Sunday 31 March 2013

Review - The White Rabbit, Oxford

Location: Friars Entry, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 2BY, UK
Food & Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour

With three meals out plus a burlesque show planned, the bank holiday weekend was set to be a gastronomy/nipple-tassel-fuelled long weekend. Frickin awesome! The in-laws arrived Thursday afternoon, so MrFoodie and I took full advantage... Taxi at 6, straight to pub, then on to booty shaking extravaganza. Whole lot of winning going on.

Said pub was The White Rabbit in Friars Entry (previously Gloucester Arms).

Now, I understand from recent media that The Gloucester Arms had a very loyal customer base that may not have been overly happy about recent changes to the backstreet boozer, but I can't really comment myself having never been there previously. On first impressions I found the recently refurb'd pub to be both warm and welcoming, with its various small seating areas, cosy, but modern, décor and laid back staff.

Food & Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour

The menu offering was pretty simple: dough balls, garlic bread, soup, stew or pizza. Even pizza options were paired back to just five choices - none of your 'fancy pants' pizzas, but I have to respect them for this. Fancy pizza toppings have their place, but so too do honest, simple, well designed pizzas.

Food & Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour

So, Americana for me, Spicy Beef for MrF - both looked huge when they appeared, larger than a dinner plate and delivered promptly. I must add, when it comes to pizzas, I'm a big believer in thin crust. Don't be serving me up some heavy, I-need-to-lie-down, deep pan nonsense. I was immensely pleased with the feast in front of me... Thin crust, but not so thin it was brittle, perfect proportions of cheese, pepperoni and onion and beautifully balanced flavours. MrF's pizza was, I'm told, very pleasant too - I'll have to take his word for it as I wasn't given a look in! With chilli oil and black pepper supplied we pounced.

Food & Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour
 Food & Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour

The result = two very satisfied Foodies. The pizzas were delicious, fresh and beautifully simple in design. As a bonus, there was no feeling of uncomfortable bloating which can often accompany a pizza, just a warm, happy glow that follows a good feed.

Overall rating: 8/10

Great venue for pre theatre / post work drinks and pizza. I would absolutely recommend - you may even see me there tucking into another Americano!

The White Rabbit
Friars Entry
Facebook: @whiterabbitoxford
Twitter: @WhiteRabbitOx
Phone: 01865 241177

White Rabbit on Urbanspoon

Monday 25 March 2013

Review - Browns, Oxford

Location: 5-11 Woodstock Road, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX2 6HA, UK
Liking to think of myself as a bit of a 'full english' connoisseur, I have been on the search for the best Oxford has to offer since moving to this diverse city. I've sampled the proper cooked brekkie at St Giles Cafe, the actually quite good at Heston Blumenthal's revamped Little Chef on the A34, the style over substance (think salad with sticky balsamic glaze) at The Grand Cafe and possibly my favourite so far - the relaxing all-rounder The Red Lion on Gloucester Street (by Gloucester Green). 

I'd been investigating where to try next - yes, Jacobs & Field and Oxfork are definitely on the list. One place I hadn't even thought of until they tweeted a simple reminder was Browns in St Giles. I'd been to Browns for cocktails and even celebrated my 30th birthday there, thoroughly enjoying both, but never for breakfast. 

So, prompted by said tweet, I packed MrFoodie and MiniFoodie in the car and headed to Browns for a spot of Sunday brunch.

In a near-sprint from the car to get out of the cold, I completely forgot to get a pic of the outside, but I'm sure any locals will know exactly what it looks like, though may not have visited for a while. It seems to be one of those places that you need a little nudge about.

Food & Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour

Happily in the warmth, we got ourselves settled in and ordered coffees, juices and (of course) the full traditional breakfast. I'm certainly no coffee expert, being a decaf drinker, but MrF absolutely raved about his flat white - apparently one of the best he'd had on one of our regular brunch excursions, high praise indeed. The juices were also delicious, orange for me and apple for MrF.

Perfectly timed, rectangular plates of well presented breakfasts were delivered. My only initial gripe was the pile of watercress on each plate (quite the bugbear of mine), everything else looked pretty appealing.

Food & Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour

Taste test time... Best thing on the plate? The sausage! Well flavoured and perfectly cooked - a very tasty sausage indeed. Nice flat mushroom (prefer them a big larger myself), plum tomatoes and scrambled egg, decent slice of black pudding, all prepared well and enjoyable but not necessarily stand-out. Bacon is a contentious issue between myself and MrF - both enjoying smoked & thick cut, but disagreeing entirely on crispness. To MrF's delight, the bacon was, in my opinion, undercooked - missing the beautiful intensity of flavour that slightly crisp bacon gives. BUT... I appreciate bacon crispness is a very personal choice. Saying that I never do like seeing flaccid fat on meat (another bugbear).

