When I started my blog in January I promised my reviews would occasionally venture outside of London. So today’s post comes from the picturesque village of Padbury, nestled between Oxford and Milton Keynes.
I grew up in this village and my parents still live in the house I was raised in. If you’re looking for a typical English village, Padders (as my friend and I like to call it) is textbook. There’s a village hall, primary school, WI, cricket pitch – you could almost be in an episode of The Archers.
There used to be five yes FIVE pubs in Padbury, but now there are just two. There’s some fantastic gastropubs and restaurants in the area, but Padbury itself has never had a nice place to eat. It’s a shame as Padbury folk like a good time and are a pretty sociable bunch.
The Blackbird (as it used to be called) sits in the middle of the village and up until a few years ago was a straightforward boozer, with peanuts and pork scratchings as its main culinary offerings. It then closed and villagers waited in anticipation to see what its next incarnation would be.
It was bought by couple Nicola and Alan, who met at cookery school in Ashburton. Alan used to cook at Plateau, a favourite of mine when I worked in Canary Wharf, and then at the Lady Ottoline and Princess of Shoreditch pubs in London.
The pub was gutted and had a complete transformation. And in March 2015 the Four and 20 was born.
There’s a wood burner for the colder months, modern furnishings and artwork. The sign from the original pub sits on the restaurant wall as a reminder of its heritage. For the summer months there’s a nice outside seating area – another thing that was lacking in the village. It’s all very relaxed – in the bar area you feel like you’re almost in someone’s living room (albeit a stylish one.)
We’re here to celebrate my Mum’s birthday but it’s also Easter Sunday.
Delicious bread arrives (granary and white) with butter sprinkled with pink Himalayan sea salt. Three of us go for a fishcake to start with homemade tartare sauce. Its enormous and packed with fish but I manage to eat it all. There’s a runny Scotch egg and tomato tart consumed by the other two in our group and its thumbs up all round.
As it’s Sunday all of us go for the roast except for my brother in law who picks Lemon Sole (controversial) I opt for a mixed roast so you can try a bit of everything – today beef, lamb and chicken. Head sized Yorkshire puddings, cauliflower cheese, broccoli, roasties, spring greens and carrot and swede mash accompanied generous portions of fabulous meat from the local butcher across the road.
Unusually we couldn’t finish all our food. We agree that maybe next time we’ll opt for no starter. The desserts all looked great, so we got one portion of rum and raisin ice cream to share between us, which was fantastically boozy.
The food here is top notch using good quality local ingredients. We couldn’t fault a thing. The menu is interesting but unfussy with plenty to choose from for a frequent visitor. There’s an open kitchen too which I always like. No microwaves pinging here.
I wish Nicola and Alan all the best in their new venture – Padders has been waiting for a place like this for a very long time. If you’re in this neck of the woods visiting Bletchley Park, Bicester Village, Silverstone or Stowe Landscape Gardens, then do pop in for some village hospitality.