man in my life - MiniF2 aka the gorgeous Harry.

Already 11 weeks old (!), Harry is wooing us all with the most dazzling of smiles (yet to be fully captured on camera) and is settling in nicely, even if his equally gorgeous big brother Dillon (MiniF1) does like to occasionally show him who's boss - years of that to contend with I imagine.

I'm fitting in blogging as & when I can, mostly when the boys are asleep, feeding, or with MrF while I enjoy rare 'off duty' moments. As much as I enjoy these tranquil treats though, I ultimately hanker to get back to my boys - for they are the most delicious treats of all.

The blogging continues, if a little slower...

Foodie x

Sunday 10 November 2013

Oxfordshire's Best Sunday Roast

Location: Oxfordshire, UK
Sunday Lunch
The benchmark was set high at The Feathered Nest Country Inn

So, it's started. The nights have drawn in, the heating's on, and I'm craving warm, hearty, comfort food. Big stews, warm soup, but more importantly - roast dinners. I can picture it now, people across the land popping yorkies in the oven and crossing their fingers, hoping they rise. 

Growing up, the good old Sunday roast was a weekly occurrence in our house, not these days though. I do cook the odd roast dinner, but we love going out as a family at the weekend to grab a spot of food... it's an added bonus that someone else does the washing up! 

So, this winter, I've set myself the challenge of tracking down 'Oxfordshire's Best Sunday Roast'. I'm looking for that perfect piece of meat, the grandest Yorkshire pub, glistening gravy and ravishing roasties. 

BUT...I need YOUR help! 

The benchmark was set incredibly high, prior to the blog, in September 2012, when I sampled the incredible roast beef at The Feathered Nest Inn (check out the header pic!). I'll have to revisit for a full review, but have yet to find a rival, despite sampling several other local roasts. I've received a few recommendations, but I need MORE. If you have a great local pub or restaurant serving up stunning roast dinners, or if you've recently visited somewhere that does, then please comment below (leaving your name), or email me at with the details. Pictures would be great too - from the biggest yorkie to the most blushing beef - I'd love to see them. 

You can follow the search on here, or via Twitter with #OxSundayBest. Tweet me your recommendations or pics @FoodieOnTour.

Let the search begin!

Foodie x

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Foodie Events - NOVEMBER

Location: Oxford, UK
Saturday 2nd November, 7.45pm 
£22.50 per person
North Oxford’s first – and brand-new – popup home restaurant, serving glorious food from around the world, for love not money                
This event may have been and gone, but don't despair, hostess Caroline Sweetman will be opening her home monthly for these wonderfully exotic and great value supper clubs. Do also check out Caroline's website for some fantastic recipes.
The December event is already booked up, with a waiting list(!), so don't hang around if you'd like a seat at this exclusive table.

Sunday 3rd November - Warming Curries and Comfort Desserts 
Thursday 7th November - Indian Party Food with Rayeesa 

Friday 8th November - Japanese Home Cooking with Momo 

Wednesday 13th November - Getting Ahead For Christmas 
Sunday 17th November - Cooking with Confidence 
Wednesday 20th November - Butchery 
Friday 22nd November - New Middle Eastern Ingredients 
Thursday 28th November - Sea to Sky with Ursula Ferrigno

Held at various locations in and around Oxford, prices start at £60 per person

The Fishes - Friday 8th November, 7pm onwards
The Fishes, North Hinksey
Enjoy our flaming BBQ, Hot Chocolates, Mulled Wine & Cyder, Roasted Chestnuts, Marshmallows, and of course, Toffee Apples. Please note, due to our proximity to thatched roofs and animals we will not be having fireworks
Oxford Roundtable - Saturday 9th November, 5pm onwards
South Park, Oxford, Singles £6 - Family £15
Oxford Round Table are proud to announce their 46th annual Fireworks Display.
Every year thousands of people fill the park to watch Oxford's largest Fireworks Display and a bonfire that can be seen from miles around, and not to forget that all the profits from the night go to local charities.

