Friday, 30 August 2013

Foodie Events - SEPTEMBER

Location: Oxford, UK
WADDESDON MANOR CHILLI FESTIVAL
Saturday 31 August and Sunday 1 September 2013, 10.30am - 4.30pm
Waddesdon Plant Centre, Waddesdon Manor, Waddesdon HP17 0JW
£3.00 entry to the Chilli Festival. Under 16s: Free. Book now

Normal admission charges apply to Waddesdon Manor
Waddesdon Manor's annual Chilli Festival returns with 30+ stalls tempting you with delicious chilli jams, exotic and enticing pastes and pickles, chutneys and oils, relishes and sauces, alongside chilli ice-cream, chilli tea, spicy cheeses and chilli beers! Fancy growing chillies yourself? Why not buy your own seeds, or one of the many chilli plants on offer. There will also be live music from local bands, a magician, plus paint-a-pot fun and face painting for the kids. As a new addition to the festival, there will be a number of demonstrations and talks taking place in the Chilli Theatre. There will also be some tasters to enjoy!


RUMSEY'S CHOCOLATE COURSES
Sunday 1st September, 2-4.30pm approx, Chocolate Heaven
Sunday 15th September, 2 - 4.30pm approx, Chocolate Heaven
Minimum age 16 / £96 per person 
Sunday 1st September, 10.30am-12noon approx, Make a Chocolate Figurine
Sunday 15th September, 10.30am-12noon approx, Make a Chocolate Figurine
Minimum age 16 / £57 per person
To book call 01296 625060 or email office@rumseys.co.uk
Join the fabulous Chocolatiers at Rumsey's to learn how to make something amazing out of, well, chocolate. I can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday!



THE MONTPELLIER CHAPTER COOK'S CLUB
Wednesday 4th September, 11.30am - 2.30pm, All things shell fish. 
The Montpellier Chapter, Bayshill Road, Montpellier, Cheltenham GL50 3AS 
£15 per person, spaces limited, call to book 01242 527788
If you fancy getting out of the city for a few hours, where better to go than the Cotswolds for a real Foodie treat. An hours demonstration, before you enjoy a two course lunch featuring Consultant Chef Simon Hopkinson’s dish of the month. The theme this month is 'All Things Shellfish' and the dish of the month is Irish Creamed Shrimps on Butter-Grilled Toast.... Cracking deal for £15!


SOPHIE'S COOKERY SCHOOL 
Friday 6th Sept, 6-9pm Approx, Soup Glorious Soup
Thursday 12th September, 6-9pm approx, More than just Paella
Thursday 19th September, 6-9pm approx, Zeus's Table  
Friday 20th September, 6-9pm approx, French Patisserie 
Friday 27th September, 6-9pm approx, Sophie's Seasonal Supper
Sunday 29th September, 6-9pm approx, Cookery Book Club
Location TBC, in Oxford 
£60 per person, book now
With a stunning line up of pop up events for September, get yourself along to one of Sophie and Emma's pop-up classes. Soup, Paella, French Patisserie... talk about spoilt for choice. If I wasn't currently juggling a toddler and a newborn you might see me at all of them!


CHEESES ON THE GREEN
Saturday 7th September, 6-7.30pm (On the Rack) and 8-11pm (Under the Stars)
Churchill Village Green, Oxfordshire, OX7
£35 per person On the Rack + Under the Stars. £25 per person Under the Stars.
Tickets are not available on the day, so please book in advance: Book now
On Thursday 5th September, 60 judges will award medals and chose a Supreme Champion 2013. On Saturday 7th, cheese lovers then have chance to share these magnificent cheeses at 2 small events, involving over 900 traditional and modern British cheeses.
Cheeses on the Rack: Tasting traditional and modern British cheeses, chief judge Juliet Harbutt gives cheese lovers a unique insight into how the judges judge and how to recognise the best of the best, including award winners announced the night before at the annual British Cheese Awards. Includes Cheeses under the Stars and 2 glasses of wine.
Cheeses Under the Stars: After a brief introduction, wander through the cheese tents, meet the experts, join a tour of the cheeses, create the perfect cheeseboard, discover which cheeses have won at this year’s British Cheese Awards and sample the rapidly diminishing 900. Includes salads, bread, music, a bar serving local cider, beers & great wines.
Website: www.thecheeseweb.com/cheeses-on-the-green


