Mole and Chicken
Easington, nr Long Crendon
Where to start? With the fabulous story of how an aspiring chef took over a random and isolated village pub miles from anywhere near Long Crendon and spent six years building the business up into a revered restaurant that the rich and famous flock to from miles around? Or should I just concentrate on the rich and famous themselves?
Because they are the ones who have been hugging the headlines recently, from Wills and Kate who popped in for Sunday lunch after a wedding, to the Blairs, Jay Kay from Jamiroquai and Richard E Grant to name but a few.
And I garnered some great nuggets of information while I was there, which you can regurgitate at your next pub trivia quiz or impress your royalist relatives with. The royal party sat outside with friends and no one knew they were there until the waitress went to take their order and then burst into the kitchen to tell head chef Steve Bush. “I didn’t believe her, I thought she was pulling my leg,” he laughs. The royal duo had two bodyguards with them, nothing in comparison to Tony and Cherie who had six. Imagine trying to have a conversation about whose turn it is to put the bins out or whisper sweet nothings into your loved one’s ears with six hefty men in black standing around you.
As for our future king, Wills had the risotto and Kate had the fish and chips, and having sampled both (well you’ve got to haven’t you?) understood why, although I thought risotto an odd choice for a man for what its worth.
That they were there at all, though, is all down to Steve, because considering the pages of media coverage and hype surrounding the Mole and Chicken recently, I was almost disappointed when drawing up outside on Saturday night.
Not that it isn’t a beautifully quaint-looking village pub, but nothing that made it stand out from the hundreds of other beautifully quaint village pubs that blanket Oxfordshire like a rash.
And yes, it was packed to the rafters, every table brimming with eager clientele, desperate to see what all the fuss was about, but there were also others who looked like they’d been before.
It’s been a long time coming though, according to Steve who has been beavering away in the kitchens since taking over all those years ago. He remembers turfing out the chemically induced rib-style menu on arriving at the Easington pub, just past Thame, and being astounded when the locals then left in droves. “It was awful. I remember walking home after a long shift six months in and wondering what the point was,” he remembers. But word soon spread, and a whole new crowd appeared who appreciated good, honest, fresh, local food, which, after all, was why we were sniffing around for a table as well.
The warm sourdough bread with olive oil & balsamic set the pace, being baked on site, which knocked our socks off. The starters followed suit, my smoked mackerel pâté with beetroot relish and pea shoots defying belief, having a smokiness usually only associated with dishes such as babaganoush — totally delicious.
The asparagus came with goat curd, peas and a crispy poached egg and the squid was supreme, and only the duck salad a disappointment, not delivering on the piquant Thai flavours that were promised.
We had better luck with the fish and chips, beautifully cooked hunks of fish and well-cooked, seasoned, chunky Jenga-style chips. The pan-fried cod with mushy peas and bacon, herring roes and mussel cream was also enjoyed, although Mr Greedy wasn’t sure about herring roe full stop, and the pork belly, if slightly overcooked, was rescued by the accompanying scallops, mash, apple and black pudding. Only our vegetarian friend sighed and said ‘risotto again’ but then if it’s good enough for Wills who was she to complain?
Pudding was another highlight, the caramelised apple tart with cinnamon ice cream defying belief, Mr Greedy’s eyes going all whirly like a Disney character as he spooned it into his mouth. The sticky toffee pudding was another stand-alone dessert, which my friend had to protect with her hands, so many spoons were pecking at it like starved hens.
The raspberry brûlée was as good as any and in fact only the pannacotta, which was more of a mousse than the milky jelly I’d been hoping for, was a let down.
So there we are – job done, and as we headed back out to reality, and I wandered where all these celebrities park their helicopters, I supposed that if the rich and famous are going to venture into normal life, The Mole and Chicken is as good a place to start as any.
Opening times: Open seven days a week. Food served: 12–2.30pm, drinks and nibbles 2.30–6.30pm, ,dinner: 6–9pm.
Parking: Yes for cars, not sure about helicopters though
Key personnel: Husband
and wife team Steve and Suzanne Bush
n Make sure you try the... Smoked mackerel pâté, beetroot relish and pea shoots £7.50; beer-battered market fish, buttered peas, chips and tartare sauce £13; caramelised apple tart, cinnamon ice cream £6.50; sticky toffee pudding, caramel
ice cream £6.50
In ten words: The place to
be with great food and