Lunch at the Crazy Bear - Stadhampton
Set in the quiet village of Stadhampton a few miles South West of Oxford, sits the vibrant restaurant slash country pub slash hotel called the Crazy Bear. The feel of the place is most definitely country, yet somehow, once inside, it could be as at home in the centre of London as it does in the middle of Oxfordshire.
From parking the car we were greeted by a traditional Routemaster bus which housed the reception - once inside we stopped to have a pre lunch drink in the sixteenth century public house section of the building. The pub area has a traditional feel to it, with its weaving beams doing a great job of making the place look quaint and holding the building up. Above the bar, in quite a large nook, stood Tthe crazy bear who was keeping guard over his domain; I should add the bear did look pretty crazy.
After a nice pint of ale we moved on up to the dining area. Now, padded walls, leopard print carpet, large submarine style windows and tones of pink, in my head, really shouldn't work. Well somehow it does; a kind of quirky feel that gave the room an air of fun. In hindsight padded walls are a big plus when you’re too full to walk out of a building in a straight line. The subtle ceiling decor of used wine bottles was also a great touch to the overall decor.
To the menu which had lots of goodies to choose from; a wide selection of seafood and meats, plus a few dishes containing Gloucestershire Old Spot piggies raised on the Crazy Bear’s farm just outside the back door. The menu sits at the higher end price wise, but that said it's evident the produce used is well sourced and of good quality.
Cornish char grilled squid Pil-Pil got my lunch swimming along. The squid was tender and well flavoured with home cured pancetta and chilli. Everybody else went for a few of the appetiser options; the pickled quail eggs, mini sausages and homemade pork pie, which all went down well and were a good warm up for the main event.
When I hear the words mix and grill together I find it very hard to choose something different on the menu, especially when the mix all comes from one kind of animal reared on the farm two minutes away.
With a chop, gammon steak, black pudding, pork belly and sausage this mega mix could sit on any ‘Now’ album. The star of the plate was the morsel of pork belly; crunchy crackling on top with a slightly tropical flavour to the melt-in-the-mouth-meat below. I asked the waiter what it was cooked in; apparently pineapple juice was a key ingredient (I'll definitely be experimenting with pineapple and pork in the future). The slight disappointment was the sausage. For a farm shop sausage it could have been juicier and packed with more flavour. All the other trimmings however, including an onion ring tower sent me to my happy place.
A corn fed chicken pie, a confit lamb and potato pie and another mixed grill made up the mains on the table. We were all happy diners and lost the ability to talk to each other as we tucked into our respective meals.
With the mixed grill being a bit of a stomach buster, an espresso took the place of a dessert. Prior to jumping in the car we went to say hello to their pigs, lamas and other farm yard animals before having a stroll round the Crazy Bear Farm shop.
The Crazy Bear gets my vote and is a great restaurant to go to for a bit of a treat, plus by the look of the tables as we left, also a very popular place for a spot of afternoon tea. The Farm Shop, has a selection of meats from the farm which is great. It also has a wide collection of boutique pastas, pulses and herbs etc, but I got the feeling that a fair chunk of the produce wasn’t from the local area, which to me is the key to a true farm shop. I like to see soil on the vegetables.