© Heysues23 | DreamstimeStock 
Photos Stock Free Images
ST GILES' FAIR
Monday 9th and Tuesday 10th September
St Giles', Oxford 
Free Entry 
A firm staple in the Oxford events calendar, St Giles' Fair returns to the city for two brief days, so make the most of it. Running since the thirteenth century, the fair originated to commemorate the consecration of St Giles' Church and was once watched by Queen Elizabeth I herself, from the windows of St Johns College, back in 1567.
Website: http://www.oxford.gov.uk/PageRender/decVanilla/StGilesFair.htm



ROTHSCHILD WINE DINNER
Friday 13 September 2013
The Five Arrows, Waddesdon, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP18 0JE
£69.00 per person. To book call 01296 651727 or email five.arrows@nationaltrust.org.uk
Enjoy a selection of Rothschild wines at this special evening with Champagne and canapés on arrival and a four course dinner.
Website: www.waddesdon.org.uk/events/rothschild


PIDDINGTON MARKET 
Saturday 14th September, 10am-2pm 
Village Hall, Piddington, Oxon OX25 1PU 
Free Entry 
The tiny village of Piddington host their quarterly market this month. While still in it's infancy, this will be their fourth event I think. Providing Piddington with a place to meet and buy local products, ‘The Pantry’ is a community project.
Website: piddingtonpantry.wordpress.com


NEWENT ONION FAYRE 
Saturday 14th September, 10am onwards 
Newent, Gloucestershire GL18 1BZ 
Free Entry 
Fancy something a little different this month? Head on over to Newent in Gloucestershire for their annual Onion Fayre. A one day street festival of food, drink and festivities, the fayre attracts nearly 15,000 people! Including an Onion Show, the fayre also showcases locally grown fruit and vegetables, non-alcoholic and alcoholic juices, while also featuring 100+ stands, exhibitions, children's events, live music and entertainment.
Website: www.newentonionfayre.org


CiCi CoCo COOKERY SCHOOL - L’arte di mangiare locale
Tuesday 17th, September 2013, 10am - 3pm approx
Beam Cottage, Lower Church Street, Cuddington, Thame HP18 0AS
Course 1 : Quattro Pasta / £95 person / max 6
To book e-mail giuliana@cici-coco.com
Cuddington based CiCi CoCo started trading on April Fool's Day 2010, since then they've won Awards for their Italian food business, creating wonderful home cooked food inspired by local products and ingredients. Winning 1 Great Taste Award in 2011 for their Lasagna Alla Bolognese, followed by another 3 in 2012 for their speciality Lasagna and Caponata, more recently they were voted 'Best Independant Producer' in 2013 in the Muddy Stiletto Awards. This month CiCi CoCo launch their brand new Cookery School, to inspire you with some regional Italian dishes and share some of the fantastic local ingredients and produce in our area. Includes: refreshments on arrival, discussions around produce and then cooking until around 1.30pm, then lunch and wine, then finally making a dessert.


THAME FOOD FESTIVAL 
Saturday 28th September, 9am to 6pm  
Thame Town Centre 
Free Entry 
The Thame Food Festival returns with a dazzling mixture of local, Michelin starred and TV chefs: Raymond Blanc, Tom Kerridge from  Hand and Flowers in Marlow, Adam Simmonds from Danesfield House in Marlow, Shaun Dickens from The Boathouse in Henley-on-Thames, Mike North of The Nut Tree at Murcott, Chris Godfrey of The Sir Charles Napier, plus Lotte Duncan to name a few! A truly fabulous foodie day out, with artisan food and drink producers lining the streets, wonderful demonstrations across two stages, plus some great live entertainment. This HAS to be one of the biggest foodie events in the local calendar!
Website: www.thamefoodfestival.co.uk


