The search for great pub food in 2017 continues and it’s time to return to another old favourite – The Star Inn at Sparsholt. We are meeting Jem and Sassy, a couple of our regular dining chums, for lunch. Sparsholt is a small Oxfordshire village just west of Wantage.
The menu here is always interesting with a mix of traditional pub dishes and then some that are clearly adventures into gastropub territory. A pint of Prospect from the Shotover Brewing Company puts me in the right frame of mind for lunch, it is a pale bitter with decent body and a pleasing amount of flavour.
Sassy has the pumpkin soup served with almonds, coriander and curry oil. Rock and Jem both have the smoked & curried chicken terrine with pickled raisins, salted cashews and a rosemary mayonnaise. I have the Cornish mackerel with Vietnamese quinoa, pineapple chutney, coriander and sriracha (a type of chilli sauce) sorbet. We all love our starters – a smooth and fully flavoured soup, a great chicken terrine and my mackerel is superb. The accompaniments are inventive and they work well.
Jem and I both move on to the roast partridge breasts served with a leg and apple sausage (presumably a partridge leg), salt baked celeriac, braised red cabbage & cider gravy. The partridge is tender and is complemented by the perfectly cooked vegetables and the rich cider gravy. Sassy has the roasted walnut gnocchi with wild mushrooms, celeriac, turnip, cauliflower and spinach cream. She likes the taste and the vibrant yellow of the cauliflower and the bright green spinach cream make the dish look amazing.
Rock has the Kentucky fried cod cheek burger with hand cut chips, pickled cucumber and roasted garlic coleslaw. It is well presented but she find’s the cod cheek quite firm – almost like monkfish. Also, she can’t taste any of the promised Kentucky spices. Disappointing.
Jem has the dark chocolate financier with praline mousse and mint chocolate chip ice cream for dessert. I have the orange tart with dark chocolate sorbet and candied almonds. Sassy has a selection of home-made vanilla ice cream and orange and autumn fruit sorbets. Rock simply has a coffee served with home made fudge.
Apart from Rock’s cod dish, the quality of the food has been really good. The service from Toby has been helpful and efficient throughout. This is certainly one of the better pub meals we’ve had during 2017.