Valentine’s Day hadn’t been a massive success in the MacAlister household.

No flowers for the first time in 12 years, an unromantic card and a definite air of resting on one’s laurels.

Mr Greedy was in the proverbial dog house.

In the end, after several days of moping about, we decided to rectify the situation in style, managing to nab the last available table at The Nut Tree Inn in Murcott on Saturday night, one of Oxfordshire’s only three restaurants to boast a Michelin star.

It therefore seemed de rigueur to go the whole hog and try the seven course taster menu, rather than the ‘a la carte’ three courses, especially when Mr Greedy had so kindly offered to pick up the tab.

As we were driving, it was also a slightly more grown up affair than normal. No twerking here.

Hidden away in the middle-of-nowhere in Murcott, between Stanton St John and Bicester, in the hinterlands of Oxfordshire, driving is a necessity and a Satnav vital.

North Oxfordshire must be littered with hungry diners without a signal still trying to navigate their way there via the stars.

But as The Nut Tree is one of the few restaurants in Oxfordshire to boast a Michelin star - last year shockingly the only premises alongside Le Manoir - the great and the good flock to its revered doorway on a regular basis, the old mantra ‘location, location’ overruled here by Mike North’s exemplary cooking.

The thatched pub is cosy, and despite a new, more contemporary dining room added in 2015, it still has a very rustic feel to it; cue dim lighting, soft music, red velvet curtains and little round tables.

In fact the lighting was so dim in the bar area that we had to hold the candle to the menus to see what we were eating, like something out of Oliver Twist, although in this instance, hoping for more than gruel.

For those unwilling or unable to go the Full Monty, there are some ‘pub classics’ to be had - steak frites for £18 or beer battered fish and chips for £16, a nice reminder that this is, after all, a village pub, complete with regulars at the bar and an Aunt Sally team in the summer.

Bread first from the lovely Pedro, hailing from Venezuela, via Brazil, which I had to physically restrain myself from eating in bakers dozen style.

And so we were led a merry dance from the amuse bouche of broccoli soup with blue cheese cream (the fromage rather indiscernible), then a whipped goats cheese ‘waldorf’ (celery, sour apple, apple cider mayonnaise), nice and light, the soft quenelle offset by the wafer thin sourdough crouton.

Then a fresh, zinging crab salad with citrus fruits, yoghurt, mint, coriander and chilli, to wake up the tastebuds.

The roast veal sweetbreads, which always make Mr Greedy a bit nervous, turned out to be heart rather than brain, the nibbly, nutty nuggets complemented by the celeriac puree and a veal stock and red wine jus reduction.

The sea bream was less memorable with its parsnip puree, roasted shallot and poultry jus.

Bridging our bets by concurrently ordering from the vegetarian menu, many of the dishes were the same, but stand out moments included the mushroom bun (complete with a soft poached hens egg, wilted pousse -like baby spinach - and hazelnuts, for the ultimate in textural eating. An English version of a bao bun whose concoction reminded me of Mike North’s fabled egg dessert of yesteryear.

The griddled artichoke with scorched baby gem, sun-blushed tomatoes and aged balsamic was a bit retro though. All was forgiven when the butternut squash tortellini arrived, served with an amaretto and butternut squash veloute which was ceremoniously poured on the plate by the dexterous Pedro.

Here it is for your enjoyment...


But nothing, and I mean nothing, could detract from the beef fillet served medium rare with potato puree, mushrooms and Madeira sauce - certainly the stand-out dish of the night - tender, succulent, beautifully cooked and melt in your mouth.

Then an optional cheese course (rain check) denied as we filled up like Mr Creosote, alarm bells started to ring, waist bands were loosened and a fervour set in.

The finishing line was in sight.

The palate cleansing, tongue-tingling, creme fraiche mousse with pink peppercorn meringue and lime certainly helped.

Fully invigorated, we moved onto the dense Valrhona guanaja chocolate ganache with rum raisins and banana ice cream, beautiful to behold; the caramelised banana and sticky brandy snaps adding extra crunch and softness. A dish of contrasts, that finished us off perfectly.

It did the trick mind you, my eternal gratitude for such a majestic meal, lingering long past anything St Valentine could come up with.

Worth every penny at £75 a head, wouldn’t you agree Mr Greedy?

Nut Tree Inn

Main St, Murcott, Kidlington OX5 2RE

01865 331253