PULL-BREW-MELT
Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 September 2013, 10.30am-4.30pm
The Glass House, Waddesdon Plant Centre, Waddesdon HP17 0JW
Free Entry
"A rumble of distant thunder, the wind howls and a flash of lightning tears across the night sky! Something has been brewing in the laboratory……. But what can it be? Those pesky Fantastical Espresso Bros are at it again! Returning for our second infestation of the great glasshouse in the sleepy village of Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire. A weekend of sensory festivities that would make Dr Frankenstein proud! On 28th & 29th September witness what the UK’s finest producers and artisans have to offer. Please my friends come down to the lab and see whats on the slab……… mmm ha ha ha ha ha"
Website: www.pull-brew-melt.co.uk


All these events AND MORE on the Foodie Events Calendar
you can even download events straight to your own calendar!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Cook Book Addiction & MrF's Cheese on Toast Rules

Location: Aylesbury, UK

My name is Jacqui Thorndyke, and I'm a cook book addict.

There, I've said it, now cancel my Amazon account and send me to a self-help group. Jamie, Gordon, Nigella, Good Housekeeping, Michelin Star chefs, Indian, Thai, Japanese, British, Cakes, Cocktails, Salads… you name it, I've got it. I'm also fairly particular about the condition of my beloved books – they either have to be beautifully food splattered, representing the regularity of their use, or remain in pristine condition.

Needless to say, when MrF left one of my Raymond Blanc books (pardon Monsieur) out overnight in the rain last year, after using it to fan the BBQ… one was not amused; in fact, on finding the sodden collection of Michelin star chef recipes slumped sadly over the picnic bench, I may well have threatened some form of physical violence. Overreaction? Nah.

So do I need all these cook books? Of course I do; if I need inspiration for what to cook next week, have a dinner party or family event to cater for, I reach for my trusty cook books and plough through a selective stack of my favourites. Happily nose-deep in images of elegant starters, sumptuous mains and delectable desserts, I could while away hours on this part of the process alone.

I've unearthed recipes from within these volumes that have wowed guests, along with recipes that have gone on to be regulars on the Foodie Family dinner table – Gizzi Erskine’s Moroccan Chicken, Jamie Oliver’s Tray Bake Fish, plus Nigella’s Italian Roast Chicken to name just a few. My cook books are a constant source of enjoyment for me and I cannot get enough; the littering of them in my Amazon wish list is proof enough.

It therefore may come as some surprise to you, as it did to me, that the most satisfying recipe I ever learnt was how to make perfect cheese on toast…. from none other than MrF himself. I know – annoying right?! He owns maybe two cook books at best, rarely cooks our meals and has a recipe repertoire of about four dishes (that’s another story entirely) – including cheese on toast! He does, however, make the most amazing cheese on toast.

It bugged me enormously when, after tasting his masterpiece, I was unable to recreate it myself – despite several attempts. Feeling somewhat defeated, I gave in and admitted I needed his recipe...or rather rules!

MrF's Cheese on Toast Rules:
  1. The bread CANNOT be toasted in a toaster, it must go under the grill
  2. The bread can only be toasted on ONE SIDE
  3. Cover the UNTOASTED side with slices of cheese, before returning to the grill (you can add seasoning at this stage -salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce maybe). 
  4. DO NOT overcook the cheese – it must be melted, but not brown & bubbly
  5. Add a small swipe of butter across the top as a final measure & EAT WHILE WARM
So there you have it – the perfect cheese on toast. With all the stunning array of recipes I have at my disposal, an incredibly simple cheese on bloomin’ toast by my very own MrF is the star of the show; how very annoying.

Don’t think for one minute though I'm ditching the cook books, I’ll have ordered at least another two by the time this goes to print!

Published in the Aug/Sep 2013 edition of Vale Life

Monday, 26 August 2013

Restaurant Review - Byron Hamburgers

Location: 33 George Street, Oxford, OX1 2AY, UK
Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour

My six-weekly 'day off' at the hairdressers is always something I look forward to, not just because of the quiet time, or the break from being Mum, or even the complimentary head massage - I look forward to these rare days because I also have a quiet lunch, all by my little self. There was a time when I'd have hated the thought of eating alone, but these quiet times are simply bliss! AND I get to eat wherever I want without compromise... so where this time? Byron Hamburgers!

