Friday 28 June 2013

Foodie Events - JULY

Location: Oxford, UK
FoodieOnTour - Food Events OxfordshireCORNBURY FESTIVAL
Friday 5th - Sunday 7th July. Gates open at Midday on Friday 5th July
The Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire
Tickets required
My husband would never forgive me if I didn't occasionally mention ale or beer - so here's one for him.... Cornbury Festival may well be a fantastic music festival, but that does not mean they haven't considered the food and drink angle, with award-winning Hook Norton brewery creating a special festival beer to mark the 10th anniversary of the event. On sale in the 43 Hook Norton pubs, the beer will be available throughout the weekend at Cornbury Music Festival.
You can expect similar food stalls to those you would find at Glastonbury. As far as local food goes, there will be a pig roast run by Charlbury Pre School, The Great Tew Tea Tent will be providing freshly home made cakes & other tasty treats, tea & coffee, plus Barnaby Sykes, Pie Maker, will be there with hand made pies using free-range meat, free-range sausage rolls and mash.

Food Events Oxford
Saturday 6th July
Events running throughout the day all around Oxford
The first weekend of July is set to be a corker in Oxford, with Alice's Day, run by The Story Museum, taking over the city on the Saturday and Cowley Road Carnival taking over East Oxford on the Sunday. Kicking the weekend off is a fun packed day of events, all themed around ‘Nonsense’, to celebrate the first telling of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, on the River Thames in Oxford. Shops, museums, libraries, restaurants & cafes will be taking part, each providing their own activity or entertainment.
The Vaults & Garden Cafe, G&D Cafe, The Ashmoleum Dining Room, Cafe Loco, The Perch, Malmaison & The Old Fire Station are all taking part - think Mad Hatter's Tea Parties and Alice themed food!

Food Events Oxford
Sunday 7th July, 12noon - 7pm
Cowley Road, Oxford
Free and open to all
For any of you planning to drive down Cowley Road on 7th July - don't bother! The entire road will be shut tight, from The Plain to Magdalen Road from 8am-9pm. Don't complain though, because something fabulous is taking place - The Cowley Road Carnival!!
The highlight of the event is a procession, kicking off and 2.15pm, which includes local schools and community groups. Celebrating 100 years of car making in Oxford, the theme this year is 'Wheels of Change'. Don't think that's all though - a carnival wouldn't be a carnival without music, and music there will be! With numerous stages and sound systems up and down Cowley Road, there will be plenty to get you moving; there will also be a number of arts & craft stalls to peak your interest. 
I couldn't feature an event without telling you about the food - you won't go hungry, with crepes, ice cream, Caribbean food, doughnuts, roast pork, vegan food, soup, noodles, cakes, sandwiches and waffles all available on the day!

Food Events Oxfordshire
Wednesday 10th - Sunday 14th July, evenings.
Henley-on-Thames RG9 2LY
Running for five fantastic evenings, the Henley Festival is an elegant arts festival featuring an impressive line up of big music and comedy acts (headline acts include The Beach Boys, Jamie Cullum, Madness and Paloma Faith), along with a floating stage, black ties, sharp suits, designer dresses, an armada of pleasure boats, dance, street theatre, art, sculpture and roving eccentrica, fireworks AND late night parties!! Heard enough yet?
For all the foodies it doesn't end there - sip champagne beside the Thames; enjoy award winning Indian cuisine courtesy of Spice Merchant; tuck into some beautiful French food from Harpers Bar Brasserie; grab a light meal at Café du Soir; enjoy a sumptuous dinner created by Albert and son Michel Roux Jr at La Scala; partake in some less formal dining at the Terrace Restaurant; or go all out and reserve a table for the entire evening at Roux at the Riverside, with Albert and his son, Michel Roux Jr, creating a lavish dinner for you.

