The team at The Back Lane Tavern in Woodstock

Celebrations at The Back Lane in Woodstock are ongoing as news of their two AA rosettes for culinary excellence was announced.

The winning team – head chef Johnny Park, Chris Brewster and Hugo Kelly – are absolutely delighted with the new accolade and hopes it will encourage new diners through the door.

‘the historic pub has gone from strength to strength, its reputation for fantastic, novel and enticing food, spreading like wildfire’

“We are so proud of the whole team because when we opened three years ago we didn’t set out to win accolades, but to create a really fun pub for people of all ages and to keep it affordable. But word of Johnny’s food has spread and we hope the two AA rosettes will only further that reputation,” Chris says.

Two rosettes at The Back Lane Tavern in Woodstock

Over the last three years the historic pub has gone from strength to strength, its reputation for fantastic, novel and enticing food, spreading like wildfire. And with new GMs Jen Staddon and Holly Gray at the helm we were in safe hands.

But with an already buoyant bar and restaurant, the popular hostelry which perfectly bridges that difficult line between pub and gastropub, was as busy as always, as we discovered while visiting for dinner.

Back Lane Tavern’s head chef Johnny Parke, landlord Chris Brewster and GM Hugo Kelly who won the Overall Winner award in the Ox IN A Box Food Awards

Luckily we’d booked and were there to celebrate, so went full throttle because the glory of The Back Lane is that its sharing plate menu ensures that the dishes come out in a steady stream, removing the need for a set starter, mains and dessert formula. Order as much or as little as you want.

Which entailed a delicious spelt sourdough with aged balsamic and beef butter (like dripping but whipped) to get the party started, and then an unctuous Saint-Marcellin baked cheese with a pineapple chutney that oozed onto the sourdough; rich, heavenly and naughty as hell.

Saint-Marcellin baked cheese with a pineapple chutney

The delectably light wild mushroom arancini served on a truffled creme fraiche with 36 month aged parmesan scattered on top was unmissable, the sauce the perfect accompaniment as you popped them in your mouth.

‘The Back Lane is riding an unstoppable wave, and its popularity shows no sign of abating!’

The salty, smoky heat of the harissa Cantabrian anchovies didn’t overpower the fish, and the infamous Back Lane Korean chicken wings with ranch sauce and black sesame, which unsurprisingly fly out of the kitchen, presenting that satisfying authentic zing of Asian heat.

The Korean wings

As for the Wye Valley asparagus with Goldminster custard, black garlic ketchup and Monks Beard, it was so beautifully crafted; the depth of flavour in the cheesy custard unhindered by the light, creamy texture, and then the hit of dark garlic – the perfect accruements to the seasonal veg.

Wye Valley asparagus

And on we travelled through the Back Lane menu with a plate of the baharat lamb smoked on the green egg BBQ outside, served with a cucumber and mint yoghurt and a baba ghanoush whose smoky depths sang.

As for the wild sea trout and prawn fishcake with ponzu and miso mayonnaise – the enticing components came together beautifully – another vastly popular dish for good reason.

But then that’s Johnny’s greatest attribute, taking a well known dish and elevating it through his influences, travels and creativity, shining a new light on the ordinary and infusing it with flavour and novelty.


This was evident in the simply presented tiger prawns with ginger, garlic, lemon grass and oyster sauce, the shellfish infused with the wonderful fresh marinade, as we scrabbled over the last one.

And the all-time-favourite Thai beef salad; aged Hereford beef, mooli, roasted cashews, black sesame, cucumber, soft herbs and ponzu dressing – a sensational, textured, vibrant addition.

We had the white chocolate cheesecake with mango, passionfruit and miso caramel with a candle in it for dessert, and as the dining room joined in with singing Happy Birthday, I looked around at the relaxing and fun environment, the bars still packed with happy drinkers as we dined in splendour at the back, and took my cap off to them.

So yes, the Back Lane’s AA rosettes are fully deserved, but make sure you book, because The Back Lane is riding an unstoppable wave, and its popularity shows no sign of abating!

Johnny Parke

The Back Lane Tavern, 11 Park Lane, Woodstock OX20 1UD