Saturday 9th November, 7.30pm
Waddesdon Manor
£95 per person
Your evening will begin in the Wine Cellars with a glass of Waddesdon Manor Vintage Champagne and seasonal canapés followed by an informal tasting of four Rothschild wines. Dinner will take place in the Manor Restaurant where you will be served an exquisite four course meal with carefully selected wines to suit each course. Dress code: Black Tie

Friday 15th November, 10am-3pm - A Northern Italian Christmas
Saturday 23rd November, 10am-1pm - Quattro Pasta
A couple of appetising courses from 'The Cook & The Kitchen Porter', featuring wonderful hand crafted Italian food.
Held at various locations, prices range from £65 per person
To book e-mail

Friday 22nd November, 7.30pm 
Ewelme Village Hall, The Street, Ewelme, Wallingford, OX10 6HQ
£40 per person
The Supper Club menu offers a taste of home with an elegant twist. Dishes such as belly pork, lamb shank and mushroom wellington and lovely homemade desserts such as sticky almond cake and crème brûlée. This combined with majestic décor and fabulous atmosphere make for a perfect evening with friends.    

Saturday 30th November, 7pm
£25 per person
The Oxford Supper Club is a monthly supper club based in Wolvercote. On a Saturday night we feed 15 people an exciting bespoke set menu, using only the best quality, seasonal ingredients. It is a wonderful opportunity to meet new people, spend time with friends and tuck in to great food.    

Saturdy 23rd November to Monday 6th January
Hyde Park, London
An amazing feast for the senses... fairground rides, ice skating, Bavarian bratwurst, bars, fire pits, circus performances, Santa... expect it to be busy, but well worth a visit!

Every Friday, Saturday & Sunday from 29 November until 29 December 2013, 4.30pm
Normal admission charges to the House and Gardens apply. Timed tickets to the House must be pre-booked in advance

Friday 29th November to Sunday 1st December, 10.30am-4.30pm
The Glasshouse, Waddesdon Plant Centre

Normal admission charges apply
There is something for everyone at this fabulous Christmas food market - fresh ducks and meats, homemade Christmas cakes and chocolates, sweets and biscuits, chutneys and specialist cheeses, fresh pies and puddings and much more

Steak Night @ The Oxford Retreat, Every Wednesday
Tagine Night @ The Oxford Retreat, Every Tuesday
Steak Night @ The Fishes, Every Wednesday
Fish Night @ The Fishes, Every Friday

All these events, plus local Farmers' Markets on the Foodie Events Calendar
you can even download events straight to your own calendar!

Sunday 3 November 2013

The Manor, Weston on the Green

Location: Weston-on-the-Green, Oxfordshire OX25 3QL, UK

OK folks, I've got an exciting one for you here. Recently I was invited to a group menu tasting at The Manor at Weston-on-the-Green, in the form of a pre-Christmas lunch. No, that's not the exciting bit. Could the exciting bit be that their new Executive Chef has worked under numerous well-known Michelin star chefs? Yes, YES IT IS!!

If you've lived in the area for a while, you may be familiar with The Manor - maybe you've driven past it, or been to a wedding here - most likely though you haven't been simply for food. You see, The Manor has never been much of a food venue, having recently undergone somewhat of a makeover though, be prepared to look again...

Initial impressions, working my way up the tree-lined drive, were that not much had changed; the vast building had always been grand and imposing, with it's sandy coloured walls and great wooden door. On entering The Manor's large reception hall, the first thing you're greeted by is a stone fireplace and huge wooden mantel (a new addition), along with some comfy looking sofas - for such a stately setting you couldn't feel more at home.

Clockwise from top left: Entrance Hall, Bertie's Bar, Canapés, Glögg. 

