You’ll find Nicholsons in North Aston, a small, serene Cotswolds-stone village in North Oxfordshire that goes back to the Domesday book. Roughly 10 miles away from both Bicester and Banbury, and an enticing 15 minutes from Soho Farmhouse, Nicholsons is tucked off the main road, and it’s a real high-end operation, with a nursery specialising in trees, screening and hedging (they offer free garden design consultations if you’re interested), an outdoor furniture arm called Rosara, and The Yurt – which started life as a café in 2017, but has since become a restaurant.
Relaxed, friendly, and on the day I visited pleasantly busy. A yurt structure is always going to feel informal but it also feels chic – the central lights creating a much-Instagramed focal point. As you’d expect there’s plenty of attractive foliage on shelves and floors (helpfully labelled in case you want to head outside and buy them) and a wood burner that keeps things cosy. A chilly yurt is a friend to no-one. There’s loads of seating outside for warmer months and, to the back of the yurt there’s a very pretty view over into the nursery, as well as access to a series of private dining ‘sheds’ that can hold up to 6 and are in various stages of refurbishment.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Breakfast is available here from 9 to 11 (the menu looks great – all the smashed avocados, sautéed mushrooms and eggs Royale you could desire) but I came for lunch to check out the new menu. There’s nothing too tricky on here – it’s a crowd-pleaser with the likes of venison casserole, crab bisque, a clutch of pastas and a risotto (the chef’s Italian), and a ‘catch of the day’. I went, on recommendation, for Mamma Clara’s Homemade Gnocchi with an Oxford blue, roasted chicory and walnut sauce (£13.95) and I’m glad I took the advice. Prettily plated, it was clean as a whistle in five minutes flat, with the chicory sharpening up the creamy sauce and the walnuts creating some texture against the soft gnocchi. Literally the plate was clear in five minutes.
I didn’t need dessert and for that reason went a bit experimental with a Halloween-inspired spicy pumpkin creme brulée. It was a bit stodgy for me after the gnocchi but I think I’d have been very happy with the pear and chocolate tart. Maybe next time.
OUT AND ABOUT
You can easily amble around Nicholsons for an hour or so, and the pretty 14th century church in North Aston with its alabaster table tomb of John and Alicia Anne is worth a visit if you like that sort of thing (guilty as charged). Beyond that you’re close to Bicester Village for shopping, Soho Farmhouse for people watching (it’s members only and guests so find a friend who’s joined!) and Rousham Gardens is a stunning privately owned estate with gardens those in the know rave about (including Nicholsons owner Liz).
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Those looking for a relaxed but stylish place to lunch. It’s perfect for taking in-laws after a meander around the nursery, or a bite to eat with your bestie, but the crowd-pleaser menu is also child-friendly.
Not for: It’s day time only here, so don’t rock up at 7pm expecting service!
The damage: The soup is your entry price at £7.95, with mains ranging from around £14 for pastas through to £19.95 for catch of the day and the venison casserole.
The Yurt at Nicholsons. The Park, North Aston, Bicester, Oxfordshire OX25 6HL. Tel: 01869 340342