For foodies it is a sad fact that Aylesbury Vale is not exactly awash with top notch dining destinations, but Oakman Inns are doing their damnedest to change that.
Sure the Vale has some great pub-restaurants dotted around but you generally have to travel that bit further to escape the usual chains which now dominate most modern towns.
Nestled away in the Vale countryside over in Swanbourne is the Betsey Wynne, a relatively rare thing in that it is a new(ish) build pub-restaurant, but one with plenty of history behind it nonetheless.
Surrounded by patios, manicured gardens and 1,300 acres of farmland, The Betsey Wynne was taken over by Oakman Inns - founded by Tring entrepeneur and restauranteur Peter Borg-Neal - in January last year. Named after the Swanbourne Estate’s 18th century owner, the traditional home farm venue has become a prominent destination in the village thanks to its striking views, 50-seat restaurant, extensive bar and lounge area, and specially designed function room.
It is fair to say the Betsey had lost its way somewhat before the Oakman takeover and while it is yet to have its impending makeover it is very much an example of just what the growing company can do when it gets its hands on a venue.
Previously, a visit to the Betsey Wynne could be very much hit and miss, but now it is very much hit.
With affable and passionate general manager Jack Ashmore overseeing the operation and head chef James Norie utilising and sourcing ingredients from the Swanbourne Estate to produce some fantastic fare, it is easy to see why the venue is popular again with not only locals but people from Aylesbury, Milton Keynes and beyond.
The new Spring/Summer menu has just launched and includes the interesting option to ‘Build Your own’ salad.
The menu boasts some trademark Oakman dishes which will be familiar to anyone who has eaten at their other restaurants in the Vale and nearby Hertfordshire including the Akeman Inn on the Bicester Road, the founding pub-restaurant the Akeman in Tring, the Kings Arms in Berkhamsted and the Red Lion in Water End between Leighton Buzzard and Hemel.
From the delicately prepared pumpkin ravioli to the mouthwatering saltimbocca giant scotch egg and haloumi sticks there is something familiar for Oakman regulars.
But to eat at the Betsey Wynne and not sample the specials, given the fact most are prepared with locally sourced ingredients, would be remiss.
The lamb in particular is a must, whether it is the sumptuously cooked loin or shank. You can have it cooked to your preference but service recommends medium to appreciate the flavour fully.
You would go a long way to find a better sirloin steak too. Cooked in the Josper grill, the Aubrey Allen steaks are dry aged for enhanced flavour and it delivers on taste.
The pumpkin raviloi is finished off with sage, chilli and lemon butter and pangrattato while the aforementioned triumph that is the saltimbocca Scotch egg features a deliciously soft-boiled free-range egg, sage, prosciutto and sausagemeat with a creamy hollandaise.
There is an extensive drinks offering as you would expect from an Oakman with a host of wines to suit your dishes, proseccos, cocktails and beers including Peroni, Budvar, San miguel and Guinness.
The overall dining experience is top drawer and it is exciting times for the Betsey with the impending refurb on the horizon.