Mr Glam may not be a lady who lunches, but he’s certainly a bloke who breakfasts, well, eats cake actually, but at breakfast time. At weekends we’re often found in the local coffee shop catching up on the weeks events, cake in one hand, his and poached eggs in the other, mine. If we’ve got a free Saturday we’ll go exploring further afield, hoping to find some foodie goodies.
Many of the pubs here are going broke, closing down or frequently changing hands as they stumble from one owner to another. That can’t be said of recently opened, The Quince Tree in Stonor, which friends had been telling me to visit. This is the site of the old Stonor Arms and could not be further from a mere pub format. A huge glass and oak extension has been added to the original building, which is still a pub with great looking food, local beer and friendly staff. But also a wonderful deli, a cafe and soon to open fine dining restaurant.
Pulling into the car park, boarded with a minimalist garden of herbs, roses, swaying grasses and a quince tree, we knew we’d made a good choice for our foray. You enter the cafe through the deli, where shelves piled with wonderful bright tins of olive oil and Spanish anchovies vie for attention with the heritage fresh vegetables, colourful fruit and an amazing deli counter.
Fat sausage rolls, Iberico ham, smoked cured beef and dishes of salads such as rocket, fennel and parmesan share a counter with French, British, Italian and local cheeses. There’s a long bakery counter with French style pastries and fresh, fat loaves of walnut, sourdough and Campagne bread. Needless to say we chatted with the girl behind the cake counter as Mr Glam eyed up his breakfast choice. We were told, with pride, that the chefs are trained in French patisserie making. And the tarts do have that shiny perfection that one only usually finds in a fine cake shop.
The cafe, constructed from massive oak beams and oceans of glass, could be a rather stark environment, but it’s contrasted with soft blue contemporary chairs, and modular sofas around oval coffee tables, making it light bright and comfortable to sit in. I had poached eggs with mushrooms on toast, each mouthful a burst of creamy, lemon freshness from the hollandaise sauce. Mr Glam chose an Eccles Cake, stuffed with fruit and perfect sugar crisp pastry and a narrow slab of buttery yellow sponge cake studded with raspberries, a little bit like a flat raspberry Madeleine. After coffees and a quick scoot through the newspapers, provided by the cafe, we went shopping. Bread, tomatoes for salad, candy stripe beetroot and a selection of cow and sheeps chesses were all brought home for a kitchen picnic.
We popped into the pub for a look around on the way back to the car. Comfortable and contemporary with an oak floor and a large bar, this is still a pub in the traditional mould, with a friendly knowledgable barman to recommend whats on tap or which wine to choose. Deciding it was a little early for a lunchtime glass of wine, we promised to be back for a meal soon. Perhaps this is the new future for our pubs, Mr Glam and I could have a great time on a revamped pub crawl – cake all the way.
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The Quince Tree. Stonor. Oxfordshire. RG9 6HE