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The Company of Weavers, Witney
Cheap, cheerful and consistent —these are the three ‘cs’ that keep me a loyal customer of the J D Wetherspoon pub chain. Folk inclined to criticise me for upmarket tastes in food might be surprised to learn that I eat in one or other of their establishments at least once a week and sometimes even more often. My favourite dishes include chicken, chorizo and spinach pasta, five bean chilli with basmati rice and — on Tuesday grill nights — the amazing value sirloin steaks which can be enjoyed by the pair of us with a bottle of wine for around £16, according to the venue.
Giving credit where it is due, I must report myself hugely impressed by the company’s latest pub on my patch. At a cost of £1.3m, the former Palace nightclub in Market Square, Witney, has been tastefully transformed into The Company of Weavers. The name celebrates Witney’s long tradition of blanket making, which is also marked by photographs and other memorabilia throughout the premises. Oxfordshire History Centre has been fairly credited for its input where these are concerned.
Still evident, too, in the decor is the building’s history as the town’s cinema. The Electric Theatre opened one year short of a century ago, with separate entrances “for different classes of patrons”.
Today, everyone mucks in together, of course, with top-class design throughout. This applies particularly in the loos whose stylish decoration seemed to me to be on a par with that found in any luxury hotel.
Making use of the excellent S1 bus service from Oxford, Rosemarie and I arrived in Witney in time for a sharpener in The Blue Boar, another of the town’s splendid new catering operations that are beginning to show up Oxford by comparison. A second drink was suggested by me but firmly ruled out: my companion wanted her lunch.
Crossing to The Company of Weavers we arrived to find that the table we might have chosen above all others was just coming free. In a building not blessed (for obvious reasons) with much natural light, we were pleased to seat ourselves right next to the front window with a view out to the Buttercross. Soon our vision was firmly fixed closer to hand as, orders having been made at the bar, food began to arrive with commendable speed. First, though, came our wine, a bottle of fruity Hardy’s chardonnay (£6.99) which had been placed, with no need for Rosemarie to ask, in an ice bucket.
Though our Wetherspoon meals are generally a one-course affair, we decided this time to make our test more complete by ordering starters. Mine was a generous bowl of organic tomato and basil soup (£3.10), an ideal warmer on a chilly day which (as the menu helpfully advised) amounted to 418 calories with the bloomer bread. There was no information of this sort for Rosemarie: perhaps her chicken and Ayrshire bacon pâté (£3.10), with toasted bloomer bread, was not a dish for the calorie conscious.
Nor, very definitely, was my main course — the 35-day matured Aberdeen Angus 14oz rump steak (£12.20, with a glass of merlot thrown in). This was a superb piece of meat cooked medium as requested, with chips, peas, mushroom and tomato. Rather less greedily, Rosemarie opted for the seasoned salmon fillet (£7.69) — moist and tender — served with a jug of hollandaise sauce, a salad with dressing and a baked potato.
But then she was planning to round off with the Belgian waffle and ice cream. That little lot (though it set us back only £2.40) was 555 calories, without taking account of the maple-flavour syrup.