Not to be confused with nearby 11 Abingdon Road, the dining room of the Abingdon pub has a series of booths at the back and a row of tables along one wall parallel to the bar. The room is bright and simply decorated, with a series of booths in one section. What follows are notes from my most recent meal.
No sign of recession here on this busy Saturday night. The wine list was a couple of pages of sensible choices, with selections such as the pleasant Buitenverwachting Chardonnay 2007 at £25.75 for a wine that costs £8.50 in the shops, Riesling Plantagenet 2007 at £23.50 compared to a retail price of around £8, and the fine Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2006 a fairly priced £52 for a wine that costs about £26 or so retail. Bread was a choice of slices of baguette or cereal bread, and is bought in. The waiter reckoned this was Sally Clarke bread, a respectable source, and while the bread was fine I have to say it did not taste like Sally Clarke bread I have had before.
It was a mixed tale on the starters. I had an excellent crispy duck spring roll (£6.95), with generous minced duck filling, thin and crispy filo pastry, the duck well seasoned, the rolls resting on a bed of pleasant dressed salad leaves and a circle of sweet chilli sauce giving a nice bite to the dish (14/20). My wife had seared scallops with broad bean puree, pickled fennel and sorrel flower reduction (£9.95). The puree was fine but the scallops were very sorry for themselves. Bizarrely, one seemed to have been cooked separately from the others, as two were small and distinctly overcooked, while one was large, barely cooked, and stone cold (11/20 overall due to the capable puree).
A large fillet (well mostly fillet, the odd bone put in an appearance) of farmed organic salmon (£16.95) was cooked well, with baby courgettes, button onions and some very odd avocado cream, which was served fridge cold and had an unpleasant taste (12/20 overall). Teriyaki yellow fin tuna with wok-tossed watercress and water chestnuts had a nice slab of tuna, cooked a little longer than ideal (I had asked for it rare) but with good taste, the vegetables fine, though there was precious little in the way of teriyaki sauce (13/20). As on a previous visit, thin chips were good and mash was excellent. An apple tarte tatin was very good, with properly caramelised apples, nice pastry and vanilla ice cream made with plenty of real vanilla (14/20). Honeycomb ice cream was also fine, with smooth texture and plenty of honey taste (13/20). Service was distinctly stretched. Our very pleasant waiter initially forgot to take our wine order, then had to be reminded twice to actually bring the bottle at all.
I then ended up spotting a seemingly fairly priced glass of Tokaji dessert wine, and was presented with an absurdly small measure of it. Not 125 ml (standard wine glass size, and what you always get in France and in many UK restaurants), not 100 ml (which some places offer) and not even the 75 ml that is the meanest measure I had seen until tonight, when a 50 ml glass appeared. I simply sent it back, as this is pretty blatant profiteering. No clue as to the measure size is given on the menu, and when I queried the measure the manager actually said “Oh, I could never drink a whole glass of dessert wine”, as if this somehow made this blatant display of greed OK. A really ridiculous response in my view. This did nothing for my mood at the end of the evening, where the food had been a lot more mixed than on my prior visit, but still overall was fairly good.
Below are notes from a happier meal in May 2008.
Bread is either slices of baguette, which were bought in but tasted very fresh, and a decent brown bread with seeds. I began with roast pumpkin risotto (£5.95), which although it was not made from scratch had nicely cooked rice, decent stock, a few pieces of tender pumpkin and a generous shaving of fresh Parmesan (13/20). Carrot, ginger and coriander soup (£5.50) had good flavour and was well seasoned, though it did not need a mini slick of olive oil on the top (13/20).
My main course was chicken breast marinated with a sweet chilli relish, served with a tasty dhal of red beans and puy lentils, and a sauce of coriander and plum and ginger chutney (£14.95). This sounds like an odd combination, but the chicken was moist and carefully cooked, the dhal had good texture and the spices worked surprisingly well together (14/20). Sea bass (£16.75) was not wild but was very carefully baked and had decent flavour, served with a salad of roasted red onions, pickled fennel and sun blushed tomatoes (14/20). Thin chips (£3.50) were very good (14/20) and a classic mash was even better, with smooth texture yet still tasting properly of potato (some of the people trying unsuccessfully to mimic the famous Robuchon mash end up tasting more of butter than potato).
To finish, a lemon curd cheesecake (£6.50) had a pleasant biscuit base and filling that had a nice acidity from the lemon curd, though it could have been a touch firmer in texture (13/20). The mostly French wine list was pleasant and ranged as low as £14.25 for a bottle up to over £100, with plenty of choice under £30. Service was pleasant. This is the kind of gastropub that everyone wishes they had at the end of their road.