Paul Layton at The Plough in Alvescot

It was love at first sight. Something about the welcoming vibe, eccentric touches, bright paint, the decor, the pictures, the passion. You could tell from the moment we stepped foot in the door that The Plough in Alvescot was somewhere people were going to adore.

Taken over three weeks ago by Paul Layton and his partner Monica, and opened a week later, the transformation is already heart-warming. The carpets, bathrooms and signage are next, but what you see is basically what you’re going to get, and the clientele is already lapping it up.

The Plough in Alvescot

The taster plate menu has a lot to do it with. No gastropub food here, but instead a wonderful and enticing selection of Paul’s dishes you actually want to eat, share and enjoy.

Whether you do that over a pint at the bar, or with a large group of friends, is up to you, but both were in evidence when we popped in this week.

Monica at The Plough in Alvescot

Paul has worked everywhere and with everyone, he’s that sort of chef, matter-of-fact, doesn’t see that all the fuss is about. But having moved to the area recently, he couldn’t find anywhere to eat and when he heard The Plough, situated between Bampton and Carterton, was up for grabs, was in like a shot.

“I am a bit cavalier I suppose, but I like going into places and turning them around. It’s what I’m good at, and luckily I’m a good chef with an eye for decor. So yes, this is a risk -it’s me and Monica’s first pub together, but it’s a bit of me, and if it doesn’t work out, good chefs are in always demand…..

The sharing plates

So what is Paul aiming for at The Plough? “An oldy-worldy pub with a contemporary menu – whether it’s monkfish tacos, and crab on toast, or chips with curry sauce and faggots, to satisfy my Northern roots. And people seem to love it,” he shrugs.

We certainly did. The chips with curry sauce by the way were a massive highlight, the huge crispy chips, soft in the middle, served with a vast bowl of home-made curry sauce were so moreish they had to be physically removed.

Monkfish tacos

We also relished said tacos; beautifully presented, the fish set against the lime, ceviche style. And the Godminster cheese pot with chargrilled fingers of sourdough (from local bakery Lynwood & Co delivered while we were there) which was like an English fondue (£9.50), and the delicate shredded crab served on toast with aioli and watercress, the shellfish freshly delivered that morning.

Then some of the soft tender braised beef cheeks with crispy kale, celeriac, horseradish and liquor (£14.50) and the chilled vegetable salad with salsa verde (crunchy with gherkins). The vegetable gyozas also disappeared in a trice.

Vegetable gyozas

We were on a roll and we’d only scratched the surface. But the joy was that there was no rush, you could graze and share and chat and sample without any set starter, main, dessert formula, which is so refreshing.

Any criticisms? The cheesy dip could have done with a bit of booze, and The Plough isn’t particularly cheap, but then sharing plates are deceptive like that. Otherwise it was great.

The beef cheeks

We managed two desserts (they change on a regular basis) – the milk chocolate ganache tart (£7) and a treacle and coconut slice with clotted cream that defied belief, so rich and dense that I didn’t really know what to do with myself.

The chocolate tart

So yes, I was impressed, but more than that I really enjoyed myself. The Plough in Alvescot is my kind of place and Paul and Monica are onto a winner there. And with a pizza van being converted for the summer, and a big beer garden to boot, it’s going to be busy!

The treacle and coconut slice

The Plough, Main Rd, Alvescot, Bampton OX18 2PU. For more details go to