Katherine MacAlister discovers The Kings Arms is holding its own amid a burgeoning culinary scene

Having really come into its own in the last few months, Woodstock is now firmly on the culinary map.

The opening of The Crown, a sister pub to The Anchor in Jericho and The Duke of Cambridge in Little Clarendon Street, created a flurry of publicity and excitement, The Star does very good tapas and its summer burger shack is a big hit, while The Feathers has got a new chef, placing it firmly back in Oxfordshire’s fine dining echelons.

Meanwhile, peddling away quite happily onwards, without batting an eyelid, The Kings Arms has ignored this steady stream of young pretenders and carried on doing what it does best; classy, easy food, The Ivy of Woodstock if you like.

And so, at a loss one lunchtime, we decided to give it a go. It was packed on a sunny but wintery January day, but with two dining rooms they managed to sneak us on to a corner table and left us in a nice young waiter’s hands, whose grandparents were dining next to us.

Guests were reading the papers by a roaring fire, a well-dressed set was already ensconced at the bar and the rest were eating and chatting without a care in the world, a definite oasis from everyday life.

This is largely due to the excellent efforts of ex-Gees and Old Parsonage head chef Simon Cottrell, pictured above, whose food keeps everyone coming back for more, and covers a wide range of tastes and expectations, from smart mini-breakers to casual locals.

Knawing contentedly on the deep fried olives which are well worth the trip alone, we ignored the delicious sounding starters and larder sharing boards – conscious of the school run deadlines – and instead waded straight in with the all-consuming sounding burgers; a Kings Burger with stilton and bacon, horseradish coleslaw and chips (£13.75), and the butter bean and walnut burger with portobello mushroom, English cheddar and chips for £12.50.

Not cheap by any means, but then this is a well to-do hotel, with a matching restaurant and its food reflects that.

Immense, juicy, generous, well cooked, tasty and fresh, I was very impressed. The chips were delicious, crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle and the horseradish coleslaw had a real kick to it. But more than that both burgers were well balanced with the other flavours, so that you didn’t deconstruct the burger and eat the sum of its parts but took the plunge and ate the whole thing in one go. In short, it didn’t just look pretty but tasted swell as well, so we finished the lot with a smack of our lips and a messy grin.

Which meant of course that we were far too full for the delicious sounding pear and almond tart with Jersey cream £6.25 or the forced rhubarb sundae at £6 and settled on coffee and the bill instead which came in at under £30.

It does mean however, that in terms of revisits The Kings Arms is right up there on my list of places to go back to as soon as is humanly possible.

The Kings Arms,
19 Market Street, Woodstock
01993 813636 kings-hotel-woodstock.co.uk

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