Review: The Killingworth Castle
Tucked away just past the cute and barely inhabited village of Wootton, a stone’s throw from Woodstock, lies The Killingworth Castle.
An immaculately presented, Cotswold stone building with outhouse guestrooms like the quarters of a particularly well thought of servant, this is very much a destination pub that you’re unlikely to simply come across.
Owners Claire and Jim Alexander brew their own beers, stocked only here and at their sister pub The Ebrington Arms, by Chipping Campden. A ‘cuckoo’ brewery put into practice at The North Cotswold Brewery in Shipston, Claire and Jim’s Yubberton Brewing Company produce two bitters and an IPA to their own specifications, which should give ale fanatics reason enough to visit. “Yubbie”, “Yawnie” and “Goldie” are two bitters and a pale ale that, whilst not breaking any serious boundaries, are an excellent trio of classic English ales and are a commendable venture for any pub looking to establish an individual identity.
So, luxurious rooms and their own beer, but what of the food? By the pub’s own description, the kitchen cooks up “beautifully prepared, award-winning seasonal fare and delicious pub classics”, in identical language to at least fifty others within a twenty mile radius.
However, there are absolute gems to be found on the menu that far surpass the competition, using ingredient combinations that are anything but predictable. Lamb loin is pillow-soft, served over courgettes and red peppers and livened up with fat, juicy caper berries and parsley. Guinea fowl, rich in flavour and drenched in butter, is presented with the uniquely delicious trifecta of button onions, bacon and sweetcorn – the latter as salty fritters, of which I could easily eat a whole plateful by themselves.
Occasionally the food is less inspirational. Crab and emmental salad tastes exclusively of emmental, and seems to me like a waste of good crab meat. It still tastes good – I like emmental – but doesn’t display the same flair as elsewhere on the menu. Cod fishcakes are similarly ok, falling foul of the almost universal error of ‘not enough cod’. If you’re reading this and know of a place within reasonable distance of Oxford that does truly exceptional fishcakes or croquettes then please do write in, because I’ve yet to stumble across one.
Onto the bottom of the menu, and the pace picks up again – a perfectly serviceable selection of desserts (panna cotta, chocolate torte, sticky toffee pudding) but more importantly, an exceptional cheeseboard with some quite unusual selections like the sharp, crumbly Lord of the Hundreds and tangy, vaguely yeasty Isle of Mull cheddar, along with the superlative and fiercely pungent Brie de Meaux.
A destination pub worth the visit? Absolutely. If you ask me, you can’t have too many gastropubs serving seasonal, local food, and The Killingworth Castle is a welcome addition to the evergrowing list of fine Cotswolds eateries. Recommended.