Food Events Oxfordshire
12th - 14th July
Carswell Golf & Country Club, Carswell, SN7 8PU
Tickets required
Three days of family festival fun, Ox-Fest celebrates Oxfordshire with a line up of local talent, performers, tribute bands, food and drink. Tributes include: MICHAEL BUBLE TRIBUTE, ABBA, THE BEATLES, GIRLS ALOUD, BLACK EYED PEAS, MADNESS/SKA, BOB MARLEY, TAKE THAT, FLEETWOOD MAC, ELVIS, ROD STEWART, BLUES BROTHERS & BON JOVI!
Food & drink is well and truly covered too, with: Thai/Indian from The Snooty Mehmaan; drinks from the Shush Bar; real ale from The Shoulder of Mutton; coffee/tea from Hackett's Coffee Bar; pizza from Rico's Pizza Shack; gourmet burgers from Dockwoods; cocktails from Katalystic Events; plus popcorn, crepes or waffles!!!
PLUS... 2 PEOPLE CAN WIN FREE FOOD & DRINK at Ox-Fest...! And breath...

Food Events Oxfordshire
Saturday 13th July, 11am - 11pm
Boddington, Banbury, Oxfordshire
Free Entry (all donations welcome)
Featuring a number of local performers across two stages (one at The Horse and Jockey and one at The Plough Inn), Bodfest is a weekend of activities aimed to cater for all ages. As well as plenty of live music, you will also find lots of fab local producers in the Street Market, taking place on Church Street and Town Furlong. Food producers on the day include: now regulars to the events scene, Secret Pizza Society and Shredded Meat Co., providing amazing pizza and delectable barbecue meat; Caribbean Fusion with their Caribbean street food; Great Fayre serving up wraps and paninis; Webb's Donuts for the sweet toothed and espresso addicts; Abigail's Vintage Scoop with ice cream & candies; Chipping Norton Tea Set; Fresh Delights dishing up sweet & savoury toasted sandwiches; Eden Cafe with their proper home made food; Cakes by Shirley; plus Wild Berries and their preserves. There will also be a Food Court on the day.

Saturday 13th July 
The Thame Showground, Kingsey Road, Thame, Oxfordshire OX9 3JL 
Tickets required
Activities throughout the day include Pig Agility, Horse Whisperers, Falconry, Sheepdogs, Terrier Racing and Gundogs, plus skills such as hedge laying, stone walling, broom making and more. Displays also include two top class show jumping competitions, plus a cattle parade, classic cars, agricultural display and parade of hounds. Music will be provided by the 1066 Pipes and Drums, who will be performing twice. If you fancy taking part yourself, then bring your dog along for the dog show!
There will be a Food Hall on site, plus this year marks the introduction of a Food and Drink Village, featuring food retailers and fantastic local food producers and breweries selling a wide range of food and beer. 

Friday 26th July, all day
Old Marston, Oxford OX3 0QA
Free Entry
As a thank you to all their customers, old & new, Victoria Arms invite you to celebrate summer with them. Website:

So, with plenty to do in July... there's no reason to be bored!
FoodieOnTour x

Thursday 27 June 2013

Restaurant Review - The Thatch

Location: 29-30 Upper High Street, Thame, Oxfordshire OX9 3EZ, UK
Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour

Just as we were on our way to Thame Carnival & Fete last weekend, the sky grew dark and rain began to threaten. Stupidly assuming coats are unrequired mid-June, not all of us had brought one... which basically left two options:
  1. Suck it up, braving the rubbish weather
  2. Ditch the Carnival in favour of a warm, cosy pub
Come on... do you even need to ask? PUB! (Sorry Carnival)

MrF and I had visited The Thatch once before, two or three years ago, for an enjoyable dinner with friends; so we figured that would be a safe bet. Joined by MrF's Brother and his family for the weekend, I called ahead to ensure there was a table for six available and off we went in our new direction.

The Thatch is an attractive looking pub, all old and crooked looking from the front, with wooden beans and namesake thatched roof; the interior matches well, with exposed beams, pretty flowers on the tables, a mishmash of wooden and upholstered chairs, wooden floors and period colours.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour

Grabbing our table by a front window, we were all pretty damn hungry, so immediately set to work on the menus. S (thinking he may still get some BBQ food from the fete later) ordered a Small Superfood Salad (£7.75 - Smoked Trout, Green Beans, Broccoli, Mooli with Sesame Seeds and “Mays & Green” Oriental Dressing), K chose the Scottish Salmon Fishcakes (£11.75), C the Maple-cured Free-range Gammon Rib-eye (£11.50), while MrF and I opted to try "The Favourites Deli Board" (£12.50 - Barbecue Pork Loin, Parmesan & Polenta Chips, Laverstoke Mozzarella & Heritage Tomato, Marinated Olives, Tomato Chutney, Summer Slaw & Warm Pitta), ordering one each.

