Friday 31 May 2013

Restaurant Review - St Giles' Cafe

Location: 52 Saint Giles', Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3LU, UK
Food and Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour

St Giles' Cafe was first recommended to me by a colleague, back when it was still a greasy spoon; I was pregnant then too, with MiniF1. We'd tried it out and found it to be OK - your standard 'fry up' but lacking in customer service; I recall the waitress at the time being particularly unfriendly and 'bothered'. Having learnt from the wonderful world of Twitter that the cafe had fallen into the hands of new management, who were transforming it into something a little less 'greasy', I was eager to check it out.

On this occasion, we were actually intending to go to the Red Lion for breakfast, but, with it being a bank holiday, they weren't open as early as usual... *ding* went the light bulb in my head, perfect time to see the newly revamped St Giles' Cafe in action.

The exterior style of the small cafe is mirrored once inside, with dark wooden floors, panelling, tables and chairs, all coordinated beautifully with soft blue on the walls, placemats and menus - it's simple but effective. Consideration has gone into the new decor, the cafe now feeling not just renovated, but lovingly so; the previously dark and dated interior thankfully replaced by a light and airy space you feel welcome to enjoy.

Food and Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour

Taking our seats next to the counter, we pondered the menu briefly - for we already knew what we were ordering. Popping out for a spot of weekend brunch is a bit of a tradition in the Foodie household, and we ALWAYS order the full cooked breakfast - it's something of an unspoken agreement. MrF would pass out from shock if I ordered a granola, and I too if he ever ordered mushrooms on toast. Along with our meaty dishes we each order a juice - orange for me, orange or apple for MrF. MiniF tucks into a side of toast plus some food from our plates... quite the routine. 

The full cooked breakfast here (The Oxford English) consists of "Dry-cured Bacon, Fried Egg, Home Made Pure Pork Oxford Sausage, Grilled Tomato or Chestnut Mushrooms with Toast", which you can have large (£9) or small (£5). The tea and coffee sounded extraordinary - with a special mix blend 'St Giles' Tea' and 'St Giles Coffee' available. So, 'usual' ordered, we settled in with a newspaper and a natter.

Food and Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour

Food and Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour

After a little while of relaxation, drinks in hand and classical music drifting through the cafe, our food arrived. I have to stop here briefly to say the tea was stunning; strong and full bodied, without being at all overwhelming... a beautiful cuppa and just how I like it. MrF enjoyed his coffee, but likes his a little stronger. OK - so the food... The mushrooms were delicious, sautéed just long enough to retain plumpness and flavour; the eggs just as fried eggs should be (although I did have to go for hard yolks with mine, while bun is still in oven - I was very attentively asked if I would prefer them to be cooked on both sides). The sausages were a bit of a sticking point between MrF and myself, I found mine to be too dry and savoury, giving me strong déjà vu of a mince-stuffed courgette dish that my Mum used to cook when I was a teenager. MrF disagreed, and when he stole a bit of my sausage from MiniF, he noted that it tasted quite different from his - courser and indeed lacking in a sweetness he had found in his. The inconsistency, for me, isn't a big issue; I seriously applaud them for the fact they are rustic, home made sausages - they just weren't to my taste. The bacon, well, the bacon was the centrepiece for me; truly fabulous - salty, crisp in places, just thick enough and really very flavoursome. 

Food and Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour

Food and Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour

One other thing to note is the accompanying toast - the bread, plus the cakes they sell, are all home made. This, along with the home made sausages and bespoke blended tea give you an insight into just how much the new owners care. This same care extends to the cooking of the food and to the service - all of the staff were, simply put, lovely.

I would happily make a return visit to the new St Giles' Cafe; I'm keen to try their lunch dishes as well as their home made cakes - any excuse to delve into another pot of that glorious 'St Giles' Tea'!

Overall score: 8/10

St Giles' Cafe
52 St Giles'
Twitter: @stgilescafe
Phone: 01865 554200

St Giles' Cafe on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review - The Oxford Blue, Oxford

Location: 32 Marston Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX4 1JU, UK
Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour

Having previously eaten at the Oxford Blue several times, I hadn't been for some time. Chatting to someone on Twitter about Food Hygiene Ratings, I'd been a bit put off to find out their most recent rating (September 2012) had been a shocking 0 out of 5 - urgent improvement necessary. At the time, the Oxford Blue was one of my local favourites, I'd enjoyed all of my previous visits; the staff had been warm and friendly; the food interesting, tasty and well cooked; the style cosy and inviting (think old English Gent meets salvage yard chic), so was pretty gob smacked by the rating.

Figuring things will have no doubt been resolved by now, and in need of a local pub lunch, we decided on a return visit. We had some visitors staying with us (N,L & their daughter E), so off we all went, fingers crossed all would be good.

