Main Street, HETHE, OX27 8ES
The Muddy Duck is family-owned and run by a close-knit team who are big on friendly, efficient service and high food standards - without the pompous style. This stone-built village pub is a sympathetic combination of old and new. Real ales are likely to include old favourites Hooky, Landlord and Tribute, from a cellar looked after by the knowledgeable Iain, himself a former innkeeper. The refurbished pub is a lively, welcoming place to enjoy a pint by the open fire, along with nibbles such as crispy pickled onion rings; honey mustard sausages with chorizo; sweet and salty pork crackling sticks; and hazelnut houmous with toasted tortilla strips. For more of a dining experience, take a reassuring peek through the kitchen viewing window before checking out the menu. It's divided into starters and salads, pub classics and 'main event' courses, with home-made desserts to finish. The Harris family is high on animal welfare, big on free-range and zero tolerance on short-cuts - in their words 'all fresh, no ping-and-ding here'; the only thing that comes frozen is the ice cream, and that's made by them, too. The rich offering of starters could include sautéed chicken livers with spiced brioche, braised onions and bacon crumbs; or grilled haloumi, watermelon, crunchy seeds, gordal olives and honey. Of the classics, you can pimp your cheeseburger with a sticky beef rib or blue cheese; the Cornish white fish with fat-cut chips is served with tartare sauce and watercress. Big hearted mains might be venison loin with thyme and garlic potatoes and sautéed spring greens; and slow-cooked lamb shoulder with tomato olives and capers. There's a terrace area for year-round outdoor dining.