* The Black Boy restaurant is closed for now, but the pub has been converted into a community shop making free deliveries. Takeaways are also available from an online menu for pick-up only*

JUST minutes from the hustle, bustle and general commotion of Headington’s hectic London Road is an oasis of pure calm.

Old Headington is a cluster of lovely stone-build houses and backstreets with a village-like quality known only to proper locals. The jewel in the crown of this bucolic backwater is The Black Boy.

A proper pub, holding its own on Old High Street, it possesses a bar with an array of pumps so plentiful it would have even the most ardent real ale fan drooling. An Everards house, it offers those two titans of Leicestershire brewing, Beacon and Tiger – both proper smooth session ales so good they make you wonder why we have all fallen so helplessly in love with all those hard to drink, over-hopped craft IPAs.

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Cosy and traditional, it also has three real open fires – which on the chilly evening we dropped in, were so tempting we found it hard to move away from the warm glow and crackling log glowing in the bar.

But, as locals have always known, The Black Boy is also a restaurant of note. In its previous guise it pulled in diners with a traditional ambience and award-winning cooking until shutting, without warning last June.

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To the delight of all, it reopened seven months later with cheery couple Samantha and Simon Stonehouse at the helm and with chef Jonny Cooper, after a hefty four-month refurb which saw it kitted out with new kitchen and revamped interiors – and menus.

The result is a triumph.

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Its fun, minimal and uncluttered bars and dining room have retained the old place’s charm and quirky appeal – those fire places for example – while the food is similarly modern, stylish and unfussy but with oodles of panache.

We were tempted to choose cocktails by the fun-loving Samantha and immediately relaxed while making the tough decision of what to go for from the impossible choices on the menu.

In the end, we are all went for the same starter - enticing-sounding scallops served on black pudding and crushed peas. This came with a crispy rasher of pancetta rising vertically, like a flamboyant feather in a hat.

The scallops – always the test of a chef – were perfectly-cooked: tender, juicy and bursting with flavour, the sweetness tempered by the moist black pudding which was, to an aficionado of offal such as myself, divine. I can’t stand those hard biscuit-like discs which pass for black pudding at so many breakfast buffets. This, by contrast, was warm, yielding and subtly flavoured. The zingy, fresh peas were cooling and delicately minted, completing this masterpiece of flavour and texture.

It would prove hard to beat, but my main course of confit Barbary duck leg (£16) was just as good.

The duck was pink and tender – juicy but firm and nicely crisped. It was served with some tasty parmentier potatoes (mini roasties in garlic and herb), a fresh rainbow chard, flaked almonds, baby onions, and a suitably rich and slightly tangy port and damson sauce – which was so good Samantha and Simon should copyright and sell it in jars.

The others went for that old favourite: steak – in this case, char-grilled 10oz beef rib-eye steak with confit cherry tomatoes, roasted flat mushroom, watercress and fries (£22).

A good and generous peppercorn sauce was just £1.50 extra.

I didn’t need to ask how it was: the silence, general wolfing down and approving noises said it all.

One of the lads went for another old favourite: a burger. It was no ordinary burger, though, being applewood smoked and served in a quality toasted brioche bun (£13). The gherkins were hastily flicked out but the rest went down a treat, with even less chat.

It went perfectly with a bottle of Chile’s finest: a rich, red-blooded and quickly quaffed Malbec.

We perhaps should have left it there, but Samantha’s proud description of the chef’s sticky toffee pudding made all resistance futile

It was, of course, gorgeous – warm, rich, smooth, suitably moist and sticky, topped with cooling, and rapidly melting, creamy vanilla ice cream and a chocolate lattice.

It was decadent, comforting, stylish and fun – just like The Black Boy itself.

The facts

  • The Black Boy is at 91 Old High Street, Headington, Oxford
  • Book at 01865 741137 or blackboyoxford.co.uk
  • The restaurant is closed for now, but the pub has been converted into a community shop making free deliveries.
  • Takeaways are also available from an online menu for pick-up only