BRIGHTWELL BALDWIN, nr Watlington, OX49 5NP
In Nelson's day the pub was known as the Admiral Nelson but when, in 1797, the great man was elevated to the peerage, the pub's name was elevated accordingly. In 1905 the inn closed following complaints about over-indulgent estate workers, but several years later the building was bought by a couple who gave it a complete makeover. The Lord Nelson finally reopened on Trafalgar Day 1971, but today it's known simply as The Nelson. As you approach down the lane, look for the union flags flying patriotically outside. Its quiet position makes it a great getaway for a country walk before opening time. The interior is full of fresh flowers, and tables lit by candles in the evening are warmed by a splendid inglenook fireplace. In summer the pretty terraced garden with its weeping willow is popular for alfresco eating and drinking; seafood lovers should check out the dates of the annual crab and lobster festival. All food is freshly cooked, using local produce where possible. Starters might include local pigeon breast with smoked bacon and black pudding; or paprika-dusted whitebait with lemon and caper mayo. Main courses reflect the pub's proudly British traditions: expect the likes of rack of English lamb, dauphinoise potatoes, and spinach with rosemary and red wine jus; or chunky cod fillet with mixed bean cassoulet and skinny fries. Vegetarian options have much appeal: goats' cheese en croute, roasted peppers and tomato with balsamic glaze and dressed salad. If refreshment is all that's required, ales include Loose Cannon from Abingdon, or North Yorkshire's much respected Black Sheep. Weston's ciders and around 20 wines served by the glass complete the drinks line-up.