You see I was on a bit of a local burger benchmarking mission - I'd tried the special Burger Menu at The Royal Oak, I'd sampled the delights of Atomic Burgers, and more recently chowed down on burgers at Door 74 and Jacobs Inn; I was, however, yet to visit Byron.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour

Grabbing a small table in sight of the kitchen, I made myself comfortable and began the torturous task of choosing the right burger. With an art-deco vibe to the decor, Byron is light and airy, but doesn't quite feel comfortable enough spend a significant amount of time in. Maybe it was just the table I was sat at, the booths did look a little cosier... and maybe with a drink or two on board I'd feel differently. The staff were welcoming and polite though and the service efficient.
"Our beef comes from Scotland, is freshly ground every day and cooked medium (unless otherwise requested). All our hamburgers are served in a proper squishy bun with a pickle on the side."
A proud statement displayed prominently on the Byron menu; I think it's completely right the burgers are normally cooked medium and LOVE the addition of a pickle on the side. With eight 'Proper Hamburgers' to choose from, plus four main salads, I clearly ignored the salads altogether... I also immediately ruled out the skinny, veggie and chicken options (no offence skinny/veggie/chicken fans, but I needed a proper hamburger, for the sake of fair testing you understand).

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour

This left me with five options: Classic, Cheese, Byron, Chilli or Big B... how could I not go for the namesake itself? Byron it was then - Dry cure bacon, mature Cheddar, lettuce, tomato, red onion and Byron sauce (£9.25) with a side of fries (£2.95). I would have been keen to try the courgette fries but, well, there's only so much a girl can eat!

It wasn't long at all before a perfectly pert burger landed before me. Now, I'm a little OCD, so one of the things that often troubles me with burgers is the messiness; whether you're a hands or knife and fork kinda burger eater, the insides often slip out here there and everywhere -  not something I'm particularly fond of.

This little beauty though, has to be one of the neatest burgers I've ever eaten!

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Byron Burger with side of Fries

Tidiness won't be of huge importance to everyone though when it comes to burgers, so I'll move on. The fries were cooked, in my opinion, perfectly - tasty AND crispy, the two main things I look for with fries. The burger itself? I actually couldn't fault it - the ratio of burger to bun was spot on; the burger sauce delicious and perfectly measured; the salad accompaniments just enough; the bacon and cheese flavourful but modest. 

I don't think I've ever eaten such a well-proportioned and well-balanced burger... ever! I even managed to finish the whole thing... which is a HUGE achievement for me.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour

Having delayed my visit to Byron for such a long time, always assuming a big burger would be far too much for my lunch, I don't know what on earth I was thinking. While I wasn't blown away with gastronomic excitement, I now understand what they mean by 'proper hamburgers', for this is how I've always wanted a burger and fries to be - simple, tasty, perfectly cooked, a bit neater... and not leave you feeling downright greasy and guilty.

What I am discovering along the way on my burger benchmarking, is that there is no one perfect burger, but maybe a perfect burger for different occasions - there will still be room for Atomic style 'gourmet' burgers with fabulous arrays of toppings, but there is definitely room for 'proper' burgers done simply and done well.

Overall Score: 8/10

Byron Hamburgers
33 George St
Oxford
OX1 2AY
Twitter: @byronhamburgers
Facebook: @byronhamburgers
Phone: 01865 792 155

Byron Hamburgers on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 22 August 2013

3 Days in Oxford

Location: Oxford, UK
FoodieOnTour Oxford

With the long weekend approaching, I've been getting several requests for restaurant, pub and bar recommendations. You may be a visiting tourist, an Oxford local with guests to entertain, or simply someone with a weekend all to yourself, either way, here is a little something to help...

My ultimate long weekend in Oxford!

I've purely focused on central Oxford here (with a Foodie angle), but if you'd like any recommendations for outside the city, please contact me via email, Facebook or Twitter.


DAY 1 - SATURDAY

FoodieOnTour Oxford
Breakfast: Turl Street Kitchen
16-17 Turl Street
Oxford
OX1 3DH
Phone: 01865 264 171

One of Oxford's finest, stop by from 8am to get plenty of coffee down your neck and fuel up for the day... bacon sandwich, granola, smoked salmon, soft boiled eggs, porridge, pastries - fill your boots, or, you know, your belly!



