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Food Review: Reporter Mirek enjoys fine dining at The Sparsholt, Wantage





On Friday night, I ventured out across the rolling hills of the Berkshire Downs to the tranquil village of Sparsholt, a stone’s throw away from Wantage in South Oxfordshire.

There, I dined at The Sparsholt, a traditional, high-end country inn set at the foot of the ancient Ridgeway — and sister to The Boxford and The Woodspeen restaurants in West Berkshire.

The Sparsholt
The Sparsholt

It may be more expensive than most restaurants, but the The Sparsholt promises a high-quality culinary experience in a relaxed setting unmatched by most venues.

I was greeted, seated and treated to a pint of my favourite bitter — London Pride.

While enjoying my drink in the bar area, I imagined St George doing the same after slaying the dragon and saving the princess at Dragon Hill in Uffington, barely four miles away — an area steeped in Arthurian legend.

Awoken from my medieval fantasy, I was then shown to the dining area, where I was encouraged to sample a complementary basket of ale bread, produced on site using Ramsbury bitter and served with whipped butter. And I’m glad I did.

Ale bread
Ale bread

Served on a bed of malts, the bread was warm, light and fluffy in texture and boasting hints of malt — enough to tempt one for more.

For another snack to whet my appetite, I ordered the duck leg bon bon, served with pickled walnut ketchup (£5).

duck leg bon bon, served with pickled walnut ketchup
duck leg bon bon, served with pickled walnut ketchup

Enclosed in the crispy batter was delicious pulled duck, complemented by the zesty sauce.

To start, I ordered roast XL Orkney scallop, served with pork belly, apple and elderflower dressing (£24).

The scallop and pork belly were so tender and the light sour twang offered by the apple cubes combined neatly with the sweet elderflower sauce, delicately poured over the dish.

roast XL Orkney scallop, served with pork belly, apple and elderflower dressing
roast XL Orkney scallop, served with pork belly, apple and elderflower dressing

To follow, I tried the John Dory house special — a rare catch in the UK — which was served with summer vegetable chowder, smoked mussel sauce and trout roe (£30).

The presentation was excellent and, as a seafood lover, this dish did not disappoint, a highlight being the creamy, smoky sauce.

John Dory house special, served with summer vegetable chowder, smoked mussel sauce and trout roe
John Dory house special, served with summer vegetable chowder, smoked mussel sauce and trout roe

For my side, I ordered Isle of Wight tomatoes, served with marinated feta and seeds (£5).

This offered a fine balance with a different mix of colours, textures and flavours to the main dish.

Isle of Wight tomatoes, served with marinated feta and seeds
Isle of Wight tomatoes, served with marinated feta and seeds

And lastly, it was time for dessert. The attentive staff had by now clocked on to my love for elderflower.

And it was on their recommendation I ordered the elderflower panna cotta, served with gooseberries and stem ginger ice cream (£10).

Elderflower panna cotta, served with gooseberries and stem ginger ice cream
Elderflower panna cotta, served with gooseberries and stem ginger ice cream

The gelatin and ice cream were smooth, the biscuit soft, countered by a bittersweet kick from the gooseberries.

The service is excellent and each dish, though minimalist, was sufficiently nourishing and lacks the usual pretension associated with this type of cuisine.

The Sparsholt
The Sparsholt

So, the next time you’re Wantage way, or want to treat your other half, pay a visit to The Sparsholt.

You don’t have to have killed a dragon.



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