Having called ahead to reserve seats and a high chair, it turned out there was really no need - we were the only diners in the whole restaurant. There were a couple of people in the small rear garden, but otherwise the place was empty.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour

Settling into our seats, we ordered our drinks got the sprogs set up and began to peruse what is, to MrF and I, a fairly familiar menu. On previous visits we'd tried the Halloumi with Imam Bayaldi (stunning - grilled, salty halloumi served with a Turkish ratatouille-like aubergine dish), the Bannister Burger (very good), plus the Breaded Chicken Escalope (thoroughly enjoyable). This time, MrF opted for the Roast Pork and I, again, for the Breaded Chicken Escalope.

Upon arrival of the food, MrF was disappointed to see the Roast Pork was pork belly, not his preference for a roast dinner - although the dish did look appealing and he tucked in with gusto. I was also a little disappointed, as the Breaded Chicken Escalope had undergone some minor changes since our last visits - the chicken itself looked more deep fried and less pan fried than before, holding onto more oil; plus the once enjoyable red pepper sauce it was served with was no more - replaced by a simple side salad. I guess the salad was more summery, but unfortunately less enjoyable. The reformation of the chicken itself certainly didn't add a sense of summer, it actually felt somewhat 'down-market' compared to the previous version. This doesn't mean the food wasn't enjoyable, it was fine; but fine isn't a word anyone likes to hear. The unfortunate thing is that the food previously was great - a word I'd much rather hear.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Roast Pork

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Breaded Chicken Escalope

The service was good, but again, not as good as last time. Yes, the waitress was nice, helpful, pleasant even; but she didn't inspire me to stay longer, or chat to her, plus we had to go and find her in order to pay the bill when we needed to leave. Mostly, I'm not looking for restaurant/bar staff who make me want to chat, but this was a 'USP' of the place when we'd visited before, the barmen/waiters were all the kind of guys we'd happily hang out with - they were friendly, a bit chirpy (without being annoying - I can be a grouch when faced with too much glee), and always attentive. When MrF ordered some drinks at the bar on this visit, the barman gave him the wrong order; when MrF pointed this out, he apologised but didn't offer to replace the drink - MrF had to make it clear this was required... just a bit odd.

I don't like writing negative reviews, especially for places I usually enjoy, but hiding my disappointment isn't really an option. I'd like to go back again, in case this was just an off day for them, but I would probably knock them down my list if it turns out this is the 'new' Oxford Blue.

Overall score: 7/10

The Oxford Blue
32 Marston St
Twitter: @TheOxfordBlue
Facebook: @OxfordBlue
Phone: 01865 460215

Oxford Blue on Urbanspoon

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Foodie Events - JUNE

Location: Oxford, UK
Saturday 1st June. 11am to 3pm (Fun in the Park) & 5.30pm onwards (Music in the Park)
Abbey Grounds, Abbey Meadows, Abingdon
Entry to Fun in the Park is free. Entry wristbands are required for Music in the Park: £5 for each adult, £2 for a child, with under 5's free. 

Abingdon Town Council have joined forces with the Oxfordshire Play Association to create Fun in the Park, an amalgamation of previously run Fun in the Park and Play Day. The event will involve shows, entertainment, rides, activities, stalls, games, climbing wall, Go-Karts, a Youth Section, sports, refreshments and plenty more. Music in the Park takes place in the evening, with local bands, plus two tribute bands, providing entertainment. The evening will culminate in a fantastic fireworks display. Music starts at 6.15pm and wristbands are on sale from Tuesday 2nd April from the Town Council Offices. Whilst a number of people may prefer to take picnics, there will be a number of food stalls there throughout the day, including: a Roti stall; Burgers; the wonderful Secret Pizza Society; the German Sausage Hut; plus Open Air Foods.

Food Events Cotswolds
Saturday 1st June 10am - 9pm and Sunday 2nd June 10am - 5pm
Ashdown Farm, Badsey, Nr Evesham WR11 7PA
Advance tickets from £7, under 10's FREE

A musical smorgasbord awaits visitors to Asparafest 2013 - the Line up includes performances from King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys, Misty's Big Adventure, Fret & Fiddle, Inlay, Izzy Border, Jess Morgan, Aimee Fae, Mark Harrison, the Move On Up Choir, and the Slippery Hill Boys to name just a few. Focussed on the local and the handmade the festival brings a wealth of local produce from small businesses in and around the Vale. From handmade soap to weird and wonderful arts and crafts there is something for everyone. Asparafest 2013 takes place smack in the middle of the asparagus season which means there’ll be opportunities a’plenty to savour this most venerable of veg. As well as freshly-cut, local asparagus, there’ll be a veritable host of regional food and drink to suit your palate, whatever your taste! As well as a genuine WW2 re-enactment posse that has been featured in the BBC's television series the Land Girls, there’ll be vintage stalls, steam engines, amazing displays of agricultural machinery from times past and more. Toddlers to teenagers will all find something to do at AsparaFest - a petting zoo, a vintage fair and the Youth Activity Zone are just some of the highlights, also joining the Festival are Junk Fish Kids with their arts and crafts tent, Sheriden the Sheepdog and CBeebies Mr Bloom.