FoodieOnTour Oxford
Sightseeing: Oxford Covered Market, then Oxford Castle
Oxford Covered Market, The Market, Oxford OX1 3DZ.

Phone: 01865 250133
Oxford Castle, 3 New Rd, Oxford OX1 1AY.
Phone: 0844 693 0659

After breakfast, take a browse around the historic Oxford Covered Market before heading over to Oxford's very own Norman Medieval Castle. The Market itself has been around for over two centuries and has local traders selling cookies, cheese, sausages, fresh fish, deli goods, clothing, jewellery, luxury chocolates, homewares and plenty more to take your fancy!


FoodieOnTour Oxford
108 St. Aldate’s
Oxford
OX1 1BU
Phone: 01865 241185

Somewhere I haven't tried yet but am very keen to, as I've been hearing very good things! Fancy a Hoisin Glazed Hotdog with Chilli Pickle, Chinese Cabbage & Hand Cut Chips? Or maybe a Pulled Pork & Cheddar Bap with Coleslaw & Hand cut Chips? Otherwise dive into a sharing plate of Whole Baked Camembert with Onion Marmalade & Crusty Bread... *drool*


FoodieOnTour Oxford
St. Aldates
Oxford
OX1 1DP
Phone: 01865 276150

After lunch, take a walk down St Aldates to Christchurch College, where you can explore the Hall and Cathedral beore taking a leisurely stroll through the beautiful riverside meadow. If you have a little more time you can also check out the University of Oxford Botanic Garden.


FoodieOnTour OxfordDinner: The High Table
71-73 The High Street
Oxford
OX1 4BE
Phone: 01865 248695

I've had some stunning dishes here with some beautiful wines - an elegant dinner venue to finish the day in.



DAY 2 - SUNDAY

FoodieOnTour Oxford
Breakfast: St Giles' Cafe
52 St Giles'
Oxford
OX1 3LU
Phone: 01865 554200

What better way to start the day than with a full English and a decent cuppa - and you won't get better in the city centre than at this historic cafe. Previously a greasy spoon, St Giles' Cafe has since been transformed into a delightful venue for breakfast, lunch and supper.



FoodieOnTour Oxford
Sightseeing: Ashmolean Museum
Beaumont St
Oxford
OX1 2PH
Phone: 01865 278002

After a good brekkie, head down the road a few hundred yards to The Ashmolean Museum for some culture. A really good museum to lose yourself in for a couple of hours or so, with a lovely roof terrace for drinks if you get thirsty!


FoodieOnTour Oxford
Lunch / Afternoon Tea: The Randolph Hotel
Beaumont Street
Oxford
OX1 2LN
Phone: 01865 256 400

Once you've worked up an appetite walking round the museum, pop over the road to The Randolph Hotel for lunch or a traditional Afternoon Tea, maybe even a cocktail in The Morse Bar, named after the hotel featured in many episodes of Inspector Morse.


FoodieOnTour Oxford
Sightseeing: University Parks
University Parks
entry via Parks Road
Oxford

Walk off all that cake in the big, beautiful Oxford University Parks... if you fancy a little tipple afterwards, then follow in the footsteps of Inklings C S Lewis & J R R Tolkien by having a pint or two at The Eagle & Child


FoodieOnTour Oxford
9 Little Clarendon St Jericho
Oxford
OX1 2HP
Phone: 01865 316616

Gorgeous little French restaurant, serving traditional bistro dishes - perfect little intimate setting for an evening meal - and damn good food too!






DAY 3 - MONDAY

FoodieOnTour Oxford
University Church
1 Radcliffe Square
Oxford
OX1 4AH
Phone: 01865 279112

If the weather is good, take breakfast in their gardens overlooking the Radcliffe Camera. Serving breakfast from 8.30am, Vaults & Gardens cater well for different demands, serving Full English, Mediterranean, or Vegetarian Breakfast, alongside other choices.