Having met my fellow diners in the gentleman's-club-style 'Bertie's Bar', Hotel Manager, Christian Kaberg, ushered in some beautiful canapés and warming Glögg (Scandinavian mulled wine, with almonds & raisins) to get the occasion started. As first impressions go, they were doing mighty fine.

To the groups delight, our private dining table was festively set with red and gold crackers, party poppers and a stunning flora and fauna inspired centrepiece of leaves, berries and pheasant feathers. Being mid October, this has to be the earliest Christmas lunch I'd ever had - thankfully for us though, this was never going to be any ordinary family feast.

Chestnut Velouté with Confit Duck

Our meal began with a warm and wintry chestnut velouté, theatrically poured around gorgeous little globes of confit duck, which had been bread-crumbed and deep fried.... mmmmmm, a very good start!

For our second course, we were presented with a visually stunning dish of locally sourced partridge (from quite literally down the road, in Wendlebury), served on a vibrant swirl of beetroot mayonnaise, along with heritage beetroot, micro parsley and a red wine jus. Pretty as a picture, it felt almost wrong to dig in - though that never does stop me. This was a fabulous plate of food, prepared with skill and care; from the French trimmed and cured meat, to the delicate presentation and well-matched flavours.

Locally Sourced Partridge

Scottish Scallop Ceviche

The fabulousness didn't stop there... pretty little scatterings of Scottish scallop ceviche appeared next, accompanied by brunoise shallots, apple puree, apple discs, lemon segments, almonds, caviar and breakfast radish. Possibly a little tart for my taste, but another visually magnificent dish.

Our main was perfectly pink Scottish venison loin, pan roasted and presented with poached plums, roast baby gem, swede puree and juniper jus, all topped off with truffle, freshly shaved at the table. Of all the dishes, THIS was my favourite - stunningly cooked, fantastic quality meat, perfectly-paired vegetables, sexy, glossy, rich sauce and decadent truffle... I want this again, right now, pretty please?!

Scottish Venison Loin

Pre-dessert: Passion Fruit Curd, Vanilla Crumble, Mango Rice and Lime Granita

Now, if I have to choose between starter and pudding, I'd usually opt for the starter, however... on this occasion, not only did I get a starter AND a dessert... I got TWO desserts! Holy crap, these guys know how to woo a girl. Our two-course pudding feast commenced with a delightful little glass of passion fruit curd, vanilla crumble, mango rice and lime granita - smooth in places, crunchy in others, sweet, sharp and refreshing... this ticked many of my 'end of meal' boxes. 

But the meal wasn't over yet.

The conclusion to our fabulous meal was a finale of chocolate cream, red wine and port marinated figs, buttermilk puree and vanilla ice cream. Sexy, sweet and silky, what more could a girl ask for. 

Dessert: Chocolate Cream Marinated Figs, Buttermilk Puree and Vanilla Ice Cream

Crackers pulled and numerous dishes sampled, I was very sad to leave. Full but not fatigued, I could go on tasting this food day after day.

So yes, I'll be back, and so should you!

The four course Winter lunch menu is from £45 per person and includes dishes like Terrine of Game with Foie Gras, Prunes & Truffle; Slow-cooked 48hr Pork Belly with Fennel & Pease Pudding; Ginger Panacotta with Pear & Oats. For group bookings the six course menu is from £78 per person. Afternoon Tea and Tasting Menus are also available.


Having worked for the likes of Gordon Ramsey, Marcus Wareing, Michel Roux Snr and Raymond Blanc, recently appointed Executive Chef, Larry Jayasekara, has one hell of a pedigree. With experience in one, two and three Michelin starred restaurants, Larry is one hell of an exciting addition to the Oxfordshire food scene... Judging by my first taste of his food, it won't be long before Larry earns The Manor some recognition of it's own!

I dined as a guest of The Manor, to sample their upcoming Winter menu

The Manor
OX25 3QL
Twitter: @themanorweston

Facebook: @The-Manor-at-Weston-on-the-Green
Phone: 01869 350621

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