In splendid contrast to the current vegan trend sweeping the country, it’s all about the meat at The Boxing Hare.

Because as soon as you arrive, and are led through to the dining room at the back of the bar, you are faced with a giant refrigerator where steaks slowly age over 50 days, blackening slowly like Tutankhamun.

“It’s Nick’s thing,” our waitress told us as the men in our party licked their lips, as if sitting outside the Three Little Pigs straw house, preparing to huff, puff and blow their house down.

The visible refrigeration concept is apparently so successful that Nick has had to order another fridge just to keep up with demand. Steaks are the way forward it would seem at The Boxing Hare in Swerford.

Not that should deter anyone with a slightly more delicate constitution, because the menu is plentiful and varied, husband and wife combo team Nick Anderson and Kate covering all the bases in the kitchen.

But first let’s go back, because many of you will remember The Boxing Hare in its previous incarnation The Masons Arms which went from being a revered to fairly average country pub.

It was then bought up by intrepid Londoners Stacey C Elder and her partner Antony Griffith-Harris, presumably because of its proximity to Soho Farmhouse, a mere Cotswold stone throw’s away. So when The Farmhouse residents get bored of kale smoothies and quinoa salads they can cross the road and sink their teeth into Nick’s juicy Cote de Boeuf.

Despite my best efforts to deter the rest of my party from the inevitable, touting the wonderful array of dishes from mussels to turbot, duck to hake and venison to rabbit, as soon as Stacey materialised to take our order it was steaks all round. The caveman is thriving in West Oxfordshire, dressed in red trousers nowadays.

I did manage to fend off the Neanderthals until the mains though, sampling the delicious sounding and excellent tasting twice baked, cave aged cheddar soufflé (£6.50); the sweetcorn fritters with sweet chilli, ginger, lime and a coriander dip (£5) which were sweet and sour, crispy and soft; and some wonderfully earthy sautéed local wild mushrooms on toast with a poached duck egg, the pungent juices soaking into the toast below. (£6.50)

But with their eye on the prize, there was no diverting the pack, all opting for the 10oz rib-eye (£28), while I delicately picked at the equally hearty pumpkin ravioli with spinach, chive butter sauce and gruyere (£14.50).

Having been dry aged for 50 days, each piece being moved up the fridge, its label telling Nick everything he needed to know, they were always going to be a triumph.

Served plain or with béarnaise, peppercorn sauce or house butter and two sides, (choose from thrice cooked chips, spinach, seasonal salad, tomato and shallot salad, or flower sprouts, buttered January King cabbage or Mudwall’s purple sprouting broccoli) the beautifully cooked meat melted in the mouth. The triple cooked chips were crunchy outside and soft inside and the peppercorn sauce was creamy and rich without being overpowering.

We could have left it at that and retired home quite happily. Except that a little bird had told me that the desserts were equally as moreish, sous chef Kate coming into her own in the pudding department. So we went for it, ordering four different dishes (£7 each) and waiting as expectantly as for the Easter Bunny on Resurrection Sunday.

And she surpassed herself: the warm chocolate fondant with salted caramel, chocolate and almond crumb and an espresso ice cream still memorable; the sticky toffee and medjool date pudding with vanilla ice cream a great take on a sticky toffee; and the vanilla creme brulee with blood orange compote, as pictured below, an instant hit. But it was the iced peanut butter parfait, honeycomb and caramelised banana that literally took the biscuit.

Top marks then for this reincarnation, which firmly sticks to its own guns, despite its trendy clientele, and hits the mark right between the eyes.


Banbury Rd, Swerford,

Chipping Norton


01608 683212

Opening times:

Lunch: Wednesday to Saturday:

11am to 3pm

Sunday: noon to 5pm

Evenings: Tuesday to Friday: 6pm to 10pm

Saturday: 6pm to 10.30pm