Location: Oxford, OX2 8PN
[Took photos of all the food but haven't had time to upload yet ... will upload soon]
I'm going to start with The Trout first, because it has to be the best patio experience I've had (that I can recall) in the UK. Ok, so it rains half the time over here, which isn't conducive to positive outdoor dining experiences, but we lucked out. We originally wanted to drive out to another award-winning pub in the 'heart' of the Cotswolds, but firstly, it was a bit far, and also, their lunch menu wasn't exciting our tastebuds.
I then remembered The Trout. We've already accidentally been to The Perch, which is another pub by Port Meadows (see my review here), and the ambience was lovely on a hot spring afternoon. The Trout, in comparison, stood out even more so. The quaint little pub (well, it's not so little when you saunter in, but it seems a bit small from the outside) sits right next to the river, with a beautiful bridge, plenty of outdoor seats, and a mini waterfall.
The Trout is absolutely beautiful to visit. We originally had a last minute reservation inside the pub, which is nice and cozy enough, but seeing that the sun was out, we decided to risk sitting outside.
Now that I've raved enough about the atmosphere, let's talk about the food. In one word, I'd sum it up by saying: stunning! They're known for their seafood, and I had the most delectable pan-fried scallops of the day as appetizer (with a beautiful roast tomato tapenade & balsamic vinegar), followed by a very very delightful main of linguini with prawns, chorizo, sweet chilli, crab. I frequently order this dish because my friend doesn't like seafood, so I don't get to cook it much, and this is one of the best renditions of the chorizo/prawns/linguini combo I've had ever! (I am in fact going to compare it to The Trout's sister pub version of the same dish later...)
My friend had a perfectly cooked chargrilled asparagus with poached egg (I wasn't allowed to share so you'll have to trust him), and a really lovely spaghetti carbonara. It was extremely rich and creamy, but it wasn't too much so that you can't finish the meal and feel good.
We ended the meal by sharing a white chocolate creme brulee - perfect! The meal was a bit pricy, about 50 quids including alcohol, but we stayed there for a good two and a half hours or more, and wandered around the Wolvercote area a bit (very picturesque!) so it was worth it.
Highly recommended, especially if the weather is sunny, or else, it would probably make for a lovely cozy pub to go to in the deepest of winters.
Where to grab a bite: The Red Lion
Location: Central Oxford
Unfortunately, The Red Lion pales in comparison to The Trout. I generally enjoy The Red Lion, having been there a few times for drinks, and for an odd meal here and there. The pub is nicely decorated, very nicely lit and with interesting wall decors. The food is quite good, but very shortly after eating at The Trout, I then discovered that they are actually sister pubs, and then eating there ... well, it made it too easy to compare the two.
I didn't consciously order the same dish, but it turns out I really do like ordering tiger prawns linguini with a bit of spice to it. At The Red Lion, it was decent, but I really loved the Trout's, so this one wasn't as good. It wasn't as sweet, didn't have as good an aftertaste ...
Everyone else liked their dishes though. One bad thing was the service - we had a really talkative waiter who forgot some of our orders. That's fine, but one of us had to leave quite early and we didn't exactly want to dawdle.
The redeemable factor here was their desserts. In fact, just the dessert I ordered. Their chocolate brownie was divine. I really mean this (and this means a lot, given that I have quite a sweet tooth). It was rich and melts in your mouth, drizzled with a lovely dark chocolate sauce and vanilla bean ice cream. Perfect.
So I'd still go to the Red Lion, especially as it's smack in the centre of town so it's easy to get to ... but if you can make a bit of an effort, do go to The Trout instead!