Part of the reason for the spell cast by the Napier is the beautiful setting in which you find yourself. Drive west out of London on the M40 and after an hour, before you go as far as Oxford, you'll arrive at Chinnor. From there, a steep climb up a mostly single track road delivers you to the Sir Charles Napier and the instant reward for your endeavour is the most magnificent views across the Chiltern Hills. What's more, the Napier encourages you to enjoy it in all its glory for they boast a garden that seems to extend for ever and a naturally shaded outside terrace where guests can dine. The setting is therefore idyllic and The Sir Charles Napier the quintessential English country pub.
All this alone would be enough to pull in punters on any gorgeous summer day but as you have no doubt already guessed, they are also serious about food. Serious enough in fact to attract the attention of Michelin who awarded them a star earlier this year.
The menu is instantly appealing. While there's no real 'out there' dishes, everything however sounds attractive and narrowing you choice down to a single dish is hard. So hard in fact we ended up ordering three starters between two of us. The chosen starters were: Double baked smoked haddock and cheddar soufflé (£9.50), Scottish langoustine, shell off with heritage tomatoes, mozzarella and gremolata (£16.50) and Seared foie gras with malt loaf and rhubarb jelly (£15.50). The prices provided a small surprise, as can be seen in the previous sentence, they're not cheap and certainly not country pub prices so the food should be good.
To their credit, it is. The soufflé has an excellent lightness to it, the haddock delicately smoked rather than overpowering and as a dish overall, quite a summer's day pleasure. The malt loaf is more like a fruit cake, also lighter and less chewy than you might expect from its everyday name. The rhubarb is a giant spherification and the dish succeeds. The langoustines too are nice; they don't quite extract from the heritage tomatoes the huge flavours that some other restaurants have but it's a very eatable starter, as it should be as the most expensive on the menu.
In the major areas where they could fall down here, they didn't. The rack of lamb was perfectly cooked, the confit shoulder moist, the turbot as it should be and the risotto well executed. There were nice additional touches also with golden sultanas adding juicy sweetness to the lamb dish while the broth (served on the side) was a nice spring alternative to a jus or gravy. It's a modest criticism that the cockles and cucumber on the turbot were fridge cold but placed on a warm risotto but that's really as far as criticism goes.
On the other side of the table is a sticky toffee pudding and banana mille feuille though the passion fruiy sorbet has been replaced on our request with cherry bakewell ice cream. This too is good, fairly light (as STPs go) but there's less ownership here by the Napier on a traditional dish.
Return to homepage
The Sir Charles Napier website