The Crooked Billet in Stoke Row is now one of England’s finest & most traditional country inns. It is hidden well off the beaten track, down a narrow winding lane nestled between beech & oak & backing onto a meadow.
Built in 1642 it was once the hideout of notorious highwayman Dick Turpin, who was romantically attached to the landlord’s daughter Bess.
It operated as a small holding, selling locally produced ale from its tiny cellar. The original cellar is still a feature today.
Paul Clerehugh took over the Crooked Billet in 1989 & quickly gained a reputation for providing excellent food. Paul, a self-taught chef, has not changed any of the original features that give the pub its unique character & charm. Inglenook fireplaces, low timbered ceilings, flagstone floors & old, scrubbed pine tables all remain. And there is still no bar – beer is drawn directly from casks in the cellar.
Outbuildings located in the car park were used as a bodgers workshop until 1960. Today these house a bakery, producing bread for the pub & local schools. Mr Silas Saunders was the last chair bodger, turning furniture legs & ladder rungs on a pole lathe. The lathe, along with Silas’ tools are now homed in The Rural History Museum at Woodstock.
The pubs large end dining room was originally a dormitory housing cherry pickers working in Stoke Row harvesting fruit.
Today the Crooked Billet is a favourite destination for foodies (those appreciating unpretentious well-sourced, well-cooked ingredients) & chefs (recent sightings of Heston Blumenthal, Jamie Oliver, Anthony Worrall-Thompson & Marco Pierre-White).
In 1989 the Daily Mail referred to Paul’s cookery as “Gastro pub gastronomy”, being the first occasion the term was used & making the Crooked Billet the first ‘Gastro Pub’, a name Paul dislikes intensely – he says that if this is the case then “Jesus was born in a gastro pub”.
The pub features in all the main food guides, has been included in Time Outs ‘Best Out of London’ two years running & has been voted ‘Favourite Foodie Pub’ by Waitrose.
Many television programmes, adverts & big screen movies were filmed at the Crooked Billet – Patriot Games, Jeeves & Wooster, Landgirls, Midsummer Murders & numerous food & chef related shows & cookery programmes.
The Crooked Billet provides a relaxed informal atmosphere to enjoy unfussy, beautifully & lovingly prepared food. Lots of local & predominantly seasonal British ingredients. Friendly, attentive personality driven service & unspoilt, un-gastro-pubbed, rustic rural settings.