I may be back in the UK but there was no way I was going to make it anything other than the softest landing possible. I headed to Oxford and the home comforts of my friends Kathryn and Rene who currently have the excellent MJ as their house guest.
While as usual the main focus of an Oxford weekend was allowing Kathryn to feed us superbly from her kitchen, we decided to venture out for a few Saturday errands and a spot of lunch at the city’s newly Michelin starred Oxford Kitchen.
In the smart suburb of Summertown, we were welcomed by the attentive front of house team and shown to a booth table. The table provided a few logistical challenges as regular reaching over required to attend to those sitting on the inside seats of the booth wasn’t particularly ideal.
I think the interior could generally use a little reworking to make better use of the space and give things a more polished feel. But this was a fairly minor quibble with what was otherwise a very enjoyable experience.
Around the table, MJ, Kathryn, Rene and I have very different tastes so we had a bit of a decision to make between the two tasting menu options. We eventually settled upon the six course market tasting menu. MJ showed wine restraint opting for two glasses at appropriate intervals while the rest of us took the wine pairing.
Our range of tastes manifested in an early difference of opinion around the initial snacks. The ladies were not fans of the beetroot meringues with goat’s curd filling but the chaps were generally appreciative. The meringues were delicate and well-crafted.
More broadly welcomed were the pork croquettes, and the oyster pannacotta with granita and Iberico ham. The bread was also very good with the malted yeast butter a particular hit with Marmite-loving Kathryn.
Our first course proper was a classic mackerel fillet with blood orange and radish. This was a very accurately cooked piece of fish at the heart of a bonnie dish. This matched well with a crisp muscadet.
Next we had a creative deconstruction of a French onion soup with an initial bowl of caramelised onion topped at the table with beef tea with the crouton replaced with a parmigiano-topped arancino. This was warmly received by all and was an excellent dish. The paired French sauvignon blanc was splendid.
Seaweed roast monkfish followed with accompaniments of langoustine, dulse and romensco. This dish featured good ingredients, well prepared but lacked a little something, perhaps a brighter note of citrus. The rioja blanco with it was pleasant.
The main course was duck breast with a braised leg cabbage parcel, crisp savoy and vanilla marinated cherries. The duck was expertly cooked and the dish had great balance. The accompanying wine, a pinot nero, was a light and fruity winner.
The first dessert with a fresh mix of carrot and tonka which worked nicely as a palate cleanser.
The second dessert was a neatly presented dish of rhubarb textures, vanilla custard, cinammon pastry and parkin gel. It was light and elegant.
As we sipped the last of our montbazillac with finishing coffees, we were left to reflect on a very pleasing meal.
The Oxford Kitchen is delivering food at a very good level, is well deserving of its Michelin recognition and still feels like it has room to develop and grow, which has to be viewed as a positive thing. Given my regular trips to Oxford, I can imagine I’ll be back at which point it will be interesting to see how things have progressed. Give it a look next time you’re in these parts.
Blythe scores Oxford Kitchen
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
3.5/5 for setting
giving an overall 15.5/20
Today’s questers were: Kathryn, MJ, Rene, Blythe
We ate: tasting menu
We drank: paired wines, water, coffees
Total bill: £423