Muddy eats: The Thatch, Thame

1st Dec 2013

The Thatch
Rounder and rounder I become, like a jolly little Christmas bauble, as I continue my gastronomic journey around the counties.

Here I go wheeeeeeeeeee, rolling into The Thatch, a restaurant I first visited when it was The Old Trout (about 10 years ago) and haven’t really been back to it since, apart from the occasional light lunch or drink.

Now owned by the switched-on Peach pub group, which also owns the well-regarded The Fishes at Hinksey, The Thatch has been quietly improving, and last month was Runner-Up in three categories of The Observer Food Monthly Awards – Best Restaurant, Best Sunday Lunch and Best Place to Drink in the south, as voted for by readers of the magazine. Not too slouchy!

The view from my seat in the old part of The Thatch

The view from my seat in the old part of The Thatch

The Thatch is actually a bit of a hybrid – there’s a proper locals drinking area (and it really does entice well-heeled boozers very successfully), a sort of gastro-pubby area housed in the old part of the building dating back 500ish years, and then a more modern bit that has more of a classic restaurant feel.

We ate in the old part (see the pic above), which has its pluses and minuses. It’s more characterful than the more modern restaurant area – lots of nooks and crannies and idiosyncracy which I love, but you’re close to the kitchen so the waitresses come past pretty regularly. No right or wrong, it just depends on what floats your boat.

It was a bun fight at the bar (I told you it was popular!) so we went straight to our table. The area was quite dark – perfectly lit for dinner, but not great for photos and I didn’t want to use my flash and risk annoying the other eaters, so you’ll have to excuse the pics. Hopefully you’ll get an idea.

Smoked salmon and beetroot salad to start....

Smoked salmon and beetroot salad to start….

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Yet again I can’t remember what I ate for mains (!), but you only need to know two things. It was fishy. And  it was delicious.

Topped off by a fab cheeseboard

A generous cheeseboard to finish off.

As you can see (if you squint!) the presentation of the food is of a high quality, and the dishes themselves were good without quite making it ‘wow’ territory. I’d say the same for the service too, which felt a bit ‘Saturday girl’ at times. I don’t say that with any edge – I did waitressing for years myself in loads of restaurants – but it’s  useful to know that service might be informal.  There was one fantastic moment when my New Zealander waitress commented, ‘The duck on the menu has been shot today!’ to indicate it’s freshness, which I thought was priceless. She had the good grace to laugh about it, though, when she saw our faces.

Mr Muddy was feeling a bit peaky (a man-cold readers, a very serious affliction) so we had to leave before coffee, but they have one of those whopper chrome Italian machines so I’m sure it’s a perfectly dandy way to end the night.

Would I go back? The Thatch makes much of its local credentials and it’s true that it’s very much part of the community, and I think that’s how I’d place the restaurant – a very good local option. I’m not sure I’d travel half an hour just to eat here, but if you’re in Thame shopping (recommended, loads of good indie shops popping up – see my post on Thame here)  or fancy a sharing-platter lunch with the girls in the light restaurant, it’s a safe, stylish option.

The Muddy verdict:

Best for: Relaxed groups, girly lunches, drop-in dinner, cocktails and platters

Not for: Sticklers for fine dining etiquette, young kids (there’s not much buggy or tantrum room).

£££: Reasonable gastropub prices. Most starters £6-7, mains averaging £14-15.

The Thatch, 29-30 Lower High Street, Thame, OX9 2AA. Tel: 01844 214340. www.thethatchthame.co.uk


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