I was recently invited to The Perch, Oxford to try their new spring menu. Never having been before I was agog with curiosity as I had heard all good things. Based in Northwest Oxford it’s a handy location, sited near to Port Meadow and, thus, offering succour to parched walkers as well as the Rah lunchtime crowd. The drive there was an adventure of the unexpected. The Sat Nav lead me through the strange urban dreariness of the Oxford outskirts, past one or two business parks and industrial estates until I despaired of ever finding The Perch to be the rural idyll of pub-hood I’d heard it touted as. Almost as soon as this thought crossed my mind I turned left, went over a small bridge and found myself in the depths of the green and pleasant countryside in which Oxfordshire specialises.
It was a particularly balmy evening to go for a jolly, bearing in mind the rather frigid Spring we’d been having until then (and, unfortunately, since…). The sun was slowly lowering in the sky as a hazy mist enveloped the fields, creating a magical soft-focus effect. What a shame I was with a very good girlfriend and not my beloved, who was home, wrestling the Smalls.
First impressions were, well, impressive. A very old,very English type of edifice surrounded by fields – perfect pubby sort of appearance. The inside matched the exterior, with exposed beams, open fires, wonky wooden tables, uneven white-washed stone walls: all very atmospheric.
I even took a quick bimble around the gardens and was much taken with the rough hewn benches, arches entwined with fairy lights and light-hearted touches such as barrels planted with annuals. I even stuck my nose inside the permanent Marquee, erected for private events like weddings. I tell you, if I hadn’t already had my wedding (nearly a decade ago now – eek!) I’d be mighty tempted to explore the possibility of having it here.
As I mentioned before, I was with a good friend of mine whose only fault, as far as I can tell, is the fact she’s a staunch vegetarian. She, and I to be honest, were seriously impressed to see that there were as many vegetarian options as meat (four of each) as well as two fish. Not only that, but a range of allergy/intolerances were catered to also, and there was even a vegan option or two. If you struggle to eat out then it might be worth checking them out.
The lights were low, there were candles and fresh flowers on the tables, the food was fabulous – freshly baked bread, inventive accompaniments, good portion sizes (generous without being excessive), service was prompt but not rushed, friendly but not obsequious. Once again the mood was set for a romantic meal a-deux, a promise that was not quite met by the two mums comparing notes on their irritating four-year-olds!
If you’re looking for a romantic night out, a gastronomic treat for a group of friends, a great place to take visiting rellies to experience the delights of locally-sourced Oxfordshire food then I would absolutely say this was your place. If you had a small person with you then I am certain they would be adequately catered for with both a childrens’ menu and accommodating staff *however* I suspect it would very much depend on both the child in question and the other diners as to whether it could be classed as child-friendly.
I would really have to check it out with my kids in tow in order to make a definitive assessment, but I suspect the open fires, nooks and crannies, enticing geegaws and decorative whoojits would be far too tempting to wee monkeys like mine – not to mention the stunning, but seemingly unfenced gardens bordering the river. I may be completely wrong, but I can’t imagine it being a very relaxing meal there with children unless your children were considerably older and/or more sensible than mine!
This is a minor point, though. Everybody knows eating out is more fin without children than with, and for lazy summer drinks or cosy winter meals I can think of few places I’d rather spend an evening child free! Oh – and the loos were spotless, odourless and very attractive. A huge selling point to me. Kudos, The Perch.