FoodieOnTour, Oxford
Pitt Rivers Museum, S Parks Rd Oxford OX1 3PP. 01865 270927
Natural History Museum, Parks Rd Oxford OX1 3PW. 01865 272950

Visit one of Oxford's most popular museums, Pitt Rivers or the Natural History Museum before quenching your thirst with a drink or two at the infamous Turf Tavern. Dating back to the 13th Century and hidden down a winding passageway, The Turf is a favourite amongst local scholars and is rumoured to be the place where Bill Clinton "did not inhale". Stop en route to take pics of the beautiful Bridge of Sighs.


FoodieOnTour Oxford
40 Holywell
St Oxford
OX1 3SP
Phone: 01865 242369

Serving up high quality 'pub grub', you can refuel with a Posh Fish Finger Sandwich, Chilli Nachos, proper Fish & Chips, a Traditional Ploughmans or a hearty Jacket Potato.


FoodieOnTour Oxford
Sightseeing: Magdalen College & Deer Park

High St
Oxford
OX1 4AU
Phone: 01865 276000

After lunch, head on over to Magdalen College to see what life is like as an Oxford University student. With a 550 year history and Award winning gardens, PLUS an actual deer park, there is plenty to see and photograph.




FoodieOnTour Oxford
Spare Time...? Punting!

If you have ANY time left and the weather is favourable, you can always take to the river to enjoy a spot of punting. Meander down the river then moor up alongside one of Oxford's riverside eating/drinking venues, such as the Isis Farmhouse or The Victoria Inn.





Enjoy!

FoodieOnTour x

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Restaurant Review - Brasserie Blanc

Location: 71-72 Walton Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX2 6AG, UK
Restaurant Reviews Oxford, FoodieOnTour

With under two weeks till MiniF2's due date, I was starting to look somewhat whale-like; with a bowling ball for a belly and a considerable waddle, MrF and I decided to have a final night off before our lives are turned upside down all over again. Having visited Brasserie Blanc recently for an 'off duty' (read as not reviewing) lunch and being very impressed, we decided on a return visit - this time with my reviewing head firmly on.

So grandparents babysitting and table reserved for 7.30, we were out the house as quick as our little legs could carry us... clearly a night off had been long overdue! A quick drink in The Jericho Tavern and we were ready for a lovely dinner.

The first thing that's noticeable about Brasserie Blanc is the service - the front of house staff are impeccably well trained, with an air of elegant ease about them. The décor is understated and tasteful, with well-worn candles draped in skirts of wax, black and white pictures of Monsieur Blanc in the kitchen, cool cream walls, dark wooden tables, low lighting and white linens.

Restaurant Reviews Oxford, FoodieOnTour

With the front half of the restaurant already full (by 7.30 - very impressive!), we made our way to the rear of the building, with the kitchen in sight; comfortable settled and drinks ordered we spent a good ten minutes debating how many courses to attempt - I'm pleased to say the final agreement three. Welllllllll, it may be a while till we get to splurge!

MrF's selection was Chicken Liver Parfait (from the specials), Rack of English Lamb with Lemon and Herb Puy Lentils (£18.90), followed by ice cream (£1.50 per scoop); I decided on Burgundian Snails in Garlic Herb Butter (£7.80 - a big favourite of mine), followed by Confit Duck (also from the specials), then the Cherry Almond Tart served with Crème Anglaise, Toasted Pistachios and Almonds (£6.65).

Restaurant Reviews Oxford, FoodieOnTour
Chicken Liver Parfait with Toasted Baguette and Chutney

Restaurant Reviews Oxford, FoodieOnTour
Burgundian Snails in Garlic Herb Butter

The Chicken Liver Parfait looked beautiful - smooth and silky, a tempting reminder of what I would joyfully be allowed to eat again in a matter of weeks; MrF assures me it was good, and with the speed it was consumed I would certainly assume so. The Snails were delightful, if a little too hot to eat for some time; I was possibly just starting my dish as MrF was finishing his! Initial heat aside, the delicious garlic and herb butter made for a wonderful rich accompaniment to the earthy snails and crisp baguette - I could have easily eaten twice the amount and not lost interest.