We had plenty to keep us occupied while our lunch was being prepared, with the boys discussing the route for their upcoming local triathlon and MiniF scoffing his packed lunch; so our food seemed to arrive in no time.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour

C's Gammon Rib-eye looked fab - big and chunky with a good singe mark from the griddle pan, served up with chips and a poached egg... cue food envy looks from S, whose little salad didn't quite cut it by comparison. K's Fishcakes meanwhile were looking pretty tasty, made with Scottish Salmon, Spring Onion and Dill, served with Spinach and a Lemon Butter Sauce. Unfortunately, MrF and I picked the short straw, with the Deli Boards looking somewhat minimal, especially considering their hefty price tags of £12.50 each.

Billed as including "Barbecue Pork Loin", we were extremely disappointed to find that this referred to a couple of wafer thin slivers of ham (barely enough to fill a sandwich); the Parmesan & Polenta Chips were tasty but totalled a minuscule number of four; the Summer Slaw was fine, but no wow factor; and the Warm Pitta far too dry and brittle to compliment the other items. The entire dish was a mishmash of items that just didn't gel. After trying out numerous combinations to find one that worked, the only one I found was Mozzarella + Polenta Chips + some Tomato Chutney... and that didn't stretch far with 4 chips and 2 slices of Mozzarella! 

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour

Fair enough that they advertise the Grazing Boards as "Great to share as a starter or as a snack with drinks", but £12.50? Come on guys - at least provide a bit more meat and some nicer bread for that price. When going for a nice spot of lunch there's nothing worse than being completely gutted with your food choice, so we were pretty happy to leave once everyone had finished.

As a member of Peach Pubs and sister to The Fishes in Botley (their menus are not exactly the same but share a number of dishes), I'm sure they do some fantastic food... and I do like the venue... I just wasn't a fan of my dish; so left feeling somewhat disappointed and, well, still rather hungry.

Overall score: 7/10

The Thatch
29-30 Lower High Street
Twitter: @ThatchThame
Facebook: @thatchthame
Phone: 01844 214 340

The Thatch on Urbanspoon

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Restaurant Review - Cherwell Boathouse

Location: Bardwell Road, Oxford OX2, UK
Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Teahut Bar

If you've read my previous reviews, you'll know I'm a big fan of eating out for breakfast, so when I heard The Cherwell Boathouse were launching a breakfast menu from their Teahut Bar, this sounded like a perfect time to check them out; MrF and I had actually been talking about going to eat there anyway, so the timing was spot on. With MrF's Brother (S) and family (K&C) visiting last weekend, we decided a Father's Day brekkie was in order.

Having heard good reports of lunch and dinners at Cherwell Boathouse, we were hoping for good things...

Making our way past some stunning, big, period houses, we turned right down a narrow track towards the river, parking up in a small car park just before the restaurant. The Teahut is on the right hand side, with the seating area in front - which, to my surprise, wasn't outdoors. I don't know why I thought it would be, but I'd pictured an al fresco breakfast on the banks of the river; turns out it's a large decked area, with fixed sides and large plastic 'windows' which can be rolled up. Sounds odd but it's a great idea - the entire sides can be opened up if the weather's great, if not you've got full cover.

It wasn't completely clear when we arrived that this is where we should be sitting, as there were no other diners and no one obvious to ask; sticking my nose into the Teahut I found someone to help, but we did feel somewhat left to our own devices. Anyway... we got ourselves settled in the 'indoor/outdoor' decking area and another lady arrived soon to provide menus, take drinks orders and fit a booster seat for MiniF.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Covered Decking Area

Taking a look at the menu, there was quite a lot to be tempted by: a simple Bacon or Sausage Butty, Eggs Benedict (can't frickin' wait to eat one of these after the baby!!), Mushrooms with a Duck Egg on Sourdough Toast, French Toast with or without Bacon, Full English, Porridge, Berries.... seriously spoilt for choice and a very enticing breakfast offering.

