WHILE lockdown has been tough for us all, it has been particularly hard for Nathan Eades. Nathan is head chef at one of Oxfordshire’s very best restaurants – The Wild Rabbit in Kingham – and lives and breathes cooking.

So when his elegant restaurant, on the flanks of the Cotswolds near Chipping Norton, was forced to close, he vowed to find a way of keeping himself, and the restaurant’s loyal customers, happy. While others perfected their recipes for banana bread, made TikTok videos or worked their way through Netflix, Nathan pulled out all the stops to get back into the kitchen.

First he launched a pizza takeaway from a converted horse box fitted out with a wood-fired oven. Then, when the second lockdown hit in November, he set out to do what he does best – going back to fine dining; developing three course menus for diners to finish and then polish-off at home.

So popular have Nathan’s Wild Rabbit at Home boxes become, he has extended delivery from what was just a 10 mile radius of the restaurant to nationwide.

Read more: Oxford pub delivers perfect wood-fired pizzas to finish off at home

“When we first had to close, we were desperately looking forward to getting back into the kitchen and start cooking again,” says Nathan, who was previously head chef at the Michelin-starred Simpsons Restaurant in Birmingham. The Wild Rabbit also features in this year’s Michelin Guide, picking up a Michelin Plate, while owner Lady Bamford’s other local venue, nearby Daylesford Organic, picked up a Green Star for its commitment to sustainable gastronomy. Daylesford supplies much of The Wild Rabbit’s fresh produce.

“From the moment I arrived to meet Carole Bamford and saw the market garden at Daylesford, there was no turning back,” he says. “I knew I was being offered a chef’s dream because of the amazing produce we can work with.

“It’s hard to put into words what The Wild Rabbit means to me. The whole place has an amazing feel to it. From the log fires crackling to the attention to detail in the furniture and the rooms, it has a very welcoming atmosphere.

Wild Rabbit Head Chef Nathan Eades. Picture by Ed Nix

Wild Rabbit Head Chef Nathan Eades. Picture by Ed Nix

“We are focused on our guests and their enjoyment of their time here. At The Wild Rabbit, everything we do with the food, with the menu and with the bar area is for our customers and what they want to eat.”

And, he says, West Oxfordshire is the perfect location.

While Nathan is far too discrete to name-drop, local villagers include Blur’s Alex James, former Prime Minister David Cameron, Grand Tour star Jeremy Clarkson and many other familiar faces.

“Kingham continues to be a really popular destination and we have customers who travel from afar to visit us in the Cotswolds, when travel is permitted,” he goes on. “Saying this, our customers are a real mix and we are fortunate to have plenty of local regulars who frequently pop in for a drink or meal.”

The lockdowns, he admits, have been difficult. “It has been an uncertain time for hospitality and our approach has been to adapt to the restrictions each time they have changed, whilst following the government guidelines,” he says.

Wild Rabbit at Home - Kingham

Wild Rabbit at Home - Kingham

The Wild Rabbit at Home boxes are a triumph. Before catching up with Nathan I took possession of a thrilling cardboard box containing the ingredients for a fabulous dinner, with a hunk of focaccia, beautiful plump, firm, and fabulously juicy discs of almost ruby red-coloured Loch Duart salmon, with market garden beetroot, tangy English wasabi and bitter leaves; and a stunning venison Wellington. The venison, it said, came from the Wootton estate and was perfectly pink and tender yet luxuriously rich and gamey, and wrapped in a light, buttery, crisp pastry case. It was accompanied with a smooth, creamy gratin potato; sweet glazed carrot, cavolo nero, and – best of all – an elegant and fragrant truffle and madeira sauce which burst with flavour.

For pudding came a satisfying prune and almond tartlet with crème Anglaise. Firm, subtly almondy and topped with a lovely fat preserved prune. Perfect.

Prune and almond tartlet with crème Anglaise

Prune and almond tartlet with crème Anglaise

Even for someone with my limited culinary skills, it was an easy, and fun, task to warm-up, finish off and dress the dishes. And they tasted every bit wonderful as they would have done in the Wild Rabbit’s cosy dining room – even though the surroundings were no match for the chic Cotswold bolthole.

“We have done all the hard work so you don’t have to,” he smiles. “My team and I prepare every dish so they can be easily finished at home. Each meal comes packed in eco-friendly, recyclable and reusable packaging with a menu, allergen information and a simple step-by-step guide on how to cook your meal. It’s easy!”

Boxes cost £35 per person and menus change regularly, with plenty of choice.

So how does he come up with the ideas?

“When creating any dish, the first thing I’ll do is talk to our producers and farmers – they’re the experts and they know how to ensure we are using produce at its best, at its peak,” he says.

Read more: Iconic Oxford neighbourhood cafe keeping locals cheerful in lockdown

“And of course everything we do is seasonal so that drives the way we create the menu. Eating anything out of season just doesn’t taste right. For The Wild Rabbit at Home, I have created dishes that we would serve in the restaurant whilst making sure that they travel well and can be easily finished in a domestic kitchen.”

Will he carry on with the boxes when lockdown finally ends?

"We are a busy kitchen when the pub is open and currently my team are working flat out on The Wild Rabbit at Home boxes," he says. "We have been bowled over by the positive response to the boxes and our order numbers keep increasing each week. "Having the space and man-power to deliver both might not be possible... but we have adapted before so never say never!"

  • The Wild Rabbit at Home
  • thewildrabbit.co.uk/at-home/
  • Order on 01608 658389 or email restaurant@thewildrabbit.co.uk.
  • Orders placed for collection and delivery within a 10 mile radius, must be placed by 7pm each Wednesday. Collection is each Friday from noon until 8pm.
  • Order placed for home delivery outside of the 10 mile radius of Kingham, must be placed by noon each Tuesday for delivery by noon on Friday.