News that the Killingworth Castle in Wootton, near Woodstock, had finally been awarded its second AA Rosette was greeted with howls of joy and much celebrating.

Deserving every accolade under the sun, the historic pub is often overlooked for its more trendy, pretentious contemporaries.

True The Killy, as it’s known by its regulars, has had some tricky staffing issues with head chefs coming and going with the regularity of Trump’s White House advisors, its front-of-houses seeming to change between courses.

But finally landlords Claire and Jim Alexander have found the right people at a very timely interval, cue head chef David Hall, exec chef Darral Warner and Ellie Web-Morris managing the restaurant itself.

All of which gave me the perfect excuse to revisit mid-week, beginning with a drink in the exquisitely peaceful and picturesque beer garden.

Unbeknown to us, it was also a ‘feast night’, Killy holding specialist food evenings to celebrate whatever is in season. On the night in question it was asparagus, so we had the option of both menus. What to choose?

So began a long debate which involved the tables on each side taking opposite points of view. “ASPARAGUS” the girl on my left shouted, “A LA CARTE” the woman on my right.

I could hear her shouting ‘asparagus’ from the car park as they drove off, as if she had Tourette’s. I had already chosen, and, in something like a scene from Harry Met Sally, I pointed at the next-door table and mouthed. “I’ll have what she’s having.”

The poor waiter misunderstood me and returned with a pint of Yubby’s ale instead, but we got there in the end. Her main was a fresh homemade tagliatelli of wild mushrooms, truffle oil, rocket, pickled fennel and parmesan (£14) which looked divine. A la carte it was then.

It offered a lovely, concise, crisp menu: six starters, six mains and the ‘Killy classics’ of fish and chips and burgers etc.

In the end we ordered three starters because we simply couldn’t choose: the Evesham asparagus with a round of melted butter, (£8) the twice baked cheese souffle with pickled heritage beetroot, stilton and pecan salad (£8) and the cured chalk stream trout with apple, radish, pickled walnut and crab mayonnaise which was as light as a feather and zinging with freshness.

The asparagus was beautifully cooked and left to speak for itself, but the souffle won hands down. Pretty as a picture, its puffy, soft contents were accentuated by the composite parts of soft, sweet beetroot slithers and the crunch of the pecan salad, the cheese delicate rather than overpowering.

A gift of a dish.

Then the pasta for me and the whole grilled Torbay sole with saffron potatoes, sea vegetables, brown shrimp and a caper and lemon butter (£17.50) for her.

The fish was the star of the show, simply but effectively cooked in a moreish caper and lemon butter, accompanied by the whole, bright yellow saffron potatoes, juicy samphire and tiny brown shrimps.

But it was the desserts that stole the show. The vanilla pannacotta with citrus pistachio cake, candied pistachio and a raspberry and white chocolate sauce was so heavenly it stopped me in my tracks – just the right consistency as it sucked away from the spoon, the sharpness of the fruit dots contrasting with the sweet vanillary wobble.

The chocolate mousse with a perfect peanut butter parfait, salt caramel, peanut and cocoa nib tuille was beautifully balanced, neither too dark or light, too sharp or sweet, its elements complementing each other, no one ingredient overpowering its fellow components. Once again Killingworth Castle had lived up to its reputation.

I could return every night of the week, because it’s not only a relaxed, gentle and inspiring place, but the food speaks volumes about the care being lavished in the kitchen.

I’m just glad that after years of shouting from the turrets, the AA has rewarded the Wootton pub near Woodstock accordingly.

It absolutely deserves it.

Katherine MacAlister

The Killingworth Castle

Glympton Road



Contact: 01993 811 401

Open: Daily: 9am until close