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Table d’Alix: Toujours parfait

Oliver escapes to France in the Oxfordshire countryside.

A lot has changed in the year that has passed since I last reviewed Table D’Alix in Great Haseley. I was more than relieved though to discover that things there were reassuringly similar. A new star chef and new dishes yes, but the restaurant is still a warm, inviting atmosphere to enjoy the kind of authentic French experience almost impossible to find here.

We were welcomed with a firm handshake at the door by Antoine as always: the owner and maître d’ leading the team with his friendliness, passion, and knowledge. Seated in the corner I was able to survey the scene and remind myself of what a fantastic main dining room Table D’Alix has. Light pours in, bouncing off the trademark chandelier and highlighting a set-up full of perfect little touches.

Bread, as one would expect, arrived first alongside a Ricard for the full French experience. I intended to save some of the warm selection of freshly baked rolls for my moules later on — suffice to say there was no chance. Tartare de Bouef is one of my favourite French dishes and is one of the hardest to find overseas. This one arrived with the perfect selection of sauces and was made great by its incredibly rich Burford Brown egg yolk.

Next up from the starters was a truly unique lobster dish. It consists of half a lobster served with potatoes in a rich cognac lobster bisque. That remarkable richness is explained by Antoine, who talked me the through the process. The lobsters come in every morning and the heads are boiled straight away and all day, reducing down to make a sumptuous bisque that would easily be delicious enough on its own as a soup, never mind when paired with the fresh claw meat.

Moules frites were next, this week’s featured dish in Table D’Alix’s ‘Tour de France’. Every Thursday they offer a classic French dish, think Boeuf Bourguignon or Coq au Vin, a glass of wine, and mousse au chocolat for just £25. The deal is superb value and is just the kind of reason that somewhere such as this manages to survive where so many other pubs and restaurants fail. There is nothing snobby about Table d’Alix and it has inserted itself into the local community with the kind of ease that many owners across the country dream of. The moules themselves are perfect of course. Having taken slightly longer to come into season this year they are now well-sized and served alongside traditionally crispy fries.

The other main course we had was one of the true showstoppers and undoubtedly one of my favourite dishes of the year so far. It was a whole Dover Sole served on the bone (as you may be aware by now, just how I love it!), with a rich caper butter. The sheer amount of fish is incredible and easily enough to share between two — the plethora of capers only adds to the perfect counter to the indulgent butter. Get it served with the Petit Pois a la Francaise for the dream combo. These are to die for, cooked in butter and pancetta to leave you wanting more and more — something I rarely say about peas!

And then cheese. I was struggling to know where to start with this but on a basic level, there is just one thing you need to know: here in Great Haseley there is still a cheese trolley. There is no skimping and taking the options anywhere near a fridge to ruin the flavour and the diverse selection is perfect. For me, the standout was a delightfully punchy goat’s cheese from Corsica.

Deserts, if you make it, are ridiculously indulgent as you might expect. The Surprise du Chef au Chocolat is made by the crisp honeycomb biscuits that it comes with and the hazlenuts balance the intensely dark chocolate. Save some red wine from your cheese for the perfect combination!

And I haven’t even mentioned the wine! Our Ricard, Port, and Guy Saget Chardonnay were all lovely but I cannot finish without writing of one of the best value wines I’ve tasted in a long time. The Chateau du Haut-Plateau Saint-Emilion is a 2015 vintage and available by the glass and the bottle for just £52. Its earthiness was genuinely standout for the price and the nose an absolute dream. It’s one of those reds that goes with pretty much everything and you can genuinely keep drinking all night long.

Table d’Alix really is one of the most unique and special restaurants I have ever visited. Still a fairly well-kept secret, I just can’t see it staying that way for long. The new head chef previously spent six years at Le Manoir Quatre Saisons and regular visits from Raymond Blanc, his guests, and his staff only point to just how remarkable the food is. Homely, reasonably priced, and above all delicious, there really is something for everyone here. Come from Oxford or much further afield and set up shop for the afternoon or evening — there really is no more worthwhile way to spend your time.

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