Food & Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour

Overall, it was a very pleasant brunch. Service was polite and efficient, the setting sophisticated and spacious - it has a lovely element of vintage grandeur to it. Drinks were excellent, food was above average, children are welcome and highchairs available. We weren't crammed in like sardines (always a plus) and the food was affordable - total bill came to around £25.

Overall Score: 7/10 (I also did a follow up review that didn't go so well...)

It is somewhere I would return, maybe sampling some other dishes. I would certainly love to try their afternoon tea sometime along with their Thursday 'Lobster Nights'.

If you haven't thought to go there in a while or just haven't tried it yet, pop on in, it's a lovely place.

Browns Bar & Brasserie
5-11 Woodstock Road
Twitter: @BrownsOxford
Phone: 01865 511995

Browns - Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday 24 March 2013

Review - Big Society Oxford

Location: 95 Cowley Road, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX4 1HR, UK
Food & Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour

After one of the best build ups I've seen on Twitter for a local restaurant, Big Society Oxford finally opened it's doors. Having heard positive murmurs of hot dogs and chicken wings, I figured it was definitely one to check out. So, on a particular un-spring-like day I finally had an unplanned opportunity, seeking refuge from the abysmal weather.

The entrance isn't exactly pushchair (or, I imagine, wheelchair friendly), with a big step, narrow double doors and one fixed shut. Thankfully, a very friendly barman/waiter was quick to jump to my rescue. Once inside, I was a little surprised to see I was the only customer, but am guessing many of the regulars were quite possibly sleeping off hard earned hangovers (jealous? me?). 

Food & Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour

Food & Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour

The interior is a mix of funky wall art and industrial design, an über cool mix of old school rap was perfect for background music. Waiting for MrFoodie to join me, I opted for a tall, steaming mug of delicious hot choc to keep me company - with a particularly good shortbread biscuit on the side. One very happy lady I was indeed.

The menu is small on choice, but big on appeal and bang on trend: hot dogs, fried chicken, burgers and chicken wings, plus a selection of sides. By the time MrF arrived I had basically decided for both of us (thankfully he concurred so no arguments required) - four pieces of fried chicken with fries, a small portion of hot wings and one portion of chilli cheese fries to share.

Food & Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour

The food arrived, all neatly laid out on a large paper covered tray, perfect for sharing. It all looked pretty bloody awesome so I had mere moments to grab a pic before the demolishing began. Being a bit of an occasional lightweight with spice, I sent MrF in first to try the hot wings. "Yep, they're hot. You literally inhale the heat before you take a bite". Not what I wanted to hear. Turns out though, they weren't singe-your-face-off hot at all. They were definitely hot, but the flavour was deep and slightly sweet, so totally manageable - especially if dunked in the blue cheese sauce, or mayo.

Food & Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour

Next up were the chilli cheese fries and fried chicken. Both were damn good - I could have easily caned a full plate of the fries myself! Great chilli, gooey cheese, onions and mustard with a mild to medium heat (there are jalapeños on top if you feel the need to go hotter). The fried chicken coating was crisp and brilliantly seasoned with moist and perfectly cooked chicken inside. 

To be fair, the side of plain fries barely got a look as, as all the other food was so good. I almost felt sorry for them... so double dipped a few in hot sauce and mayo (ace combo), for the sake of fairness.

Nicely full without feeling uncomfortably stuffed, we decided we were fans. The venue suits the neighbourhood, the staff are friendly (the kind of guys you would drink with), the food is tasty and the music was perfect. Oh and did I mention the free wi-fi?

You can see the place as a great evening venue, if I wasn't a pregnant mummy you would probably find me in there pretty often, no doubt ordering a round of sambucas. I'll definitely be back for lunch, but may hold off visiting at night till I'm back in the world of drinking. 

Overall Rating: 8/10

For what they do they do it really well - it's no Michelin star restaurant, but then it's not trying to be. Definitely worth a visit. 

Big Society Oxford
95 Cowley Road,
Facebook: @bigsocietyoxford
Twitter: @BigSocOxford
Phone: 01865 792755

Big Society on Urbanspoon

Saturday 23 March 2013

Blogger Virgin

Yep, you heard that right, I'll admit it... I've been holding on tightly to my blogger virginity - until now (eeeek!).

Blogging has been around for a long time and I'm only just making the move to pop my blogging cherry. I'm late to the party, I know.

It's a bit exciting, but a lot scary. Putting your views out there for all to see. What if nobody's interested... or I leave shocking typos... or get a load of abuse??? 

D'you know what, it really doesn't matter. Blogging, as I see it, is a format to talk about what you're passionate about, and I'm passionate about food - in fact I bloody LOVE food! I love cooking it, reading about it, most importantly I love eating it. I may not be the most eloquent blogger but I will strive to be both passionate and honest.

So please go easy on me, be gentle. I will be posting personal reviews and recommendations on my all-time favourite subject - FOOD!!!

FoodieOnTour x
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