Sunday 2nd June, 1pm-5pm
Bury Knowle Park
Free Entry 

Bring the family for an action packed fun afternoon out in Bury Knowle Park with Face Painting, Welly Wanging, Fun Fair Rides, Story Telling, a Magic Show, lots of local community groups and sports clubs/organisations all wanting to proudly show you what they’re all about.

Tuesday 4th June, 4pm - 5pm
The Montpellier Chapter, Bayshill Road, Montpellier, Cheltenham GL50 3AS
£5 per head charge, which can be redeemed against restaurant or bar purchases. 

Now an established favourite with their guests, join them for their series of Cook’s clubs. Held on the first Tuesday of each month, Chef and the team answer the most commonly asked questions in the kitchen. Hosted by their team of Chefs, they aim to share some useful tips for your own kitchen.

Food Events Oxfordshire

Saturday 8th June, 9.30 - 1.30pm
Village Hall, Piddington, Oxon OX25 1PU
Free Entry
Although Piddington is a VERY small village, they've had a great turnout at the two markets they've held so far, and stallholders have been very complimentary. ‘The Pantry’ is a community project that runs regular seasonal markets several times a year to provide Piddington with a place for people to meet and buy local products. The ultimate goal of The Pantry project is to create a permanent community shop and cafe in the village. Some of the money raised at the Pantry markets is used to replenish stock and improve subsequent markets. The remainder is put in the bank, as the foundation of a community shop fund.

Food Events Oxfordshire
21st - 22nd June. Across the evening of Friday 21st and all day on the 22nd June 2013
Wallingford Rugby Club
Friday night session: £5. Saturday day pass: £10. Weekend pass: £12.50. Under 16s when accompanied by an adult: Free! On site camping: available for £2.50 per person per night.
Confirmed acts include: Hope and Glory, Kitten and the Hip, Lem and the white fire, Quadrophobe, The Lucky Strikes, The Fallows, Felix Fables, Unusual Suspects, Big Tackle from Weybridge Vandals RFC, The Police Academy (a local Police tribute band), plus RSVP Bhangra. For little ones, there’s trampolines, Jan’s Blackboard Van, Zorb Balls, an Arts and Crafts tent, bouncy castles, bungee runs, blow up boxing, high flying trampolines, face painting, AND a 2 hour disco! Enjoy all this with a local tipple of your choice: freshly made cocktails from the mixologists of Wallingford's Old Post Office, plus Loddon Ales – Cotswold Lagers and ciders from across the country. A variety of fresh and tasty hot food is available throughout the event, including their infamous Hog Roast as well as great Mexican and Chinese. Throughout the weekend Infamous Bungle’s Mums Emporium will sell tea, coffee, cakes and doughnuts as well as the notorious slush puppies from the Lush Slush Puppy Company. Other confirmed stallholders include: The Shredded Meat Company; The Artisan Burger Wagon; Secret Pizza Society; Banana Leaf Catering with their Thai Food mobile catering van; plus SuperWhip!

Sunday 30th June, 10am - 4pm
Newbury Market Square RG14 5BD
Free Entry
Newbury Food Festival features attractions for all the family, with a diverse range of local food and drink producers. Cookery demonstrations by local and celebrity chefs will be held throughout the day, there will also be a children’s farm plus other family attractions. Circa 80 stalls featuring the finest local producers are participating, with something to tempt all tastes - sweet, sour or savoury! Meet the producers, try their produce, have a fantastic lunch and take home some of the finest food and drink that the area has to offer!

Food Events Oxford
Sunday 30th June, 10am - 5pm
Cherwell School, North Oxford
The Oxford Bike Fest is a one-day cycling event promoting cycling as a means of transport, with a wide range of activities planned, such as: Introduction to basic bike mechanics; free bike check over from a trained mechanic; the local police force will be present handing out information and marking people’s frames; live, local, music; bike ability (obstacle courses and what not); bike jumble art challenge; a family ride around our beautiful city; talks on cycling; bike Polo; plus grass track races. There will be a big closing ceremony and that will end with the start of the big social ride around Oxford, people can drop off as we get near to their houses. Food & Drinks stalls confirmed include: The Shredded Meat Co; G&D Cafe; plus Pukeko Coffee.

See the Foodie Events Calendar for a full list of events, including regular local markets.
FoodieOnTour x

Tuesday 28 May 2013

East Oxford Market and Vaults & Gardens Cafe, Oxford

Location: University Church, High Street, Oxford OX1 4AH, UK
FINALLY, Oxford was in receipt of some wonderful sunshine - for an entire Bank Holiday weekend no less! Slap on the suntan lotion, big shades at the ready, bikini on... OK, OK, so not quite THAT sunny. I was keen to get outside though and make the most of it, because if there's one thing you can rely on in the UK, it's that sunshine never lasts. Deciding on a visit to East Oxford Market, followed by a spot of lunch in town at Vaults & Gardens Cafe, I packed MiniF up and we headed off down Cowley Road together.