Restaurant Reviews Oxford, FoodieOnTour
Rack of English Lamb with Lemon and Herb Puy Lentils

Restaurant Reviews Oxford, FoodieOnTour
Confit Duck with Potato Cake, Vegetables and Cherries

Moving onto our mains, the lamb looked absolutely stunning - blushing pink and cooked just perfectly, served up on a tantalisingly soft mash and juicy lentil broth, MrF was a happy boy. As for me, I was blissfully tucking into my moist confit duck which was almost falling off the bone; the potato cake was a buttery-soft, delicious treat; the plump cherries an enjoyable addition; the vegetables a touch beyond al dente; all tied together by a delicate buttery jus.... Beautiful.

Restaurant Reviews Oxford, FoodieOnTour
Cherry Almond Tart served with Crème Anglaise, Toasted Pistachios and Almonds
Excuse the picture, the lighting was somewhat low by this point!

With a little room still left, I tucked in happily to my Cherry and Almond tart, while MrF, being completely predictable, dug into his ice cream. Both enjoyable, well-prepared, high quality desserts, without evoking exaggerated feelings of delight. To a large degree, this sums up our meal well; you can tell all the ingredients are of high quality, the food is prepared to an exacting standard, the food tastes great, the service is beyond reproach, all in all a highly professional restaurant. However, there was no singular dish that left me reeling with desire to eat it immediately again, or gush about it to friends and family.

Don't underestimate the importance of substance over style though - and substance is something which Brasserie Blanc has aplenty, with care and consideration apparent throughout. I can see this becoming a regular 'date venue' for MrF and I...

Overall Score: 8.5/10 

Brasserie Blanc
71- 72 Walton Street
Oxford
OX2 6AG
Twitter: @brasserieblanc
Facebook: @Brasserie-Blanc-Oxford
Website: www.brasserieblanc.com/french-restaurant/locations/oxford.php
Phone: 01865 510 999


Brasserie Blanc on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 18 August 2013

PREVIEW - Oli's Thai

Location: 38 Magdalen Road, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX4 1RB, UK
HOT OFF THE PRESS: Doors open at 4pm, Tuesday 27th August!

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
From L-R: new owners, Ladd and Ru Thurston

With the food scene in Oxford changing quicker than the British weather, there is always a new restaurant, cafe or pub to try; some open with a disappointing fizzle, while others open with fireworks and festivities. Recent additions include American diner styled Route 66, hotly anticipated Jacobs Inn and the beautifully revamped St Giles' Cafe - the newest kid on the block, however, is set to be a little more exotic.

With understated elegance, the imminent opening of Oli's Thai almost passed me by; thankfully, alerted of their existence via Twitter, I had an opportunity to visit and get the inside scoop on East Oxford's exciting new addition...

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Bar Area

Right next door to Oxfork and close to nearby Magdalen Arms, Oli's have moved into a distinguished foodie location; however, planning to be part restaurant, part shop, expect something a little different from them.

Husband and wife team, Rufus (Ru) and Ladd Thurston, will be serving up Ladd's family recipes for lunch and dinner, whilst also selling cooking ingredients directly off their shelves; with two children of their own (the restaurant's namesake, son Oli, aged 4, and daughter Elle, 2), Ru and Ladd are certainly planning to make the shop-come-cafe child friendly. With plenty of baby groups meeting nearby, I'm sure this news will be warmly greeted by local mummies who have tired of the easily-accessible but uninspiring Magic Cafe.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Tables ready for diners and shelves ready to be stocked

This might be Ru and Ladd's first adventure as restaurateurs, but they're certainly not new to the industry; between them they've worked in a number restaurants, including Smiths of Smithfield and Zuma in London, Pizza Express, plus well known locals Branca and Chaing Mai - which was where they met almost 13 years ago. Having recently worked together catering private functions and running the Cafe at Worton Organic Gardens, they took ownership of, what was, Cous Cous Cafe, just two months ago and cracked straight on with the refurbishments.

With cool, calm walls and splashes of vibrant colour, the décor is functional but inviting; you can grab a bright green bistro table outside, one of several stools at the bar or bench seating areas, or reserve a full table inside. There will be room for around 25 people to eat inside the cafe and 12 outside, with reservations being taken for around 4 or 5 of the tables.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Table and bench seating available

So what can we expect on the menu...?

