I’d visited The Ox some years back for a writer’s group. Back then, it was a somewhat grimy drinkery offering the usual pallid pints and sugary cocktails with substandard food. Now, thankfully, it’s under a new banner, and much improved for it.
The Ox’s dining area feels clean but comfortable, with chalkboard menus offering a selection of imported wines and home brewed ales. The staff members were friendly, bringing our dog (yes, it’s dog friendly) a bowl of water and a pat on the head. The menu has a meaty focus (hint: The Ox) but there are vegetarian options if required, and they’re not your usual boring “chickpeas 3 ways” fare.
There were plenty of tasty-sounding mains, including fish pie, sloppy joes (made with braised lamb), Ox burgers and beyond. However, since we’d never eaten here before, we decided to try a few smaller dishes as a kind of tapas-style luncheon. We ordered the whitebait and squid, a black pudding scotch egg, triple cooked chips and a warm halloumi salad.
The food arrived promptly and was presented in a modern, attractive fashion which made it appealing to dive into.
The whitebait and squid were cooked well, without the squid becoming too chewy, and the batter was light. This came with a spicy sauce and wedge of lemon, which allowed you to season the dish to your taste. Whitebait is pretty intense so we’d have preferred a bit less of it and a bit more squid, but it wasn’t a deal breaker.
The black pudding scotch egg had a lovely texture and runny yolk, which mixed pleasantly with the crumbly coating and smooth, rich black pudding filling. The triple cooked chips arrived with a bacon mayonnaise which was a little too overpowering for the chip, and we weren’t convinced that the triple cooking really made much impact on the quality of the chip – though they were still pleasant, we’d had far better triples elsewhere. The halloumi salad was a welcome addition to the table, providing some acid and freshness which was needed to aid us through a pretty rich meal.
After savouries, we were tempted by another pint and some pudding. We tried the apple tarte tatin with rhubarb ripple ice cream and seeped rhubabrb, plus the chocolate brownie with peanut butter ice cream and a salted caramel sauce. These were elegant, and made for pleasant eating, but again they didn’t quite hit the heights we had hoped for. The rhubarb ripple ice cream was replaced with plain vanilla, and not a particularly impressive vanilla at that. Meanwhile the various elements, whilst promising, just lacked the oomph we wanted. Everything was set to 7 rather than 11.
The meal overall was fairly rich, but that’s partly down to our choices. Not every dish was great, but there was certainly enough here to bring us back to try a main course in the future, particularly as the beer selection is good and the food was well priced (and overall pretty enjoyable).
Russell scores The Ox
3.5/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
3.5/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 15/20
We ate: whitebait and squid, black pudding scotch egg, triple cooked chips and a warm halloumi salad. Apple tarte tatin, chocolate brownie.
We drank: ale
We wore: black trouser with dog hairs, stolen t-shirt
Total bill: £56
Address: 49-51 London St, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH3 6LX