I'd been to East Oxford Market a few times before, but it had always been packed; thankfully this time, I arrived within half an hour of it opening. With less people around and with a little more space for a buggy, I finally had a good opportunity to browse. It wasn't a particularly lengthy visit, however, as there aren't a large number of stalls here - there must have been about four or five stalls outside, plus a further eight maybe inside. There were producers selling vegetables, Indian snacks, bread, milk, jewellery and cakes, to name a few. You might be able to tell from the picture below though which stall was the star of the show for me...

Food Oxford, FoodieOnTour

Christ... where do I start? Fruit tarts, biscuits, doughnuts and cakes... With a selection of goodies like this, there was no frickin' way I was walking past Dessertation. I'll tell you where I started, on the intriguing maritozzi's. I'm not sure about you, but I'd never heard of these before; it turns out they are plump brioche buns, filled with cream - absolutely delicious. Next stop on the Dessertation stall was the fruit tarts, from which I selected a pretty round one, topped off with juicy raspberries, blackberries and crowned with a perfectly ripe strawberry; I also purchased a very attractive pumpkin and amaretto tart - I polished both off at home; thankfully, all to myself! All of the items I tried were perfectly cooked, with beautifully balanced flavours - and the people were pretty lovely too. Sounds like a match made in sweet heaven.

Food Oxford, FoodieOnTour
Clockwise from top: Fruit Tarts, Maritozzi's, Pumpkin & Amaretto Tart

Food Oxford, FoodieOnTour

Top image: Selection of breads. Bottom image: Almond Croissants

The only other item I bought during this visit was a Pain au Raisin (I clearly had my sweet tooth in full effect at the time!), from The Natural Bread Company - who had a thoroughly impressive stall. Apologies for the lack of shot wide angle shot of the stall, but there was such a constant flow of visitors it was near on impossible - a huge credit to the produce as it was clearly in demand. There is nothing more impressive to me at a market than a great, big stall, selling a wonderful array of baked goods - and this one did not fall short!

East Oxford Farmers' & Community Market
Saturdays from 10am-1pm
East Oxford Primary School (behind Tesco on Cowley Road)
Union St

After my taxing *cough* visit to the market, I wandered further into town with a sleepy MiniF, for a spot of lunch at Vaults & Gardens Cafe. I'd heard plenty of positive things about this place and had been keen to check it out for a while, so was really looking forward to my visit. Thankfully, MiniF fell fast asleep en route - this is the perfect scenario for lunch out... no need for distractions or entertainment, I may actually have chance to enjoy a rare moment of eating in tranquillity! If you have kids, you will understand; if you don't have kids, enjoy your peaceful eating; if you're about to have kids, well, enjoy eating in peace it while it lasts.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews. FoodieOnTour

On arrival at the Cafe, I was pleased to see there was seating available in their newly opened garden, so headed inside to check out the rest of the place. On first impression, the Cafe was lots smaller than I had pictured, about a quarter of the size in fact. There was a small counter on the right hand side, with the rest of the room being taken up with large wooden tables and simple wooden chairs. Taking it all in, it became clear that the queue in front of me was for ordering food, which is served up there and then, canteen style. This, I had not accounted for. With sleeping toddler in buggy, I had no hands available for carrying a tray of food, let alone outside to the garden whilst also arranging a high chair for when MiniF (predictably) woke up mid-way through my eating.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews. FoodieOnTour

Anyway, on I pressed, adamant I was going to find a solution. The queue was fast moving, so there was little time to peruse the menu, which was chalked up on blackboards on the wall (sorry, no picture). There were three meat dishes and three vegetarian dishes, along with a soup option. Settling on the Chicken Cassoulet, I grabbed a tray and worked my way along the queue.

On ordering my main I was offered a choice of salad or red cabbage and rice or potatoes - with the potatoes a little delayed, I was happy to opt for the rice (feeling the need for healthy, after all those earlier cakes!), plus red cabbage. Feeling under pressure to move as fast as the lady serving me, I quickly chose a cold drink and asked for direction to the high chairs. It turns out, the high chairs seem to live at the top of a tiny flight of stairs - feeling I would be somewhat unable to push the buggy and carry a tray of food, whilst also popping off to grab said high chair, I asked if someone could help me. Thankfully, a knight in shining armour came to my rescue, in the form of a kind gentleman in the queue behind me. With the waitress offering to bring the high chair and the kind knight carrying my tray, off I went, avec buggy, to grab a seat al fresco.

Away from the hustle bustle of the counter, the garden was lovely - small but well formed, calm and directly overlooking The Radcliffe Camera - a fantastic place to enjoy a spot of food on a sunny day.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews. FoodieOnTour
Chicken Cassoulet with Rice and Reg Cabbage

Tucking into my lunch, I was really very impressed - the food was delicious. The cassoulet was light and tasty, with plenty of lovely melt in the mouth vegetables; the rice was perfectly cooked and still moist; and red cabbage, well, I've always been a big fan! All in all, a really good spot of lunch.

V&GC clearly has plenty of appeal to the local community - good, fresh, home-cooked food; enough choice for both meat eater and vegetarian alike; a pleasant garden AND a fantastic central, drop-in location.

