The 2012 Michelin guide has become my hit list for the year. Though too much fine dining can give me a stomach pain. Best way to tackle this was to blend in some gastropubs with a standard three course rather than eight or more. St Charles Napier fitted the bill perfectly. With over 35 years of experience, a Michelin star has finally landed this year. Compared to the mountain of fame received by Hand and Flower, this one has been rather discreet and the restaurant remains easy to book. So we took off last minute, to the countryside of Chinnor, an hour away from London.
I can’t imagine getting to this place without a car. Apart from driving through one of the narrowest uphills, some of the roads were barely visible on my sat nav. After a horrifying 15 minute uphill drive (although very beautiful), we finally arrived at the beautiful Sir Charles Napier. Surrounded by what seemed like an endless field and a few local farms, I felt like a true country girl. Though a car park full of porsche and Ferrari suggested otherwise.
If you look up this place, you’ll find a long list of positive reviews. Even Raymond Blanc had praised its scenery by quoting “it is a great place to bring your friends and family”. It was these comments that pushed us to visit Sir Charles Napier.
It would be the perfect place to go on a summery afternoon. When I admired this amazing garden, I imagined myself sitting on the bench with my book, casually enjoying lunch with endless sunshine on my back. One can dream!
Stepping into the gastropub, the boutique structure with a low ceiling called for cosiness and possibly a nap next to the fire. The intimate setting with only 10 tables or so was modernised by a range of animal themed sculptures created by Micheal Cooper. Out of which, I liked the woman with the grass afro and the snail.
The focaccia was too salty, but the raisin bread was delicious with dotted sweetness and both still warm in our hands.
Diver caught scallops with brandade and sweet and sour lentils
The scallops were cooked perfectly but I wasn’t sure that sweet and sour lentils were a good condiment. Maybe it’s an acquired taste but I like scallops with more settle condiments rather than the sharp combination of sweet and sour.
Roulade of spiced cornish crab with cucumber and soy
The cucumber was shaped perfectly into a roulade, perfect plating and excellent precision at shaping these cucumber slices. Taste was good too, refreshing with a chilling almost icy cool. I think I’d love this dish more in the summer, the icy cool reminded me how cold it was outside. The downside to this dish was the spices overwhelmed the crab, it tasted like a milder coleslaw. If I was blind folded, I wouldn’t be able to tell it was crab.
Turbot with pumpkin gnocchi, braised celeriac, chanterelle and parsley root puree
Turbot was cooked beautifully with an extra tender flesh and a very thin layer of crispy skin. I loved the pumpkin gnocchi. Rather than gnocchi, it was like a mini pumpkin pancake, firm, sticky and full of honey sweetness. I can probably eat 10 of these in one go!
Root vegetable hotpot with mushroom ravioli and cep veloute
This was the cutest dish I’ve seen all year! It reminded me of the mushrooms in Super Mario. Both knife work and the layering were impressive, I can imagine someone plating one layer on another just to make it perfect. The mushroom ravioli was packed with flavour and enhanced by the cep veloute. The foam with kale were great too. Nothing I could fault, looked perfect, tasted perfect and textured perfect.
Apple tart fine with calvados syrup and honey ice cream
This apple tart was quite disappointing. The beautiful look deceived us only to reveal a completely bland apple tart. The only element I liked was the honey ice cream, full of honey sweetness with a fragrant yet comforting vanilla aftertaste.
Verdict - 3/5
Food (delicious but not amazing) - compared to the Michelin starred Harwood Arms, Sir Charles Napier has a lot to catch up. Each dish had elements that could be improved, but overall dish flavour was good.
Service & ambience (friendly & country) - the scenery could easily beat any London restaurant and it’d be great on a summery day.
Cost (expensive) - our three course meals came to £98, which was quite pricy since the food wasn’t amazing but I guess Michelin comes with its price tag.