- Lemongrass Mieng
- Prawn Crackers with Peanut Sauce
- Tomato, Cucumber and Radish Salad
- Papaya Salad
- Chicken Wings with Sweet Chilli Sauce
- Phad Thai
- Green Curry Chicken
- Aubergine Curry
- Confit Duck Panang

LUNCH ADDITIONS: 
- Slow-cooked Beef Noodle Soup
- Poached Chicken

DINNER ADDITIONS:
- Whole Seabass for 2 with lemongrass and galangal
- Ribeye Steak with Garlic, Pepper and Coriander
- Tom Sep Soup with Prawns

Expect mains to cost between £5.50 and £15, opening times will be 5-10pm on Tuesdays, 9am-10pm Wednesday to Saturday, then 9am-4pm Sundays. Food will be served from 12-2.30pm and 5-9.45pm, however if you fancy popping in outside of serving hours you can relax with a fresh cup of coffee or grab some supplies.  

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Watch this space....


MiniF2 is due 2 days after opening night, so there is a good chance I won't be there. I'll be accepting guest review submissions from anyone who visits Oli's Thai in the first week... best review gets posted on the blog!


Enjoy! x


Since posting this preview I had chance to visit Oli's for myself, read the full review here.


Oli's Thai
38 Magdalen Road
Oxford
OX4 1RB
Twitter: @olisthai
Facebook: @Olis-Thai
Website: TBC
Phone: 01865 790223

Friday, 16 August 2013

Try This - The Oxford Pantry

Location: 1 Little Clarendon Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 2HP, UK
Food Oxford FoodieOnTour

While in town over the weekend, enjoying a spot of pre-baby pampering, I popped over to Little Clarenden Street to check out The Oxford Pantry. Celebrating their first anniversary this weekend, this gorgeous little shop is a haven for anyone, like me, with a penchant for beautiful kitchen and dining ware.

Right next door to Strada, the Pantry is owned by Charlotte Creed (Char) and her mother Philippa, who are helped by manager Amelia Bradley; Char, incidentally, is the girlfriend of Chris Manners, who owns The Rusty Bicycle and co-owns The Rickety Press.

Food Oxford FoodieOnTour

Stocking a delightful range of brands, their biggest seller is Blue Dot Pottery from Poland, as pictured on the dresser below; but there are plenty of other treats to tempt you... Nespresso machines, vintage scales, gorgeous copper pans, pretty tea towels and aprons, children's baking equipment, wooden chopping boards, fun glassware, Japanese kitchen knives, plus some delightful serving platters and dishes.

If you can't get into store though, don't fret... you can buy on-line! Yep, for the last six weeks now, you've been able to shop from the comfort of your own sofa, you can even set up a wedding list if you're planning to walk down the aisle any time soon.

MY TOP PICKS.......


GERBERA DESIGN PIE DISHES
Available in a range of colours - £44 each
Fabulous for serving up a big summery salad, or a hearty pie

MAUVIEL COPPER PANS
Ranging from £179
Just sunning - not for hiding away in kitchen cupboards!

LAGUIOLE CUTLERY & KNIVES
Ranging from £15
Going straight on my Christmas list! The first time you cut a steak
with a Laguiole knife, you'll be hooked - exceptionally good. 

GARDEN TRADING BREAD BIN
£28. Tea, coffee & sugar cannisters also available
I have these in my kitchen already and LOVE them

VIRGINIA CASE BAKING DISH
£42
Made in Italy, this gorgeous vintage style dish needs to be seen

CHASSEUR ROUND CASSEROLE
£150
The ultimate in casseroling - beautiful, sturdy, effective...
what more could you want?

CUP & SAUCER LITTLE POLKA DOT
£15
From the Blue Dot Pottery Range, these cute little cups and
saucers are to die for - perfect for a spot of  afternoon tea

The Oxford Pantry
1 Little Clarenden Street
Oxford
OX1 2HP
Twitter: @TheOxfordPantry
Facebook: @TheOxfordPantry
Website: www.theoxfordpantry.com
Phone: 01865 558828
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