Overall Score: 8/10

The Vaults & Garden Cafe
University Church

High Street
Twitter: @VaultsandGarden
Facebook: @Vaults-and-Garden
Phone: 01865 279 112

The Vaults & Garden Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday 23 May 2013

Wallingford Food Festival

Location: Crowmarsh Gifford, Oxfordshire OX10 8HB, UK
I'm a big fan of food markets, they're a fantastic opportunity to get out of the house and explore all sorts of different foods - each event a veritable Smorgasbord of delights. Just the type of thing to appeal to this self-confessed foodie.

Since starting the Foodie blog I've checked out markets in Haddenham, Headington and Waddesdon, I've also been to East Oxford Market several times in the past. Always keen to explore more, I've been keeping a beady eye out for other Farmers' Markets and events - thankfully, there are many! We are thoroughly spoilt in Oxfordshire to have at least 20 regular markets that I know of, plus a number of festivals (check out my new Foodie Events Calendar for your definitive guide).

One of the events that caught my eye was the Wallingford Food Festival.

Taking place on 18th and 19th May, they had stiff competition from Daylesford Farm Summer Festival (18th May) and the Witney Festival of Food & Drink (also 18th May). Looking at the list of stallholders taking part, I spotted some I was familiar with: Shredded Meat Co., who I knew through Twitter but was yet to try; Secret Pizza Society, who I also knew through Twitter and was keen to meet; plus Cornfield Bakery, who I had bought lovely bread from before. Wallingford definitely had my vote!

Turning up pretty late on the Saturday, about 2pm, the event had been running for a good four hours, so I was a little nervous we may have missed out on some of the food. Thankfully when we got there, the event was in full swing, the atmosphere reminiscent of a town fair - a vast array of stalls and plenty of people mingling around them, some relaxing on the grass while they sampled their purchases. The sun was shining (between breaks in the cloud cover), it was even warm enough for me to discard my cardigan - whatever next!

At this point, I was like a kid in a sweet shop. There with MrF, MiniF and the Foodie-in-laws, I had plenty of 'babysitters' with me, ensuring oodles of time to work my way around the stalls. There was a lot to take in, and plenty that took my fancy...

Food Events Oxfordshire. FoodieOnTour

We decided to start off at the Shredded Meat Co. stall, if you look at the picture below you will see why. Beautiful soft white buns, filled with warm shredded pork, BBQ sauce and coleslaw - a thing of beauty. It tasted damn good too! MrF and I shared one between the two of us (I had to leave room for more food), Foodie-in-laws did the same. The pork was soft, slow cooked, almost pink in places and melt in the mouth, mix this in with the other ingredients and you have a winning combo. If you recognise Chris Gates in the picture above, it's because he was a finalist in Masterchef 2009, against Andy Oliver and Mat Follas - the series winner. Chris now runs Shredded Meat Co. with partner Holly, both may soon become regulars at Headington Market - so keep your fingers crossed Oxford, they would be a great addition to the Oxford street food scene!

Food Events Oxfordshire. FoodieOnTour

Food Events Oxfordshire. FoodieOnTour

Based in Oxfordshire and run by Nick and Faye, Secret Pizza Society sell a selection of thin crust pizzas from their wood fired oven, in the back of a van! We're not talking the kind of van your DVD player may have fallen off the back of though, this is a cute little three-wheeled Piaggio Ape van... called Pepe. The menu for the day included three savoury and one sweet topping, so of course I had to make two visits! Firstly, Margherita for me and Chilli King (with added nduja - a spicy spreadable sausage) for MrF, were both fab - perfect bases, with just the right amount of topping and really good flavourings. I saved the second visit for later in the afternoon, when I was ready for pudding... and boy was it sexy. The Showstopper (custard, apple, hazelnuts, cinnamon, brown sugar & butterscotch sauce), is a must try - unless you hate hot and sweet that is, like MrF does. Thankfully though, that just meant all the more for me!

Food Events Oxfordshire. FoodieOnTour
From top: Showstopper, Chilli King & Margherita

Food Events Oxfordshire. FoodieOnTour

Whilst there was plenty of alcohol on offer at the festival, I was on the lookout for something a little softer, so was very pleased to see a very funky VW Camper parked up, selling Virgin Cocktails alongside their less virginal treats. You can see these guys doing incredibly well at weddings and parties, would make a great talking point. I tried the Berry Surprise (see pic below) and enjoyed it so much I almost forgot to take the picture!

Food Events Oxfordshire. FoodieOnTour
Berry Surprise

Food Events Oxfordshire. FoodieOnTour

Mother of four (what a hero!) and producer of locally made rape seed oil, Helen is part of an arable farming family that stretches back four generations. Based on the Oxfordshire/Wiltshire border, their farm grows, presses and bottles the rapeseed onsite. I'd never tried rapeseed oil before, but had heard the benefits of using it for cooking, so off I trotted to see Helen's stall. Alongside the bottles of Extra Virgin Rapeseed Oil, was a selection of infused oils: chilli, smoked, garlic, truffle; and lemon. I tried a dab of the garlic and truffle oils and they were packed full of wonderful flavour, however it was the Extra Virgin I decided to purchase, so I could give it a go in the kitchen at home... I may soon be a convert!

