The Lion at Wendlebury is a hidden gem. It is a pub and restaurant which manages to be the sometimes elusive combination of, both excellent restaurant and first class, luxurious accommodation with ease, and all just two miles from the ever popular shopping extravaganza, Bicester Village
The Lion, in the village of Wendlebury, is situated a mile from Junction 9 on the M40, an hour’s drive from the centre of London and is less than a 10-minute drive from the popular designer outlet centre, Bicester Village. It is also possible to get a train from London to the Bicester Village in under an hour making it an idyllic weekend getaway.
From the front, the Lion looks like a typical country pub but walk through the cosy bar to the courtyard and you will see a different story, the tasteful, imaginative renovation has managed to increase the size without diminishing the intimacy, or the character. Overlooking an outside veranda is a warren of beautiful boutique bedrooms.
The bedrooms were completed just a couple of months ago and still have that fresh carpet smell. Our room sat at the back of the building with our Juliet balcony looking over the surrounding grassy pastures. I was certainly blown away by the amount of space we had. The room itself centred around a double Feather & Black bed and had a few surprise touches that played to the general manager Claire Lenkowiec’s impeccable attention to detail.
A roomy closet slotted into the corner, a Nespresso coffee machine plus capsules on the dressing table and temple spa products sat waiting for us on arrival. The bathroom, although small, was like something pinned from a Pinterest board. Contemporary grey tiles covered the walls and the large walk-in shower made the small room look and feel opulent.
Claire has done wonders to transform the pub into a lively hub for locals. Taking advantage of the two for one Aperol spritz, we sat down in the bar before dinner to watch the live music entertainment. The bar is in the oldest part of the pub with a ceiling height befitting of its age, and full of the charm of yesteryear.
The restaurant, however, is a total contrast. Following the bar around to the right, I was pleasantly surprised to find the space opening out to a massive barn style conversion with high ceilings and very pretty lavender bundles hanging from the beams. While the tables and chairs stuck to tradition, other furnishings such as the feature corner lamps brought a modern flair into the restaurant. A theme that continued into the evening with the exceptional food that was brought to our table.
The Lion at Wendlebury prides itself on its locally sourced produce. The menu was created to make the best of the beautiful produce grown and reared in the Cherwell Valley and the surrounding countryside, and you could taste it.
Unsure of how the slick restaurant would mix with English pub food, we were pleasantly surprised to be presented with absolutely beautiful dishes, and very generous portions, without being overfaced. The starter dish of scallops was one of the freshest and most delicious I have ever had, served with crispy pancetta and pea purée, the scallops were lighter than air and melted in the mouth. Continuing with seafood, the sea bream was cooked to perfection. The skin was crispy without being oily, and the orzo (on which the fish sat) was perfectly cooked and coated in a rich and velvety fresh tomato sauce. The quinoa salad was also bountiful and arrived with what appeared to be a whole avocado, a generous helping of sweet strawberries and chunks of feta. We managed to find some room for dessert and were delighted with the meringue, which was light and crisp and the chocolate torte rich, decadent and divine.
Breakfast at The lion is also rather amazing. As well as the typical continental array of juices, jams, croissants and bread, there is a comprehensive cooked breakfast menu, which has been wonderfully crafted. My avocado smashed quinoa on toasted bread with golden filled eggs was a brunch game changer, the eggs wonderfully oozy and the avocado ripened to soft perfection.
If the food and boutique bedrooms aren’t persuasive enough to have you racing to the car, then The Lion’s proximity to Bicester Village’s shopping outlet just might. Only a short drive away, the village draws you in with the smell of couture and easily encourages you to explore it’s huge range of designer shops including, Gucci, Prada, Calvin Klein and Hugo Boss. But no need to worry, it’s all discounted.
For more information visit The Lion at Wendlebury.Last modified: June 10, 2021