In a nutshell
The Kitchen is a restaurant that believes food should speak for itself. With none of the airs or graces you expect from an ex-Savoy chef-owner, the restaurant has been in the hands of husband-and-wife team, Anthony and Jo Robinson, for the past 15 years as a gastropub. But at the start of this year it was transformed into the kind of place they wanted to eat at.
It now has an almost supper club feel, with mismatch furniture, ornate plates, bottles of water studded with cucumber ribbons, cutlery and napkins, loads of primary colours and a real personal touch. The revolutionised menu is simple but well thought out, focusing on what’s available (mostly from their kitchen garden) and the place has a chameleon atmosphere – great for both people wanting a four-course meal, and dog walkers looking for a half pint and a bowl of water.
Co-owner and chef Anthony Robinson – who also worked at The Dorchester before setting up a fine-dining catering company with his food marketing wife, Jo – works with head chef Dan to compile the menus. They’re often rewritten daily to accommodate the fast-moving garden and rows of herbs and edible flowers.
Anthony and Jo travel the world looking for new inspiration, introducing dishes such as sticky spiced pork chop with mash, garden veg and mustard crème fraiche. It features silky hot and sweet molasses and a chili glaze.
The Kitchen’s menu is packed with interesting British food finds, including heritage tomatoes and whipped westcombe ricotta, Hook Norton duck eggs, Worcestershire bacon (like a speck ham) and Sussex halloumi. Cornish stone bass and lamb are joined by ‘garden vegetables’ that are pulled out of the ground that day. It’s great sitting here, watching the sun go down from the window, as the gardener outside finishes tending to the edible flowers for the day.
The menu sets the place up for all kinds of different occasions, too – you can get small dishes, large dishes, kitchen bites like a mug of soup, or plates from their Robata charcoal grill and traditional stone pizza oven, both outside in the beer garden.
What’s the room like/atmosphere
The revamp has instilled a chilled-out vibe – from the way the staff smile at you, you get the feeling that nothing would ever cause much commotion here.
Menu must-orders and misfires
Despite all this talk of freshness and edible flowers, the killer dish here was the five-spiced and triple-cooked piggy pork scratchings – you get a massive board of them for just £3.75 with sweet chilli dip, and I defy any meat eater to resist these salty, crisp sticks of pork fat.
Other, only slightly less fattening highlights included a crispy fried hooky duck egg, which was a kind of deconstructed scotch egg: an open-topped, lightly boiled egg breadcrumbed and fried, then wrapped in Worcestershire bacon, and surrounded by super-fresh raw peas in the pod, pea shoots and pea flowers, all poised for dunking. The food is indulgent, but there’s loads of fresh veg to balance it all out. Next time we visit, we’re ordering small plates, like tapas, so we can try more.
British ales and spirits are big here, but it was disappointing not to see British wines on the menu – although the safe-bet Malbec was more than adequate. Be sure to order the Cotswolds Dry Gin from Warwickshire’s The Cotswold Distilling Company, which made a smooth and delicate G&T.
What else did you like/dislike?
The completely seasonal and garden-inspired retro English strawberry tasting plate was a sterling end to the meal. Using strawberries from the PYO farm down the road, it included mini portions of arctic roll, cheesecake, strawberry meringue, strawberry sorbet and strawberry blancmange, with a strawberry marshmallow on a stick!
On the downside, despite the emphasis on vegetable-centric eating, the menu was very meat and fish based, and so surprisingly limiting for vegetarians.
The Kitchen is the result and benefit of years of research and hard graft. The style and energy of the food and garden really works together to create a very holistic, feel-good offering, which gives great value for people who care about where the food on their plate comes from.
Written by Liz O’Keefe (seasonaldinnerparties.co.uk), July 2016
Farnborough, near Banbury
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