Food Friday: The Mole Inn, Toot Baldon, Oxfordshire

by Amy & the world

Two apologies this week: one for the lack of a Food Friday last week. I have no good excuse for it… Secondly, I forgot to take my camera to this restaurant and it’s lacking in food photos on Google Images. So I’m afraid you’re just going to have to imagine how good it looks. But there are interior shots, and it’s pretty, so I hope that makes up for it in some way!

It’s always useful to have a fall-back restaurant. Somewhere close by where you can guarantee a good meal. In my last year in London, it was The Stag in Hampstead. In my university years at Cardiff, Daiquiris (or, um, Gassy Jack‘s) – quite different, admittedly, but by no means inferior. In John’s hometown in Stroud, it’s Nailsworth’s Passage to India or The Amberley Inn.

All of these restaurants Food Friday-worthy in their own rights (and almost certainly will feature in one soon.). But a few weeks ago my family found ourselves celebrating my birthday at our standard special occasion haunt in Oxford, The Mole Inn.

The Mole Inn exterior. Photo Credit: Roger Sweet

Situated about five miles from Oxford city centre in the village of Toot Baldon, The Mole Inn is more like a restaurant than the pub – or even gastro-pub – suggested by its name. It even has two AA Rosettes for Culinary Excellence and has held a Michelin Bib Gourmand listing since 2005. Yet it still retains the charm and homliness you’d expect from a village local. It’s just a bit brighter and more focused on food than drink (there isn’t really a separate drinking area for example, unless you’re waiting for a table or sit outside). The floors are tiled and wooden, the décor country kitchen (as done by Country Life) and brick fireplaces are set into the walls. John is a particular fan of the thick, wavy wooden bar. The staff are always incredibly friendly, too, adding to the cosy feel.

And then there’s the food. I’ve been to The Mole a good number of times and I genuinely don’t think I’ve had even an average meal there. This visit was no exception. To start, I tried the chicken koftas. In squares rather than the kebab-shapes I’d expected, they were tasty and not too dense. The sweetcorn salsa tasted like sweet chilli sauce and added a nice touch, as did the radish tzatziki.

John went for the calamari with aioli, which he helpfully describes as ‘wonderful’. I’ve had them before and can confirm that he is telling the truth. There’s quite a lot of them though, so come prepared with a hungry stomach!

The lovely interior. Photo Credit: Where’s Best

Dad chose the duck, which, although being quite a lot of salad still went down well, Mum enjoyed her thai fish cakes. My sister sampled the only vegetarian option, Goats Cheese croquettes. They looked – and apparently tasted – great, though could easily have been a small main – they were huge!

Mains were equally satisfying. As is tradition, I had the steak. This time it was a bit on the medium side of medium-rare, but it was still really tender and tasty, and the garlic and tarragon butter was nice if a little messy and greasy! The fat chips are always amazing, too.

John enjoyed his usual of the fish & chips, his only comment being that he wished they offered the option of fat chips with the dish (not that the skinny ones aren’t good, but who doesn’t want fat chips when they have the chance?). Mum had the beef bourginon, which she said was lovely, Dad had the fish mixed grill which looked pretty tasty – and I hate fish! Unfortunately there was only one vegetarian option again for Hannah, linguine with wild mushrooms. Not hugely exciting, but it did come as a huge portion size – she said it was good, but quite rich, and that, combined with the portion size, meant she could only eat about half of the dish.Though that could also have had something to do with the aforementioned size of her starter…

Although we were too full to eat dessert this time, from previous experience I know that they’re definitely worth leaving space for if you can.

At £6.95+ for starters, £15.95+ for mains (except the vegetarian option, which is £13.95), £5.95+ for desserts, and wine starting at £17.50 a bottle The Mole Inn isn’t cheap – it’s our ‘special occasion’ haunt for a reason! But it’s worth it now and again for the good food in great surroundings, and the staff are always brilliant – the Chief Proprietor even comments on every TripAdvisor review. It’s more than worth the venture out of the city centre. Just make sure you book first!

The Information
The Mole Inn, Toot Baldon
Location: Toot Baldon, Oxfordshire, OX44 9NG
You can view menus here
Bookings: Phone 01865 340001