The award-winning pub group, Oakman Inns, which owns three Oxfordshire pubs - has a reputation for supporting their local communities across the South of England and West Midlands and national charities including The Woodland Trust and The Epilepsy Society. This year, with their pubs locked down, they have introduced a new nationwide meal box delivery service, Oakman at Home, featuring some of their most loved dishes and celebration meals with easy-to-follow instructions to finish at home.
To share the love on Valentine’s Day they asked their customers to nominate a couple living near one of their pubs who deserved a special Valentine’s dinner to remember as a thank you for all the support they have been providing in their community since lockdown.
The winning couple, Samantha and Paul Butler-McLees from Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire, were nominated by their good friend, Catherine Ball who wrote on Facebook:
On Saturday afternoon, 13th February, Michael Cowley, Oakman Inns’ Deputy GM at the Blue Boar in Witney, personally delivered a mouth-watering Oakman at Home Four Course Valentine’s Day ‘Make-Away’ Feast to Sam and Paul’s home - plus a bottle of fizz, a beautiful bunch of flowers for the table and a £100 voucher to spend on a meal at one of the 28 Oakman Inns when pubs are allowed to re-open.
Sam and Paul met 12 years ago on a First Aid training course that Paul was facilitating. Sam is a teacher at Mabel Prichard School in Blackbird Leys, Oxford, a primary school for children with special educational needs, where she teaches Early Years Foundation Stage and Year 1. During the first lockdown, she was in a school and currently she is also supporting parents virtually, having to adapt and cater for children in a wide variety of situations with a huge range of individual needs.
Paul works in patient safety in a local NHS trust and during the pandemic he has been working as a Community Nurse in Witney and Chipping Norton. Although he has now returned to his regular job in patient safety, he continues to support the district nursing teams at weekends. On top of this, Paul volunteers as a Community First Responder for the South Central Ambulance Service and is on call every evening and at weekends.
They live with three children AJ 16, Freddie 13 and Alannah who is 10. Despite the fact that they are both key workers, they chose to home school their two youngest children to minimize the spread of the virus.
Sam said: “We were surprised and delighted that we have received this lovely meal from Oakman Inns. We, like many others, just do the jobs we love in somewhat extraordinary circumstances, but it’s great to be acknowledged. We were both impressed by the environmentally friendly packaging. The food we ate was delicious. The instructions were easy to follow and we enjoyed being able to cook the courses at our own pace. All in all, the evening was warm, decadent and a lovely excuse to stop and spend some QT with each other. Something we haven’t had much time for recently. Thank you.”
Paul added: “It looks like the vaccine and current restrictions are the route out of this pandemic and we will soon be able to enjoy the company of friends, good food and a cold pint in a pub soon.”
The Valentine’s Meal Box contained nibbles to enjoy over a glass of champagne while the first course - Aubergine Parmigiana Ravioli served with Focaccia, was baking. This was followed by Dry Aged British Sirloin Steaks with triple cooked chips and peppercorn sauce accompanied by Caramelised Onion Cauliflower Gratin, Cavolo Nero and Roasted Garlic. The dessert was Baked Vanilla Cheesecake with passion fruit (of course) and hot white chocolate sauce with a cheese board to finish.