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An out of town diversion

This week found me staying overnight in the vicinity of Oxford for a meet with a pair of girlfriends with whom I share dimming but fond memories of borrowing and yore (“Can I borrow your shoulder-wrap/blouse/brooch/high-heels/boyfriend …?).

This gathering of the distaff clans inevitably involved my first-ever visit to Bicester Village, the ‘chic outlet shopping’ centre about a dozen miles north-west out of town. In the world of retailing (both sales and therapy) I am reliably informed that it is a veritable Mecca to which coachloads of committed devout worshippers from home and abroad – I am not joking, apparently up to a tenth of all visitors are affluent Chinese seeking to buy luxury items minus serious amounts of home purchase tax – travel happily en masse.

I can understand the concept. High-end retail chains, upmarket cafes, bistros and restaurants all cheek-by-jowl set in well laid-out pedestrian boulevards backed by sizeable car parking areas – all this in relative  countryside barely 90 minutes (with a fair wind) from central London and less than that from both Gatwick and Heathrow, let alone all points west and north. What’s not to like?

Since a sense of direction is not an attribute that would normally feature prominently on the Colthard CV (ask my husband), I would not have been able to describe the journey upon which the most local of our party took us to the picturesque village of Hethe and thence the family-run Muddy Duck pub-restaurant for lunch.

Leaving our car laden with the fruit of our morning labours, we imposed a limit of one course (plus dessert, naturally) upon ourselves as we caught up upon family news and renewed our friendships. From the wide-ranging and inventive menu I accordingly opted to try ‘Our much-loved Provenҫale fish stew’ and a glass and a half of very-acceptable white wine chosen by our hostess, with a portion of the baked almond and apricot frangipane with apricot compote, plus a cup of chai tea, to follow. Both dishes were delightful – not too heavy, easy on the taste buds and just what the doctor ordered for those slightly weary from a combination of adrenalin rush and significant foot-slog but not yet done with yak.

I was mightily impressed with the Muddy Duck, right from its décor, atmosphere to its service and its unfussy but excellent gastro-pub fare. For Rust readers who might be interested, here is a link to the website’s  MUDDY DUCK MENU

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About Daphne Colthard

After graduating at RADA but finding no roles Daphne went into magazine journalism with Good Housekeeping. Widely recognised as one of the country's leading restaurant and hotel reviewers, particularly by herself, Daphne is the author of "Bedded and Breakfasted", a light hearted chick novel and Grand Hotels DC: the Daffers Dictionary. Daphne lives in West London and is married to an investment banker Oliver. They have 2 boys Humphrey and Tarquin. More Posts