The Sir Charles Napier is considered a proper posh treat in my house. Strictly reserved for the very best occasions. Milestone birthdays, big celebrations – that sort of thing. However, with no such opportunity presenting itself pre-Christmas, a spot of lateral thinking was required. I managed to convince Dave we should indulge ourselves for our Third Married Datenight (big deal, these third married datenights).
By the time we made it up the hill to Sprigg’s Alley (near Chinnor) in late December, I was running on empty. My trademark chaotic and lastminute.com approach to Christmas shopping (and life) is not for the fainthearted. But that’s a whole other story. The point is that I was in need of a spot of soul-healing and a trip to the Sir Charles Napier could provide just that.
This cosy Oxfordshire haven, with its open fires, plush sofas and low beams is THE perfect place to be on a wet Winter’s evening. Even before my stiff (and mighty) Margarita arrived I could feel the symptoms of a manic December slip away. Cue: some slow hand jazz and the smell of wood smoke (and ok, just a little tequila) and… ah… relaxed at last.
After cocktails and an amuse bouche (pork dumplings), we were taken to the dining room. It’s charming and homely with mismatched chairs and quirky sculptures. The latter are work by the landlady’s husband. The landlady, by-the-by, also happens to be mother-in-law to Lilly Allen (or so I read).
We ordered from a varied seasonal menu – celeriac veloute followed by roast halibut for me. Scallops, then venison for Dave. Well presented, delicious and all very lovely indeed. We probably discussed our latest thrilling DIY project (study shelving) or something very middle-aged and married, but somehow that lovely F. Scott Fitzgerald quote found its way into my head:
What can I say, I’m a hopeless romantic at heart. Or it’s just the effect this place has on me. Or it’s the second Margarita. Whatever. I didn’t share with Dave, knowing he’d probably reach across the table and feel my forehead for a fever. Truthfully though – a perfect, perfect little date venue.
We passed on the lyrical-sounding ‘Treacle Tart with Stout Ice Cream and St Clement’s Curd’ (say that aloud and tell me it doesn’t sound like a nursery rhyme) to allow room for some cheesy delights (my own lyrical ability, clearly somewhat lacking). Enter ‘The Cheese Man’, so nicknamed by his colleagues for his love of all things smelly, veiny, waxy and… well… cheesy. He talked us through his personal selection with great passion and I almost wish I had abstained from that second Margarita (and subsequent bubbles), to remember the names of exactly what we chose. It was delish though and right up to the Michelin Star standards of preceding courses.
I’m super keen to get back to the Sir Charles Napier in the Summer. Beautiful gardens and beechwood walks surround the property and dining extends onto the wisteria-clad terrace (I do love a bit of wisteria).
Now to invent a Summertime ‘special occasion’ to justify a return visit…
I’m always on the lookout new Chiltern restaurant recommendations, so please, if you have some to share, leave a reply below…