Eating Out with the Phoenician Trader: The Fox

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A sizzling meal

The Fox, Lower Oddingtom

Towards the northern end of the Cotswolds, that gentle area of England where the British television presenters go to live on weekends, are the twin villages of Lower and Upper Oddington. These are surrounded by thousands of identical villages each separated by no more than a couple of miles from each other. If you walk around for long enough, you feel as if no matter how far you go, you are mysteriously in the same village you started. Town planning in the Cotswolds demonstrates a level of uniformity that can be completely disconcerting.

Anyway Upper Oddington has a pub called the Horse and Groom and Lower Oddington has a pub called The Fox. To keep things interesting, 3 miles away, Longborough has two pubs – both called the Horse and Groom, and 2 miles away in Broadwell there is only one pub and that is called The Fox. The degree to which Conservative England controls the countryside is quite scary. Fortunately every pub we visited catered to "all" tastes – providing "both" national papers for patrons to read: the Daily Mail and the Telegraph (the first being raving right-wing looney (although very well written) and the second being nick-named the Tory-graph for its intelligent but staunch support of the Conservative (Tory) party).

But enough about urban planning and politics, how was the food?

Well, we had booked because The Fox (Lower Oddington version) is very popular since a couple of nice lads took it over several years ago (it seems that the readership of the Daily Mail has the same relationship with homosexual men as the Vogons have with the Dentrassi: they loath them generally but keep them around because they are the best caterers out there). The old pub was very buzzy on a Saturday night. Unlike a traditional pub there is no bar area with chairs or standing space: every corner, passage and room is dedicated to relaxed dining. The table allocated to my glamorous companion and myself was just inside the front door, tucked beneath a grand fireplace mantelpiece and under three stuffed fox heads, all wearing rugby football club ties. The weather was good so we didn't get cold whenever the door opened, and having easy access to watch the clothes and clientele was a reward in itself.

Having come from central London, it felt weird being in such a full and happening place where there was exactly one non-white person in the entire establishment (including the kitchen – I looked). It appears that the Cotswolds' cream-faced uniformity is not limited to its stones that make up the buildings.

Was the food any good? It is a question I keep coming back to but never get around to answering.

The answer is that it was OK. We didn't have too much to eat, limiting ourselves to a bottle of wine and a single course. I had duck breast on lentils. This is something I am striving to perfect in my own kitchen because I am convinced that lentils are a cook's gift. They have fantastic texture and take up whatever flavours you give them and return them tenfold. I was curious to see what The Fox's chef would do. The answer is: not much.

Certainly the duck skin was crispy but the inside had been over cooked. The lentils were very thin on the plate and no real attempt to influence their flavour had been made. It was one of those meals where not only do I do it much better at home, I also have it on the table in less than 30 minutes from getting into the kitchen.

My convivial companion's choice was perfectly fine. To be quite honest I remember a lot about the night (it was only a few weeks ago) but not much about food. It was intended for the wealthy, hip England that I suspect got rather carried away with 'Cool Britannia'. These are the people who rather overlooked that it is often, culturally, the non-coolest and non-wealthiest parts of Britannia where the most excitement and memorable action is. The Fox may be their kind of mutually self-congratulatory establishment and they are welcome to it.

Getting There: Fabulous walk from Morton-In-Marsh.

Who should eat there: The hip and the fab.

Dining Style: Bonhomme country pub but without an actual bar.

Price: £25 with wine.

Quality: Everything is tasteful, except the duck.

Would I go Back: Could do.

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