Food Events Oxfordshire. FoodieOnTour

The lovely Jill is the sole maker of this wonderful selection of sweet and savoury biscuits, all hand made late into the evenings. Just Biscuits are regulars at Beaconsfield and Windsor markets, but also sell through a number of local outlets (check the website for stockist details). Zeroing in on a packet of apple & cinnamon shortbread biscuits, I made my purchase - a very good one it was too. The sweet, crumbly, buttery biscuits were delicious - they didn't last long at all, as the entire Foodie clan swooped like vultures. I definitely look forward to sampling some more.


Food Events Oxfordshire. FoodieOnTour

Serving up glorious hot, melted French cheese, straight from the wheel, over an assortment of pickles, vegetables and salami, this looked like serious food porn. Catering for a number of festivals, these guys are also available for private hire - I might have to just set them up in my back garden for a day so I can eat melted cheese for hours!

Food Events Oxfordshire. FoodieOnTour

Just one look at the blackboards and you'll see why these guys caught my eye.... Merguez sausage; frankfurter; paella; tartiflette... and those big pans of food - of my Lord. Next time! You can find them at St Albans market every Saturday, or Tring market every Friday.

I can safely say, Wallingford Food Festival was my favourite foodie event so far this year - brilliantly organised, with a fabulous selection of producers, ranging from cider, to bread, to melted cheese, to freshly made pizza, to virgin cocktails, to shortbread biscuits.... can we have this every month please..?!

Wallingford Food Festival
Bridge Villa Camping & Caravan SIte
The Street
Crowmarsh Gifford

Wallingford, Oxfordshire

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Foodie Events - MAY #2

Location: Oxford, UK

I will be posting a Monthly Events Calendar, starting from June. If you have an upcoming food event you would like me to feature, please do get in touch:

I'd love to hear your feedback on these events if you go. Enjoy!

FoodieOnTour x

23rd May OxTrails Free App Launch
The free app will be available for donwload to Apple and Android phones from Thursday 23rd May.
If you're a local who would like to explore more of Oxfordshire, or if you're visting for a while, this fantastic free app is just what you need. Around 300 local businesses and organisations have been included on the Oxtrails as suggested stops and places of interest, market towns have been included as day itineraries. The 5 themed trails have a massive range of activities and sights included, from gliding over the Uffington White Horse, to trading in your home-grown veggies for a slap-up meal cooked by a chef to the stars, to solving a “who dunnit?”, clambering up the staircase of historic buildings to riding a steam train in style... once you’ve got the app staying home won’t be an option.
The app is free and for everyone, the suggested stops range in prices, with nearly half of them being free of charge. In addition, the app will include special offers and events which are regularly updated, including all of the main festivals and traditional Oxfordshire celebrations.
24th - 26th May The Yew Tree's Real Ale & Pie Festival
Main Rd, Conderton, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire GL20 7PP
The Yew Tree will be serving up a wide choice of delicious pies, with fillings to suit every taste and guaranteed to see you going back for more. A wide range of mouth-watering Real Ales will also be available, and when you tie that all in with live music from some top UK bands such as MISSIN’ ROSIE, THE BLACKWATERS, PETER JAGGER, SAX’N'AXE and TOM GABBOT, a good dose of Summer sun (keep those fingers crossed) and a talented DJ, this is a festival you’d be crazy to miss.
25th - 26th May Severn & Wye River Festival
Saturday 11am - 11pm, Sunday 11am - 5pm. 
Severn & Wye Smokery, Chaxhill, Westbury-on-Severn, Gloucestershire GL14 1QW
All day entry (Saturday) £7.50, after 3.30pm (Saturday) £15.00, day entry (Sunday) £7.50, children under 15 years FREE
The Severn and Wye Smokery is putting on a show! A two day celebration of the River Severn and River Wye, two of England's most celebrated salmon and elver rivers. Events during the day on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th of May will include something for all the family such as live cooking demonstrations, celebrity guests, a rivers museum, a cash for favours auction, fish filleting master classes, giant BBQ, cider bars, tractor rides and children's entertainment. Saturday evening concludes with live music! 

Wolvercote Market
Every Sunday 10-1. Wolvercote Primary School, First Turn, Wolvercote, Oxford
South Oxford Farmers & Community Market
Every Sunday 9.30-12. Lake Street Community Centre
East Oxford Farmers Market
Every Saturday 10-1. East Oxford Primary School - behind Tesco off Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1JP
Headington Farmers Market
2nd and 4th Friday every month, Kennett Road, Headington, Oxford
Henley Farmers Market
Fourth Thursday of every month 8-3. Falaise Square, Henley

Friday 17 May 2013

Foodie Events - MAY #1

Location: Oxford, UK
Daylesford near Kingham, Gloucestershire, GL56 0YG
Saturday 18th May, 10am onwards
For the foodies there will be slow-cooked lamb baps, Mark Hix's Fishdogs, Pizza Pilgrims, organic burgers and hotdogs from the Daylesfird BBQ, plus the cafe will be serving fresh food and drinks while selling their organic farm produce.
The festival will also feature; meet the animals; sheep-shearing & farm tours; cookery school demonstrations;  Dick & James Strawbridge from ITV's Saturday Farm TV, signing copies of their recent recipe book; a dog show, which you can sign your dog up for; children's crafts; seed planting; children's carousel; Gifford's pipe organ; ride-on JCB diggers & vintage pedal cars; market garden tours; organic farm school; bee keeping; yogs, acupressue & hand massages!!!

