Nestled in the quaint hamlet of Ayot Green surrounded by picturesque hiking trails, this popular 17th-century coaching inn has become a mecca for walkers and gastronomes alike. There’s an atmospheric bar complete with a roaring fire and historic beams, a popular beer garden with summer barbeques and pétanque and, of course, a superb French restaurant. Here, the smart team serves time-honoured French classics with a modern interpretation, supported by a robust wine list.
During our early evening visit we occupied a lovely table overlooking the main dining room. Inspired by the beautifully presented dish on a neighbouring table, I chose the beetroot and whipped goat’s cheese salad to start. Delicately light and satisfyingly crisp, it was a triumph of flavour comprising creamy cheese, heritage beets, beetroot ketchup and tangy apple sticks – sweet thyme-infused honey brought each element together with aplomb. My partner’s hearty duck confit and spring onion hash was equally delicious and incredibly moreish. I followed with delicate pan-seared sea bream served alongside buttered new potatoes and seasonal vegetables and an incredibly indulgent lemon sauce. My partner couldn’t resist the 21-day-aged rump of beef. The impressively tender steak came draped over rich truffle mash, with earthy wild mushrooms. As you’d expect from any French restaurant worth its salt, the wine menu is extensive, with something for every palate and budget. Knowledgeable staff are on-hand with pairing suggestions – the team also runs popular monthly wine dinners. As tempting as the dessert menu was, I had no room thanks to the generous portions, giving me the perfect excuse to return soon.