Katherine MacAlister did not want a full-blown meal, and she found the perfect place

It was cold and raining outside, so when Mr Greedy bounded home saying ‘let’s go out’, it didn’t fill me with enormous excitement, bad wife that I am. I wasn’t hugely hungry either, so the thought of a big meal wasn’t as tempting as usual. “I hear they have good tapas in The Star,” he added, knowing the battle was won. Clever man.

We had discovered the Woodstock pub in the summer during the carnival when we dined in the courtyard garden on enormous burgers to our hearts’ content and rather fell in love with the place. It’s a proper pub mind, with a busy bar and lots of regulars, none of this gastro business where the locals peer through the window enviously, having been exiled.

But with the rain lashing down and the wind howling, the ye-oldie-inn feel of the 1634 hostelry was just what the good Dr Greedy had ordered, and so we braved the dark Dickensian-style evening.

It was quiz night when we arrived, and with last orders on food approaching we had to get a move on and order fast.

Having already decided on tapas, we didn’t need to peruse the à la carte menu, just needing to study the blackboard by the bar instead, eventually choosing numerous dishes and sitting back down at our table to think about the pub quiz questions. “What is a Blenheim orange?” “Apple,” I answered immediately, much to Mr Greedy’s amazement. If there was a pub quiz just about food I’d do all right, but ask me about The Walker Cup...

The Star specialises in British tapas rather than the traditional Spanish, which does make a difference, and seems fitting for this former coaching inn, an effort to acknowledge its strengths and incorpor-ate them into its ethos by using traditional British ingredients thrown in for good measure.

We chose the warm hand-made smoky bacon scotch egg (£4.95) stilton and peppercorn mushrooms (£3.95), cheddar cheese and rosemary dumplings (£3.95), chilli and marinated olives (£3.95) and the soup with crusty bread (£4.95).

There were also homemade sausage rolls with a mustard pot (£3.95), Whitby scampi with tartare sauce £4.75) or jalapeno pork scratchings with apple chutney (£2.95), all of which sounded delicious, but yes, this was more of a bar snack feast than a meal.

To be honest I wasn’t expecting much, however good it sounded, because the term ‘tapas’ has been bastardised these days to mean a small collection of often bad starters depending on where you go. But I was wrong. Our food, which arrived promptly and we ate in the bar, was absolutely delicious.

The soup, of spiced parsnip and butternut with toasted pumpkin seeds, was absolutely superb and couldn’t have been more seasonal. The accompanying crusty bread was also a great way of soaking up all the wonderful juices left over from the stilton and peppercorn mushrooms which were beautifully cooked, bouncy and juicy, the cheese a perfect combination of sludgy, salty, peppery oiliness.

Oxford Mail:
Head chef Kathryn Ventura

The dumplings were also a lovely surprise. Expecting greasy, suety, floury lumps of carbohydrate, the enchanting little cheesy herbed offerings were ideal, even if they did make me yearn for a large bowl of beef stew to pop them on. And the handmade scotch egg was spot on. My only criticism was that the olives at £4 were rather overpriced for such a little pot.

As the quiz carried on regardless, and we nibbled every last crumb on our plates, soaked up the last dregs of sauce and scraped our soup bowls clean, suddenly the world was a better place, and all at just over £20 for two.

So when you fancy going out for a quick drink and some nibbles without wanting to make a big song and dance about it, The Star is a great little card to have up your sleeve.

The Star Inn
22 Market Place, Woodstock OX20 1TA
01993 811373 thestarinnwoodstock.co.uk

Opening times: Breakfast served 8am-11am. Lunch and dinner 12pm-9pm.
Parking: Woodstock has some in town and a car park
Key personnel: Manager Jamie Fletcher, head chef Kathryn Ventura
Make sure you try the... tapas. Or wait until summer and go to Jack’s Shack in the large, sunny courtyard for great burgers
In ten words: Avoid a large, long formal meal by eating tapas here