The Bear & Ragged Staff – Cumnor – Oxfordshire.
A new addition to a family is always a good reason to rejoice and celebrate. Add a birthday anniversary and it is an occasion for a double celebration! Peach Pubs are celebrating not only their fifteenth birthday, having opened their first pub, The Rose & Crown in Warwick in 2002, but also celebrating the opening of their nineteenth pub, The Bear & Ragged Staff in Cumnor, Oxfordshire.
The name of the pub comes from the Bear and Ragged Staff that formed the crest of the Earls of Warwick and is now the symbol of the county of Warwickshire, although the pub is in Oxfordshire! I went along to help them celebrate!
The Peach Pub Company believes that every town and village deserves a great pub, the village of Cumnor now has one of the best! The 16th century Inn has been refurbished with many stylish touches and furnishings, but it has also retained many of the pubs original Tudor features including carved lintels and plasterwork, arched doorways, mullioned windows and Portland stone floors. With so many country pubs closing, it is truly heartening to visit one that has been refurbished and is now flourishing during these difficult times.
It has been reliably documented as a pub from as early as 1881, when it was simply known as The Bear, but the building was probably a farmhouse and private house in Tudor times.
I love pubs and I love pub culture.
The bar, with its oak-topped bar and half-timbered walls has shining polished copper and comfortable armchairs, making it the perfect place to sit and enjoy a drink or two, in front of one of the two restored ancient working fireplaces. The sensitive restoration has helped make the bar the centre of the pub, as it would have been in earlier times. On the day I visited, the bar was full of people enjoying some good company and quality food with a few drinks.
There are plenty of places for visitors to sit and relax, you could enjoy a quite drink with friends in the bar, slumber comfortably in the smart conservatory or sit outside and enjoy a casual lunch and drinks out on the terrace decking.
The conservatory has comfortable seating, rich kilim rugs under your feet and plenty of cushions to shuffle around. The large dining area is adorned with traditional English woodcut wallpapers, antique mirrors and Harris tweed fabrics. The Arts & Crafts tables and chairs helps create a smart country look. It was a really delightful space in which to spend some time in the early evening.
The pub also has nine individually decorated bedrooms and I stayed in room five. I was directed up to my room, tucked away behind the bar, up a narrow wooden staircase, to what was once the landlord`s living quarters. My room had a large window letting in a lot of natural light, overlooking the front of the pub with views over the pleasant village of Cumnor.
The distinctive and spacious room had been redecorated and furnished with hand-printed fabrics, creating an individual charm and ambience. The exposed Tudor beams and low arched doorways, combined with a luxurious, modern bathroom, only added to the experience.
Unfortunately, I found it very difficult to manoeuvre the rooms without banging my head on the low oak beam doorways, which I did on four occasions! My wife, it must be said thought, this highly amusing! The bruises will soon fade but the memories will stay forever!
There was a large comfortable king – sized double bed, covered in top quality linen, two relaxing armchairs, a small table, dressing table, console desk, two bedside tables and a large original decorative fireplace with a white feature flower, placed in a black vase, on a black background. Very effective! It looked like the flower was hanging in space!
There was also a tall fixed wardrobe and totally unexpected, a small fridge hidden inside and some useful shelving. There was a large digital television fixed to the wall and a tall pivotal dress mirror plus the usual complimentary tea & coffee refreshments, but no biscuits!
In the evening we settled down for a light meal in the brightly lit conservatory. We had eaten very well earlier in the day, so we opted for some light snacks from the Starters Menu. We shared a dish of Hand Picked South Coast Crab on Toasted Sourdough bread & Pickled Cucumber and of Pate de Campagne with Pickles & Mustard. The food was of an excellent quality, beautifully presented with plenty of crab and pate to be shared by two diners.
Although we were not eating main meals that evening, I did notice how extensive the menu was with a good selection of British meals. The menu showcases the best of British ingredients in delicious, classic pub dishes. They include starters of a rich roast chicken ravioli with chicken juices, crispy skin and Parmesan; potted shrimps with shrimp butter and toasted sourdough and a twice-baked cheese soufflé with soused apples and balsamic pearls.
A lot of country pubs will receive Michelin stars.
Also on the menu was a 14-hour braised beef and ale pie served with buttery mash and spring greens, wild mushroom and roast onion tart with spinach, poached duck egg and Béarnaise sauce and a superb whole lemon sole accompanied by new potatoes and lemon butter are among the main courses. Traditional desserts of steamed treacle sponge with a jug of custard and a fresh take on a classic, Banoffee Eton Mess with banana, lime and caramelised pecans. I will be back to sample the full range of meals.!
In the morning I enjoyed the Full English Breakfast – Jimmy Butler’s Sausage & Bacon, Mushroom, Black Pudding, Beans, Grilled Tomatoes & Eggs. My wife enjoyed some American Pancakes with Maple Syrup, Butter & Free-range Crispy Bacon. The breakfast was very relaxed and stress free, a wonderful way to start a day as we savoured our breakfast at leisure, reading complimentary newspapers, as we ate.
There was plenty of tea & toast available and the staff were always ready to make sure we had everything we needed. As well as enjoying good fresh food for breakfast, visitors can also enjoy lunch and dinner every day of the week, including the ever popular Sunday roast.
The Bear & Ragged Staff has managed to retain the character and ambience of a classic Tudor pub but with the convenience and modern outlook of a 21st century restaurant offering forward – looking accommodation. There are many unique features throughout the pub which helps breath fresh, contemporary new life into the building.
The Bear & Ragged Staff is once again an important component of the village community, opening its doors to locals and visitors, like me, from further afield.
By providing good food and drink combined with the warm, friendly hospitality of the welcoming staff, this classic English Inn is sure to win many awards for its restaurant and hospitality in the next couple of years. It comes highly recommended from me!
Happy Birthday – Peach Pubs and The Bear & Ragged Staff.
The Bear & Ragged Staff is open from 7am to 11.30pm Monday to Thursday, from 7am to midnight on Friday, from 7.30am to midnight on Saturday and from 7.30am to 10.30pm on Sunday. Breakfast is served daily from 7am to 11.30am and good fresh food is available throughout the day.
Bear and Ragged Staff
28 Appleton Road
Tel: 01865 862329
Peach Pubs was voted as one of the Best 100 Companies to Work for in 2017 in the Sunday Times. It came 45th.
Disclosure: My stay was courtesy of Peach Pubs – The views and comments expressed are as usual my own.