Travel Review: The Fat Fox Inn, Watlington, Oxfordshire

The historic town of Watlington, the location of The Fat Fox Inn

The historic town of Watlington, the location of The Fat Fox Inn - Credit: Debbie White

If a famous actor such as Jeremy Irons lives in the historic town of Watlington, you know there must be something special about the place.

Situated in Oxfordshire, in the heart of the beautiful Chilterns, this traditional market town has much to offer visitors, not to mention those connected with the filming industry, who have long enjoyed its friendly hospitality.

And a key location offering a cosy place to rest your weary legs after a day spent meandering one of many nearby trails is The Fat Fox Inn, Shirburn Street.

When my husband and I visited for a one-night stay, we enjoyed a welcoming and friendly service from all members of staff.

I was particularly chuffed to find out much later that, several years ago, the inn had hosted film crew working at nearby locations, shooting battle scenes with star Brad Pitt for the wartime movie Fury.

The director of Love Actually apparently used to live nearby and there were rumours at one stage that Taylor Swift was moving to Oxfordshire.

According to Watlington parish council’s website, a lot of filming takes place in and around the town, including the very popular Midsomer Murders. While we were walking up an appetite, one of the many independent shop owners in the town pointed out various places where filming had taken place.

The Fat Fox Inn proprietors Katy and John Riddell take such famous visitors in their stride, however, concentrating on ‘playing home’ to commuters travelling to and from London and Oxford.

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John explained to me that the bar inside The Fat Fox Inn was formerly a butcher’s shop.

Apart from its bar, the venue - parts of which date back to Tudor times, while other sections are Georgian - includes a converted coaching barn, housing seven of nine letting en-suite bedrooms.

Although we were booked for an evening meal in the decorative and elegant dining room, we chose to dine in the bar area instead, as we were too comfortable, and quite frankly lazy, to move from one room to the other.

John describes the inn as a gastropub, and it’s easy to see why, with the clever use of fresh, locally derived ingredients.

Starters on offer include curried cauliflower samosas with spiced lentils and sweet and sour sauce, onion soup, sausage roll with pickled red cabbage, plaice goujons and cocktail sauce, and smoked mackeral pate, with horseradish, pickled cucumber and toast. These range in price from £6-7.

My husband chose Gorgonzola, with local honey, hazelnuts, chicory and pear, which he praised as “fresh and tasty, and the cheese didn’t overpower it. Very nice”.

I ordered country pate with spiced homemade chutney, which was absolutely beautiful, and easily the best pate I have ever had.

For main courses, there were plenty of interesting dishes on the menu, including Bavette steak, bordelaise sauce and straight cut chips. For £17 there was braised lamb belly, potato gratin and mustard cabbage. Or, for £13, ‘Gnudi (gnocchi-like dumplings), braised chard, parmesan and broccoli.

In the end, I asked for pan roast pollock, saffron and brown shrimp sauce, braised chard and potatoes - all of which was mouth-watering and perfectly cooked.

My husband went for The Fat Fox Inn beef burger, with cheddar, slaw, straight cup chips and burger relish. He was very pleased with the “meaty burger” and the golden chips were equally as delicious.

We were so full afterwards that we dithered about whether to order dessert (all £6). Until we saw what was on offer! Apart from ice cream, sorbet (£2 per scoop) and a range of cheeses (£2.50-£10 for four) there was dark chocolate mousse and gingerbread ice-cream, apple and raisin crumble with custard, sticky date pudding and cinnamon pannacotta.

We decided, though, to ask for the almond and lemon meringue roulade. This was to-die-for, and definitely the best roulade I’ve ever had, served alongside a dollop of cream and lemon curd.

There is also a full range of white and red wine to accompany your meal. We enjoyed offerings from New Zealand, Chile and Western Australia.