Food Events Oxfordshire. FoodieOnTour
St. Mary's Church, Church Green, Witney OX28 4AW
Saturday 18th May, 9.30m - 5pm
The first ever Witney Festival of Food & Drink will feature 30+ stalls showcasing fabulous local food, there will be opportunities to taste and buy as well as displays and cookery demonstrations. For an A-Z of who will be there, click here.

Bridge Villa Cmping & Caravan Park, The Street, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford, Oxfordshire OX10 8HB
Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th May
For the third year running, Wallingford are hosting their Food Festival, showcasing a fantastic range of local food and drink. They had over 40 producers last year, and they expect to exceed this for 2013, with the likes of Cornfield Bakery, The Secret Pizza Society and Coopers Oxford Pork confirmed. For a full list of producers click here.
Adult tickets are £2.50 each, or if you come as a couple (£4.00 per couple) and the Family Ticket is £4.00 for two adults and children under 16 years old. You can pre-order from their website.
Full details:

East Oxford Primary School - behind Tesco off Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1JP
Saturday 18th May, 10am - 1pm
Running since August 2006, the East Oxford Farmers' & Community Market is a small, friendly market, which plays host to wonderful producers from within 30 miles of Oxford. Products of offer include: bread, eggs, milk, vegetables, cheese, various meats, refills for cleaning supplies - as well as a range of other products such as jewellery, clothing and secondhand books.
The market also has a cafe, running weekly, selling delicious breakfasts, lunches, cakes and fair-trade teas and coffee. 

Lake Street Community Centre, Oxford OX1 4RP
Sunday 19th May, 9.30am - 12noon
Running as a weekly market, selling ethically-produced local, seasonal and/or organic food and non-food goods, the South Oxford Farmers Market works with producers within a 30-mile radius of Oxford. 
Stallholders vary from week to week, so click here for the updated list of who will be there.

Wolvercote Primary School, First Turn, Wolvercote, Oxford OX2 8AQ 
Sunday 19th May, 10am - 1pm
Launched in 2002 by a local organic farmer, the Wolvercote Farmers Market provide fresh farm produce which is grown locally, sold directly by the producers themselves, plus all their livestock is raised to the highest standards of welfare. 
There is a set list of producers, but their attendance varies week by week, click here to see the schedule.

Enjoy! FoodieOnTour x

Thursday 16 May 2013

Review - Kings Arms, Sandford-Upon-Thames, Oxford

Location: Kings Arms, Church Road, Sandford-on-Thames, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX4 4YB, UK
OK, so I'm a bit late in posting this, as we ate here over a week ago, just before we snuck off to Cornwall for a pre-baby holiday. Having eaten at The Kings Arms a couple of times last year, I didn't have particularly high expectations - the first time we ate there I had a glorious Surf 'n' Turf, a few weeks later the same dish was a bitter disappointment. Needing a late-notice lunch spot, with a broad selection of dishes (damn pregnancy hormones), we decided to revisit the canal-side pub once more.

The unfamiliar glowing ball in the sky had brought everyone out for 'al fresco' dining, but there was still ample seating indoors. Having said that, we were then required to stand in the doorway queuing for around 15 minutes for the mere privilege of being seated. This wasn't because the queue was so big, with only two groups before us, so I can only assume they were grossly understaffed for the day.

Finally settled at a table, we ordered drinks and started to scan the menu, which, as far as I could tell, remained unchanged for at least a year. 10 minutes later, with no drinks, MrF was seriously losing patience. Drinks eventually appeared and food ordered, peace at the Foodie table was restored: Chicken Caesar Salad pour moi (definitely with anchovies!), 10oz Rib Eye for MrF, Meatballs and Pasta for MiniF.

Food & Restaurant Reviews Oxford. FoodieOnTour
Chicken Caesar Salad

Delivered within an acceptable time, the food didn't look too bad, it actually tasted OK too. The Caesar Salad was fine - not particularly gastronomic, but nothing to complain about. MrF's steak was chewy, but edible, and MiniF's Pasta with Meatballs was average - it would have been great to see some vegetables and/or possibly better quality meatballs. The fact that the entire plate of children's' food was a palette of orange tells me there was nothing particularly healthy about this dish - fair enough it's what I ordered, but the overall kids menu options weren't overly inspiring.

