Even the pictures on the website couldn’t do justice to the food at the Lamb, as MICHELLE TOMPKINS writes...


The Vicarage, Buckland, nr Faringdon SN7 8QN

Tel: 01367 870484

IT can be a big mistake to check a restaurant’s website before going there. All those images of plump, juicy steaks and sugar-dusted cheesecakes only serve to start your tummy rumbling and, more often than not, set you up for a fall.

My partner had checked The Lamb’s website just a few hours before we arrived for dinner and his mind was made up. “I know what I’m having – I want the fish and chips,” he said, resolutely. “It looks amazing on their website. I won’t be changing my mind.”

Having been fooled by false promises in the past, I thought his decision rash – and told him so.

The menu in our hands boasted of Kelmscott fillet of pork with black pudding stuffing balls (£17.50) and pan roasted rump of lamb with rosti potato (£18.50) Fish and chips seemed... well, frankly, they seemed a little boring.

He wavered momentarily when he spotted the sausages and mash with onion jus (£9.95), but he is nothing if not a man of his word. It was fish and chips he’d seen and it was fish and chips he’d have.

And although it pains me to admit he was right and I was wrong, on this occasion his resolve completely paid off. The fish and chips (“more like a shark,” as our waitress quipped) was possibly the most mouth-watering dish I’ve ever seen. At least a foot-long (yes, really), the beer-battered fillet sat on a plateful of golden brown handcut chips, with a ramekin of chunky homemade tartar sauce on the side This was as advertised, and more so. He was a very happy man – and I was left to eat my words.

The Lamb isn’t the easiest place to find, but it’s worth doing a couple of circuits of this pretty Oxfordshire village (four miles outside Faringdon) to track it down.

The appearance is encouraging from the very start. The Cotswold stone building itself looks clean and inviting, and as you set foot onto the flagstone floor the place feels cosy without being old and dusty.

There were only two other diners when we showed up at 7.45pm and, with it being a school night, I never really expected any more to join us. But by the time we left at 9.30pm, we could barely hear ourselves speak, the place was so full. It was mostly locals by the sounds of things, and I found that reassuring – it’s always a good sign when the people on the doorstep make a habit of popping in for dinner.

There were 10 starters on the menu and I genuinely could have eaten any one of them. Asparagus with homemade hollandaise (£8.50) was tempting, as were the cauliflower fritters with coriander yogurt (£6.95), but in the end I went for the earthier potted belly pork and puy lentils with beetroot chutney (£6.25). Served with two thick slices of granary toast, this little pot of richly flavoured pate was a meal in itself. Very tasty and a great way to start proceedings.

With the image of those fish and chips in his head, my partner went light for his starter, ordering the Thai beef salad with pak choi and cucumber (£6.95). The colourful leaves came scattered with slices of very rare beef and glistening in a dressing laced with dangerously red slithers of chilli. He loved the fiery flavour and the contrasting textures of the soft beef against the crunchy pak choi.

The tiniest pang of envy at those fish and chips was quickly quashed when my main course arrived; pan-fried tarragon gnocchi with seasonal wild garlic, on a watercress, chicory, Oxford blue cheese and pine nut salad (£10.25).

I’d ordered this out of curiousity more than anything, wondering what fried gnocchi would be like, but it was a great decision. Crispy on the edges, the gnocchi was packed full of flavour and the soft, oh-so-strong cheese added an unexpected punch. The taste and textures were so unusual that I attempted to get my partner to try some, but he was too busy devouring his shark to notice.

With a crisp, chilled glass of sauvignon blanc and a pint of Peroni, our bill came to £44.

We didn’t even bother looking at the desserts board, but I’d hazard a guess they would have been equally impressive.

There was probably even a sugar-dusted cheesecake on the menu somewhere.

It probably tasted just as good as it looked.