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 P├ętanque  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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