“ Address: 29-30 Lower High Street / Thame / Oxfordshire / OX9 2AA „
The Thatch is a pub/ restaurant situated on the lower High Street of the beautiful market town of Thame in South Oxfordshire, just 12 miles from Oxford. I had never been in The Thatch before as I always assumed that it was a very expensive place to eat and that I would probably be out of my comfort zone eating here. Several years ago the pub was purchased by Raymond Blanc, famous chef of The Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons, as a prize for a chef competition that he ran. I believe it was at this time, in 2007, that it was given a full refurbishment and although the competition winners have since moved on, it is still run by The Peaches chain founded by one of the inspectors of Blancs show.
As my daughter's 18th birthday approached we asked her to choose where she would like to eat out on the big day and she requested to book a table at the Thatch. This seemed a suitable occasion to try out a restaurant that was a little more up market than our usual pub meals or pizza restaurants and I searched on line to check out their menu to ensure there would be things that we were all likely to enjoy. I was pleasantly surprised that the dishes were not quite as pricey as I had anticipated, ranging from £11 for sausage and mash with the sausages coming from our prize winning local butchers right up to £40 for a 17oz Aberdeen angus steak, but there was a reasonable and varied selection in the low teens. Reassured, I went ahead and booked from the web site link, which was a quick and easy process and I immediately received a confirmation e mail with a further one to remind me of the booking the day before.
With the heavens well and truly open we drove to the restaurant and were lucky enough to find parking on the opposite side of the High Street and there were also one or two other spaces at 7pm, but as this is a residential area these fill quickly. They do have a very small carpark at the rear and in the nearby Upper High Street, where the shops are located, there is a large free short stay carpark. The pub, along with the other buildings in the High Street is beautiful to look at; a typical white tudor building with black beams and of course a thatch roof. There is a patio garden area but as it was dark I couldn't do more than peer out at it, but I'd like to sit out there for a meal or drink in the future.
We were given a choice of tables to sit at either within the oldy worldy part at the front of the pub, which is traditionally furnished or in the rear extension which has a much more modern design, but still a very warm and cosy ambience with pale bluey green walls, oak floors and turquoise velour seating. The square oak wooden tables are tastefully laid with a tealight and real plant on each. Place settings are not laid but side plates are stacked with glasses clustered together and a heavy black pot matching other crockery that later appeared, contained a plentiful supply of cutlery. The front felt more pub like so we chose the more restaurant feeling extension with its high ceiling and sky lights and patio doors - it must be lovely and light and sunny in here in daylight.
The waitress offered to take our coats and asked if we would like water before choosing our main drinks and food, which were both nice welcoming touches. It makes a real change not to have to ask for a water jug and also to find it chilled and with lemon slices. As well as the main menu a specials board was brought to our table, explained and then left for us to peruse. Bread and olives were also offered at this point. I had already decided that I would order one of their very interesting looking deli boards but was undecided between the fish one with herring, squid and salmon amongst its offerings or the vegi one containing breaded mushrooms, hummus, pitta, cheese straws and plenty more, both costing £11.50, but the minute the specials board arrived and I spotted my all time favourite of moules and fries my mind was changed. Apparently Thursday night is mussles night at the Thatch while they are currently in season and they cost £12 as a main or £6 as a starter served with bread and not fries. It was a good choice - they were all perfectly cooked, the sauce delicious and the thin french fries light and crispy. They were served on a deep plate on a wooden platter with a pot of fries and one of mayonnaise. I also accepted the complimentary bread to mop up my sauce and this was obviously freshly made and delicious. Added to this my finger bowl and bowl for empty mussel shells I really could have done with a bigger table - it's just a good job that I was the only one taking up as much space.
Two of our party also chose from the specials board - Chicken Kiev at £14. My husband said this was perfectly cooked - not dry at all and also not swimming in garlic sauce. The chicken cut was on the bone and they also had a large portion of green salad and tomato and a separate bowl of chips; larger chunky but still crispy chips this time. My daughter was not as thrilled with this and described it as being a bit fatty, but she still ate it all. A cauliflower, courgette & cheddar cheese frittata with a watercress, red onion & sunflower seed salad for £11.75 was the final choice for our party and was pronounced to be very tasty but very filling. She had also ordered a side of chunky chips for £3 to go with this.
We had deliberately avoided the starters as we wanted to leave room for puddings. The starters which ranged from £4 - £7 did look very inviting and as well as the more usual soup and pate options there were also more unusual things such as butternut squash, pear and chestnut salad and a pigeon breast.
Onto the desert selection though; autumn fruit pudding, treacle tart, crème brulee with hazelnut shortbread, and a chocolate brownie as well as icecreams and a cheese board were on offer. My daughter and I asked if we could share the chocolate pudding and my husband chose the autumn fruit pudding and the birthday girl thought that she would wait to have birthday cake back home. The staff had other ideas however and realizing that it was her birthday (the 18 badge she was wearing and the request for her first legal alcoholic drink in a pub were a bit of a give away) brought our puddings in individual bowls served on a wooden platter along with an additional crème brulee with two candles on it and proceeded to encourage our fellow diners to join her in a chorus of ' Happy Birthday'. I hadn't expected this at all from a higher class establishment but we really appreciated this touch and we all enjoyed tucking into our centrally placed puddings having a taste of each. The portions were good and they could all be rated as the best of that type of pudding that I've ever tasted. It was so much nicer than all having our individual puddings.
The quality of all of the food was superb and looking on the website it is clear that they go out of their way to use local ingredients and minimise the air transport costs of importing ingredients. The menu that we chose from is their Autumn one, so I assume that they change it with all of the seasons to offer food which is at its freshest at all times. With 5 starters, 8 mains and 5 deliboards as well as the specials, the menu is quite limited but this did mean that I felt reassured that my food was fresh and it also seemed to be cooked to order, although the waiting time was quite acceptable. The lunchtime menu looks to be fairly similar to the evening one, but there are also toasties. They are also open for coffee and cake from 10am - now that sounds very tempting.
On the way out I popped my head around the door of the ladies. The three cubicles all looked clean and there was also a changing area. They also have a private room that looked to seat about 12 that can be hired for meetings or functions. This has views across to the other historic buildings in the High Street.
We all thoroughly enjoyed our meal at the Thatch. It did feel more of a treat than a regular pub meal and we felt really well looked after by the waitress and other staff members; they really did seem to want us to have a good evening out. The little bit of extra money for the meals was well worth it for the level of hospitality and the very pleasant surroundings, but we in no way felt out of place at all. We spent £80 in total including two soft drinks and a beer and a red wine spritzer and were more than happy to leave a tip. We'll definitely go back again when we have another special occasion to celebrate.
29-30 Lower High Street,
Tel: 01844 214 340