I can’t stay away. It’s become embarrassing; every time The Cinnamon Stick opens its doors, there I am panting to be let in, desperate to be fed, like a stray dog.

But it had to be done, I had to go back; images of the food haunting me until I could satisfy my cravings, knowing that until I tasted the softness of the moutabel, the sharpness of the tabbouleh, the crispiness of the feta and mint parcels, the richness of the moussaka, that I couldn’t rest.

I didn’t care that it would be within three days of my last visit and that I might look a bit...... well keen, I needed more.

Knowing my way around the former Carpenter’s Arms in Middle Barton by now, I ordered our food before head chef and owner Khalid had even put his whites on.

I don’t need a menu because I can recite the wonderful Lebanese menu off by heart. And yes I did say Lebanese, even if it is buried in deepest, deepest Oxfordshire.

Khalid and his niece Ghazala are Syrian and, having cooked in some of the county’s finest restaurants such as The Feathers, he’s decided to go it alone with some good old-fashioned home-cooking.

Still, not the most auspicious of sites, but to be in with a chance you have to bring something new to the table, whether it’s redoing an old pub or introducing a new cuisine to a receptive audience, and Khalid is doing both.

Nicely decorated, if simple, The Cinnamon Stick is full of authentic touches with a considerable dining room area. The garden outside beckoned however on such a sunny day, replete with flowers and tables. We were still the only people there though, which is a shame because the food is so good, but having only been open a few months, word will soon spread.

All the old favourites were there on the menu but the chef’s special mezze (£14.95), which can also be ordered as a vegetarian selection, included all my favourites, so we ordered one each. In hindsight, we should have shared because the portions are generous but it meant we feasted like kings.

From the moment the hot fresh pittas and dishes of moutabel (grilled aubergine and tahini puree with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil) and houmous arrived at our table, alongside the obligatory plate of vegetable pickles we knew we were in for a treat. Smooth, soft and silky, the smokey, mild aubergine was heaven, the houmous similarly velvety They contrasted strongly with the lemony, herb based tabbouleh salad, (made with tomato, onion, parsley, bulgur wheat and mint.) Then platters of pastries from an irony herb and cheese Sanbousek Bil Jibneh with soft feta and mint to the Fatayer Sebanikh (with spinach, onion, middle eastern spice, olive oil and lemon), and meatier Kibbeh stuffed with finely chopped onions, minced lamb and pine nuts, and the more common falafel blended with onion, coriander and cumin.

Zahra Maqlia is one of my favourite dishes, and we spied Khalid carrying a fresh cauliflower into the kitchen ready to spice and fry its pieces before serving them with a tahini dressing. Delicious.

A plate of Kellage Halloumi - flatbread stuffed grilled halloumi cheese and fresh mint was a bit measly on the cheese however, so you got none of that textured rub.

We also ordered some Batata Harra (£3.95), a middle eastern version of patas bravas, (lightly fried, diced and baked potato with garlic, chilli and chopped coriander), packing a good heat.

The Lebanese Moussaka (£4.50)=, a cold dish of grilled aubergine stewed with onion, tomatoes, chickpeas and sweet peppers was another stand out offering, perfectly complementing all that came before. And finally, a portion of Warak Inab (£4.50), vine leaves stuffed with rice, tomato, parsley and onion, served with yoghurt dip. What a magnificent feast, all washed down with Lebanese rose.

We tried three of the desserts - Ma’amoul pastries filled with

dates, pistachios or walnuts, Muhlaya, a creamy panna cotta style pudding, and a subtle cinnamon ice cream.

‘So what did you think?’ I asked my son as he wiped his lips, impressed. “It should be full,” he said looking around him at the empty tables, “because the food is awesome.” And it really is.

The Cinnamon Stick, 122 North Street, Middle Barton, OX7 7DA


01869 340440