MrF & S both ordered the Boathouse Eggs Benedict (£6.75), K ordered The Boathouse Half English (£6.75), C chose Le "Ooh La La" French Toast (with maple syrup and bacon... £6.75) and I requested The Boathouse Full English Breakfast (£8.75) to share with MiniF. On requesting if I could have my eggs scrambled rather than fried, I received a rather terse "no", with no further explanation, so requested mine without (am not being fussy, you just can't eat runny eggs these days when pregnant, and who really likes well done fried eggs?!). A few minutes later the same lady returned, much warmer this time, explaining she would speak to the chef to see if he may be able to accommodate given the circumstances - thankfully he was and scramble I would have! I'm not sure what inspired the 180, but my dining companions were suspicious it may have been the photos I was taking - was my review rumbled? Difficult to tell, but I was grateful of the change.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour

Drinks delivered (one apple instead of an orange juice, but not a big deal), we relaxed while out breakfasts were being cooked; it felt like a pleasant place to be - the sun was trying to shine, the temperature was comfortable, the riverbank setting appealing. 

Upon arrival, the food all looked good... expect for the hollandaise sauce on the Eggs Benedict, which had split - not that the boys bothered complaining (I don't think they wanted to wait for it to be recooked). By this point we were all pretty hungry, so conversation subsided in favour of consumption. 

K and C enjoyed their dishes, C wasn't a huge fan of the bacon with the sweet French toast, but that was purely personal preference. MrF and S weren't overly happy with their Eggs Benedict - they felt it was far too vinegary, overpowering the whole dish - to me though the eggs were also a little undercooked, I could see pockets of uncooked egg white while MrF was tucking into his, although he wasn't bothered.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Boathouse Eggs Benedict

So... the Full English - my favourite test of quality for a breakfast venu: the scrambled eggs were cooked perfectly, still a bit soft but cooked though; the mushroom juicy and warm (they do go cold so easily); the tomato, well it was a tomato - nothing more nothing less; the potato cake was a great addition, if a little greasy - it was well flavoured and a lovely fine texture; the bacon was tasty, thick cut and fairly well done - perfect for me; the sausages.... while they tasted great, one of mine was undercooked and pink through the middle. Argh...another restaurant serving me undercooked sausage - I'm always the one that gets them.

On highlighting the porky problem, the lady from earlier advised it was because they were wild boar; after I pointed out only one was pink, she immediately apologised and took it away to be replaced. So, with one sausage sent back, I tucked into the rest of my food. It was a bit disappointing to see no toast served up on the side, and some may prefer to have beans included, but otherwise this was an enjoyable full English.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
The Boathouse Full English

Soon, two replacement sausages were delivered - unfortunately, both still pink with one even more pink than the first! What is it with these undercooked sausages?! Again, the lady apologised, seemingly a bit mortified by the progress, and assured me I would get my sausage! Just as I was finishing the rest of my food, the sausage did indeed turn up, butterflied open and cooked on both sides, clearly this was the one I could finally share with MiniF - success! I would like to point out here that my breakfast was removed from the bill, as a gesture of goodwill and apology.

Throughout our breakfast, there was a fair amount of activity going on around us - not from other diners though, there were none of those to be seen - the activity was from people apparently setting up for the lunch service. It wasn't ideal; it made us feel like we were in the way, it also made it feel like the breakfast sitting was more of an inconvenience than a focus. I found this very mildly annoying, as was happy to take in the setting, however MrF was thoroughly unhappy with it - adamant he had no interest in returning.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Overall, I just don't know what to make of Cherwell Boathouse - on the one hand, they have a lovely setting, some good quality produce and lovely menu, on the other hand, they didn't get the basics right and the service seemed to be hit and miss.

I do have a theory about restaurants in beautiful locations falling short on quality and service - so hope this isn't the case for the Boathouse.

