In the ‘final taste’ scene of the 2007 Disney film Ratatouille, where notorious food critic Anton Ego visits Gusteau’s restaurant to deliver what is anticipated to be a damning verdict on the timid protagonist’s Ratatouille dish, we are all pleasantly surprised to find that the much-feared judge of the culinary court – after taking one bite of the meal – is transported back to a joyful childhood vision wherein he is eating a bowl of his mother’s homemade Ratatouille.

Now I know the fanciful idea of food stimulating a ‘mirthful daydream’ is perhaps best left with animated films, and it would be silly to think of me as a renowned food critic, but, hear me out…

The chef team at The Muddy Duck – which includes three-star Michelin chef Pierre Koffman and Christopher Lindsay, who previously worked at The Ritz - produced a 6-course meal that, whilst maybe not inducing fully blown reverie, did lull me into a pleasantly reflective state.

Bicester Advertiser: "If it makes you happy it doesn't have to make sense""If it makes you happy it doesn't have to make sense"

Flavour poured from every well-seasoned, perfectly cooked mouthful I was lucky enough to experience; it was impossible to take a bite without taking a second to appreciate the intensity of what I was tasting.

Here’s what I was served.

The first course was a heritage tomato salad, which I must admit, upon first seeing on the menu, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy. Ordinarily I don’t like tomatoes.

But these were no ordinary tomatoes.

Served with fresh green almonds, olive, basil and Charentais melon, these plump, fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes were exquisitely delicate and juicy.

Next came the Foie Gras with roasted peach. It has become fairly common in the culinary world to let sweet and savoury battle it out on one plate, but the strong fatty flavour of the duck liver was complimented perfectly by the subtle sweetness of the peach.

Read more: New food waste initiative is lifeline for customers

The following dish was a real treat for me because it centred on a shellfish-type I hadn’t tried before – lobster.

Delivered with a side of Bearnaise sauce, I can honestly say this was one of the nicest meals I’ve ever eaten.

Succulent, tender meat, which resulted in me and my dinner guest completely ignoring each other for about 5 minutes.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get better, along came the loin of lamb en croute, with confit new potatoes, courgette and broad beans.

Follow this up with truffle brie, Mill farm Oxfordshire honey and a selection of delectable crackers; top it all off with fresh strawberries on a meringue base and you’ve got yourself one incredibly happy diner.

Just as spectacular as the food is the eclectic interior of the restaurant.

Guided by husband-and-wife team Gemma and Nigel Harris’s principle that ‘if it makes you happy it doesn’t have to make sense’, The Muddy Duck is certainly a feast for the eyes as well as the tongue.

Greeted by superbly polite and charismatic staff on arrival, my guest and I were led into an Alice in Wonderland-like lounging area, where we sat under a brass-coloured bird cage amidst long draping vines and low hanging fire-effect lanterns.

Bicester Advertiser: Lounging roomLounging room

After enjoying a glass of fizz, and meeting our waitress for the evening, Grace, whose attitude and conversation were a highlight of the experience, we were taken to the dining room.

On the way Gemma and Nigel’s guiding principle shone through.

We walked through the wonderfully imaginative ‘luna room’; fit with matte grey walls and enormous moon-shaped lamps.

The detail was impressive, the moon lamps resembling the sphere in all its craterous and meteoric glory.

Bicester Advertiser: Luna roomLuna room

And so, we arrived at the main dining room.

I can’t be sure what influenced the decor of this space, but for me it appeared to be a fantastic mix between the ethereal woodland realms one might see in Lord of the Rings, and an extremely sophisticated log cabin.

Low hanging lanterns floated like heavenly orbs, creating an almost illusive atmosphere, like one had been chauffeured into a renaissance painting.

One thing is for certain, I will be telling anyone and everyone about this place.

The Muddy Duck boasts a pub, two fine-dining restaurants and an extraordinary lavatory (You’ll have to find out for yourself).

You can find this gem on Main Street in Hethe, Bicester.

Here is their website if you’d like to make a reservation:


Read more from this author

This story was written by Matthew Norman, he joined the team in 2022 as a Facebook community reporter.

Matthew covers Bicester and focuses on finding stories from diverse communities.

Get in touch with him by emailing:

Follow him on Twitter: @OxMailMattN1

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