28 Appleton Road, CUMNOR, nr Oxford, OX2 9QH
In typically tranquil Oxfordshire countryside, this 16th-century, stone-built dining pub has a rich history, not least having served as a billet for troops during the English Civil War. While the soldiers were here, Richard Cromwell, son of Oliver and Lord Protector of England, allegedly chiselled away the Royal Crest that once adorned the lintel above one of the doors in the bar, and Sir Walter Scott mentions this very Bear & Ragged Staff in his novel, Kenilworth. The chefs here take full advantage of the fresh, seasonal game available from local estates and shoots, since the surrounding woods and farmland teem with pheasant, partridge, deer, muntjac, rabbit, duck and pigeon. From the kitchen come hearty, country-style casseroles, stews, steaks, bangers and mash and other pub classics. Install yourself in one of the traditional bar rooms, all dressed stone and warmed by log fires, relax on the stone-flagged patio, or settle in the comfortable restaurant and ask for the eminently manageable menu. Create your own sharing platter from a choice of items to begin; then move on to guinea fowl with pumpkin purée, turnip tops, hazelnuts and sage; whole Cornish mackerel with lemon and herb crumb, salsify, leeks and crispy capers; or venison haunch with smoked potato purée, baby beetroot and winter berries. Afterwards there are artisan cheeses with crackers, celery, chutney and grapes, or, for the sweet-toothed, lemon posset with macerated raspberries and ginger biscuit; apple, cinnamon and sultana bread and butter pudding with Calvedos crème anglaise; or Valrhona chocolate and Guinness cake with chocolate sauce and salted caramel ice cream. The Bear has a climbing frame for children and dogs are welcome in the bar area.