Personally, I may consider trying them again, possibly for lunch or dinner rather than breakfast, but I think I'd have to seriously twist MrF's arm to get him to join me, so I doubt we'll be there for some time.

Overall score: 5/10

I would like to think we had an unusually bad experience here, so love to hear from anyone who has tried The Cherwell Boathouse for lunch or dinner - please do use the comment section below if you've had any positive or negative experiences.

Cherwell Boathouse
Bardwell Road
Twitter: @CherwellBoath
Phone: 01865 552746

The Cherwell Boathouse on Urbanspoon

Thursday 20 June 2013

Try This - The Oxford Bakehouse

Location: Oxford, UK
Oxford Food Reviews FoodieOnTour

Right folks, pause the telly, put down that cuppa, tell the other half to shush.... I'm gonna be talking CAKE!

Cupcakes have been big business for some time now and, according to some sources, start-ups in the cake-making industry have doubled in a year. There are plenty of cake making businesses in and around Oxford, in fact when I searched the Yellow Pages I received a whopping 58 hits for Oxfordshire alone, so it's a pretty competitive industry.

If you want to succeed in such a competitive industry you need an edge; The Oxford Bakehouse have got this covered though, specialising in gluten, wheat and dairy free. As you can imagine, I was more than happy to sample some complimentary cupcakes recently when they offered to drop some by... tough gig, eh?!

Food and Restaurant Reviews Oxford - FoodieOnTour
Run by Oxford locals, Rachel and Sarah, The Oxford Bakehouse was started earlier this year with both Mum's on maternity leave. The fledgling business currently have a range of cupcakes and mini cupcakes available for ordering on-line, but is also able to provide cakes to your own specification. All are dairy free, and are available as wheat and gluten free, or not; all home made in their very own kitchens.

On this particular occasion, I was sampling two types of wheat and gluten free cupcakes: Minty Fresh (dark chocolate sponge with a mint green flavour topping) and The Classic Cupcake (vanilla sponge with a classic buttercream topping).... You hate me already don't you?

So, firstly, can you tell the difference with wheat & gluten free? Honestly, I wouldn't have had a clue if I hadn't been told in advance, so I think that's a pretty big compliment. Both the Classic and Minty Fresh cupcakes were incredibly light, tasty and moorish (I finished the last one yesterday and am craving them already!). The Classic was just that, a classic sponge with vanilla flavour topping - traditional but always popular; I'm less of a cake traditionalist myself but MrF loves a good Victoria sponge, so this was his favourite of the two. For me, Minty Fresh was king - delicious brownie-like base, with a refreshing minty topping.... GORGEOUS!!

I think they did the right thing by using a denser chocolate base for the Minty Fresh, as the mint would be too overpowering with a lighter base; as it is, it works really well... in fact this is the one I'm getting withdrawal symptoms from!

Food and Restaurant Reviews Oxford - FoodieOnTour
Food and Restaurant Reviews Oxford - FoodieOnTour

I'm looking forward to checking out some of their other flavours, in particular 'Strawberries & Cream' (vanilla sponge with a pink strawberry flavour topping), 'Zingy Lemon' (lemon & coconut sponge with a zingy lemon topping) and 'Crunchy Carrot' (carrot & pecan sponge with a cream cheese topping). Other flavours are available though so do check their website for details.

All cupcakes are available for collection or delivery (delivery is free within a 5 mile radius of Headington, Oxford; charges will apply outside of this), and are priced at 6 for £10, 12 for £19, or 24 for £38; but do remember they can also provide bespoke celebration cakes.

So will I be choosing gluten free again? Where possible, yes; it did feel much lighter and left me without a 'weighed down' feeling that can often come with eating rich baked goods. So off I go to dream of mint chocolate cupcakes, not a combination I would have ever chosen before, but one I will certainly continue to crave. 

