Restaurant Review: The Bear Hotel, Woodstock, in Oxfordshire
The small, picturesque town of Woodstock in Oxfordshire belies its sleepy, cobbled cottage-box ‘nothing much happens here’ exterior, boasting a colourful history that dates back 50 years before the Norman Conquest.
Home to the Royal Manor, which now is more famously celebrated as Winston Churchill’s familial home Blenheim Palace, Woodstock has seen countless kings, queens, dukes and prime ministers pass through.
Last week I visited Woodstock to see a Bear called Winston, who resides at The Bear Hotel – one of the original coaching inns of old England, built in the 13th Century.
On stepping through the ancient entrance, the hotel’s enchanting atmosphere took over – beautiful staircases and log fires gave way to more prominent features such as beautiful old beams, proving the property’s 700 year old provenance.
As my group supped champagne in the front drinks bar, overlooking the cobbled streets and quaint shops outside, we pondered what it might have been like to stumble in as a weary traveller 500 hundred years ago – much the same experience we concluded, with The Bear’s cosy cavernous feel and friendly welcome.
We later dined in the main restaurant, overlooking the pretty courtyard, enjoying starters of John Ross Jr Smoked Salmon, herb crème fraiche, pickled cucumber, capers, scallops and a truffled sweet potato soup – all presented in a delicate, delicious fashion. And for mains, while most of our group greedily opted for a 28 Day Aged 8oz Rump Steak with red wine butter sauce, my friend’s mushroom gnocchi had a delicious depth of fungus flavour, in all the right way. Puds were equally moreish – a deconstructed Eton mess garnered equal delight as the sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel we ordered.
And as we had a wander around before setting back home, we also learned of the town’s glove-making history, witnessing antique gloves on display around the four-star hotel. We duly said our goodbyes to Winston – a life-size teddy bear who joins guest tables for dinner every night, and barely keeping our eyes open, sleepy and satisfied with an enchanting evening, we headed into a starry night.