Sunday, 12 January 2014

Restaurant Review - Cleaver, by Ox_Bex

Location: 36 George Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 2BJ, UK

This week's review is courtesy of fellow local foodie friend, @Ox_Bex. Quoting her own Twitter bio, Becca is a "social media whore, opinionated, bossy and occasionally sweary". So you can see a) why we get on, and b) why I was more than happy to welcome her as a guest reviewer! Check out Becca's blog at, or follow her inimitable, entertaining and downright straight-talking Twitter feed @Ox_Bex.

Fire and Stone in Oxford closed it's pizza oven doors recently and their owners, Prezzo, have replaced it with one of their new ventures, Cleaver. There's currently four in the chain, Cobham, Wokingham, Leatherhead and Oxford. Starting a new chain here in Oxford says good things for the burgeoning food scene here, in fact since the New Year I've heard of at least six new ventures that have just started or are about to start. Great news for us foodies!

So, Cleavers. Advertising as a chicken, ribs and burger place with handmade Scottish beef burgers, Norfolk chickens and locally sourced pork ribs cooked in view of the diners in their open kitchen on an open grill and rotisserie. But I'm slightly baffled by the lack of steak, especially with a name like Cleavers. Oxford needs a good meat house (apologies to all vegetarians) and Cleavers have missed a trick here. Plus the location seems odd, I know they already have that property but opening a burger restaurant directly opposite Byron and GBK seems daft! 

The menu is divided into three sections, chicken which is available as a quarter, half, whole or wings, burgers with fairly standard toppings and obviously the ribs which you can order as a bowl, half rack, full rack, half rack with chicken wings or half rack with quarter of a chicken. Sides are ordered separately and include the usual fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings etc. There's also salad on the menu but being a committed meat eater, they didn't register! 

My friend and I both ordered the half rack and wings, me with a side of sweet potato fries and her with a side of onion rings. Somewhat naughtily as it was barely 12.30 in the afternoon we decided to have a drink too. Apparently the rioja was eminently quaffable and went down very well whereas my buffalo mint julep was pretty much pure bourbon and resulted in my needing a nap all afternoon! 

Half Rack of Ribs with Wings

Sweet Potato Fries & Onion Rings

The food arrived very quickly, although there was only approximately ten diners altogether so I would have been concerned if it hadn't. Ribs were okay. I suspect they were cooked plain, then basted with a tangy tomato sauce and browned off rather than cooked with a dry rub and then slow cooked in a sauce, allowing the flavour to permeate the meat. They weren't dry but neither did they fall off the bone when you picked them up. I found myself having to gnaw more than I would like in somewhere which is predominantly a rib restaurant. Three chicken wings on the side were hot, had nice chargrilled lines on the crispy skin and were sprinkled with sea salt. The sweet potato fries were good but they're becoming a bit of a staple on a lot of menus at the moment and everywhere seems to buy from the same supplier. It really doesn't take that much effort to sprinkle a little paprika on them to make them stand out a little and jump on your tastebuds. Onion rings were the same.... Finger wipes were supplied for the inevitable sticky fingers but had a slight bathroom cleaner fragrance!

Desserts were also familiar, warm chocolate brownie with ice cream, waffles, cheesecake but with three slightly different options. A lemon sherbet alaska ice cream topped with glazed meringue sounded good but the chocolate salted caramel tart sounded better! This came with a small pot of sea salt so you could season according to personal taste which I particularly liked. The base was a crisp chocolate pastry, a layer of caramel and a rich chocolate filling - but not so rich you couldn't finish it. My dining partner went for the banana bread and butter pudding which was more like a sponge than layers of buttery bread, custard and banana slices with no raisins or sultanas to be seen anywhere! 

Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart

Banana Bread and Butter Pudding

Good, prompt and attentive service, water brought when requested, £50 for the two of us. Would I go again? Probably not. Good but not fabulous which to be honest is pretty much what I expected. 

Overall Score: 6/10

36 George Street
Twitter: @Cleaver_UK
Phone: 01865 251718

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