Food & Restaurant Reviews Oxford. FoodieOnTour
Kids Meatballs & Pasta

I've nothing more to say about the Kings Arms, or the food provided, because ultimately it was nothing to write home about and utterly forgettable. It's lucky I took photos really, otherwise I may have no recollection of my meal at all. Oh, apart from the ridiculous queue to get seated and the wait for drinks - I definitely remember that!

Overall Score: 6/10

Kings Arms
Church Road
Phone: 01865 777095
Twitter: @ChefandBrewer
Facebook: @chefandbrewer

Kings Arms on Urbanspoon

Monday 6 May 2013

The Fishes Garden Party

Location: North Hinksey Village, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX2 0NA, UK
Food & Restaurant Reviews Oxford. FoodieOnTour

"Your Invitation to the Grand Opening of the 'Aspall Cyder Garden at The Fishes'"

... this was the title of the email that landed in my inbox just under a couple of weeks ago. On reading further, it seemed there was quite a lot that appealed to this self-confessed foodie... Hog Roast... BBQ... complimentary tasters from their new Summer Picnic & BBQ menus... Right up my street!

So, guess where we went this Saturday? Yep, bang on - The Fishes.

Now, THE FISHES is not to be confused with FISHERS - the former being a lovely big gastro pub, set in North Hinksey Village, with a whole acre of green gardens backing onto Seacourt Stream; the latter being a small seafood restaurant in St Clements, which can be somewhat hit or miss.

Arriving a good hour and a half after the event kicked off (fashionably late dahhhling), we were pleasantly surprised by how many people had already showed up - the garden wasn't quite full to capacity, but only one lonely picnic bench remained. Keeping a beady eye out for competition for said bench, we made our way over to the 'billy-no-mates' seat, on the outskirts of the garden and somewhat in the shade - not such a bad thing though when you have an ankle-biter in tow. 

Getting ourselves settled, MrF rushed off immediately to furnish himself with tokens for free Aspalls Cyder (4 tokens per invite, which could be exchanged for 2 bottles). Very thankful I was pregnant, MrF returned with glee, brandishing a large diet coke for me (humph) and a bottle of Aspalls for him.

Food Events Oxford. FoodieOnTour
Garden Games

Checking out the scene, it was great to see giant jenga, connect four and pick up sticks - good for entertaining the little (and not so little) kids, along with a Pétanque  pitch. There were also three acoustic bands playing throughout the day, sending a mixture of chilled out summer sounds drifting happily round the garden.

As the garden began to full up, I took it upon myself to investigate the food... There were some simple options of Hog Roast with all the trimmings, Beef Burger or Hot Dog, all for £5 each, or £8 to include salad. Alternatively you could opt for one of the BBQ choices: British BBQ consisted of burger, sausage and salad for £10; American BBQ was Brisket, Pulled Pork and salad for £15; or the Aussie BBQ included Steak and Skewered Prawns for £20.

Food Events Oxford. FoodieOnTour

Our initial impression was that £10 - £20 for a plate of BBQ food was pretty pricey, but we were happy to run with it, based on previously positive experiences here. Being quite the traditionalist, MrF requested the British, I on the other hand, being an outright carnivore and trying to limit the carbs, decided to try the American. I didn't get to see what the Aussie option looked like, but I do wonder how many people chose the priciest dish on the menu - steak and prawns or not, £20 is pretty expensive for what is essentially BBQ meat and salad.

Food Events Oxford. FoodieOnTour
'British BBQ'
Food Events Oxford. FoodieOnTour
'American BBQ'

Finally getting to see the end result, we were happy with our spoils. MrF's Hot Dog was made up of a Jimmy Butler sausage with gorgeously soft onions, and a particularly nice, light bun; the burger received a nod of acceptability, but no major words of praise; the salad, a mix of Caesar, potato, and tomato and onion, accompanied the meats well. Whilst the 'British' looked good, I was very happy to have gone 'American': soft, juicy pulled pork, in a piquant sauce, sitting alongside a chunk of Beef Brisket, smothered in BBQ sauce; my accompanying salads being coleslaw (of course), iceberg lettuce with bacon, plus some beetroot and watercress. I absolutely loved mine - it's just the type of food I enjoy and would happily tuck into regularly... I'm Googling pulled pork recipes as we speak!

Tummies full, but thankfully not to bursting point, we spent a good hour or two just chilling out in the wonderful atmosphere. There were people to watch, melodies to hear, plus Cyder to drink and plenty of room for MiniF to run around in - a wonderful way to spend a sunny day.

The Fishes seriously hits the mark here - good gastro-pub food, great setting, spacious, family friendly, priced at the top end of reasonably without being pretentious - they cater for their market faultlessly and make amazing use of their outdoor space.

Overall Score: 8.5/10

One thing I do regret is not getting a chance to sample any of the new menu offerings, as we were only invited to try some salmon pate (which I was unable to try while pregnant). It would have been great to see more samples being offered round - or perhaps they did have more they just didn't get them round the whole garden very well - either way, I definitely missed out.

The Fishes
North Hinksey Village
Phone: 01865 249796
Twitter: @thefishesoxford
Facebook: @fishesoxford

Fishes on Urbanspoon
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