The Oxford Bakehouse
Twitter: @OxfordBakehouse
Facebook: @TheOxfordBakehouse
Phone: 07920149117 / 07875531364

Tuesday 18 June 2013

PREVIEW - Supper Menu at St Giles' Cafe

Location: 52 Saint Giles', Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3LU, UK

After reviewing the newly revamped St Giles' Cafe for Breakfast recently, I was pleased to accept an invitation to be one of their 'guinea pigs' for a new Supper Menu they were launching. With family arriving for the weekend, we booked in for the very first sitting at 6.30pm on the Friday, giving us just enough time to get home before everyone arrived.

Arriving bang on time, there were already two or three tables taken. The setting looked lovely, with pale blue table cloths, napkins, candles and wine glasses added to the tables; this definitely felt more suitable for an evening meal. With classical and classical jazz playing softly in the background, the atmosphere was elegant and relaxing.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Supper Table Setting

Settling in with water (they are awaiting a drinks licence), we had a nose at the menu: four starters, five mains and four desserts to choose from, at a cost of £12 for two courses and £15 for three. The prices were reduced for the benefit of the sample nights, so are not reflective of what the prices will be, but don't expect the cafe to be extortionate - pricing at breakfast is very reasonable and I would expect the same of their supper offerings.

For me: Soup of the Day (Tomato & Basil) with Fresh Bread to start, then Pan Fried Fresh Cod with Sautéed New Potatoes, Pea Timbales and Tartare Sauce for Main. For MrF: Oxford Asparagus & Home-cured Pancetta, with Poached Egg & Caesar Dressing to start, then Organic Corn-fed Chicken Breast with Chorizo & Fennel Broth, Garlic Aioli for main.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour

Settling in rather comfortably, we got talking about the incredibly good service from the waiting staff; both ladies waiting the tables were perfectly calm (especially for first dinner service), polite and warm. In fact, a visit to St Giles Cafe may easily complete with a day at a spa when it comes to relaxation, I felt so chilled out there!

To tide us over until our starters arrived, we tucked into some lovely fresh bread, which is all baked in house. Both starters looked fresh and appetising when delivered; the soup was full of flavour, well-seasoned and with enough of a texture to prevent it from being overly thin. MrF, being a big fan of asparagus, was equally pleased with his starter. It's only since I've looked back at the menu and pictures of the food that I realised... he was missing a poached egg! Actually quite amusing given that MrF didn't notice at all on the night.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Soup of the Day - Tomato & Basil,
with Fresh Bread
Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Oxford Asparagus & Home-cured Pancetta
with (Invisible) Poached Egg & Caesar Dressing

Moving on to the main courses, again, both dishes looked beautifully fresh; MrF's chicken was cooked perfectly, served up with a delicious chorizo and fennel 'broth', which was more of a pearl barley risotto really, but very juicy and earthy. As a side note, the chorizo was stunning - really very good, much juicier than the one I get from Waitrose.... must look into getting my hands on some of that! My Pan Fried Cod was also cooked to perfection, with a stonkingly good home made tartare on the side, served up with some nice sautéed new potatoes and interesting pea timbales, which added to the look of the dish, but didn't really add enough in terms of flavour. As a very minor point, my dish maybe lacked a little elegance in its display, but still made for enjoyable eating.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Organic Corn Fed Chicken Breast
with Chorizo & Fennel Broth, Garlic Aioli
Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Pan Fried Cod, with Sautéed New Potatoes, Pea Timbales
and Tartare Sauce

With both of my courses so far fairly light, I was more than ready to dive into a dessert, so grabbed the menu for a second look. Knowing their commitment to baking their bread and cakes in house, I opted for the Chocolate Brownie with Hot Chocolate Sauce & Vanilla Ice Cream. I have to say, this was a stunning pudding: the brownie was rich whilst also managing to be brilliantly light; the hot chocolate sauce was divine, tasting almost toffee like; and the vanilla ice cream acting as the perfect accompaniment to the unxious chocolaty heaven, especially with the ice cream melting under the heat of the sauce. Mmmmmmmmm. I didn't manage to finish the whole thing, but MrF - usually a hater of anything hot and sweet - happily helped me polish it off.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Chocolate Brownie with Hot Chocolate Sauce &
Vanilla Ice Cream

For a first night of service, St Giles' Cafe did a wonderful job, it was a bit like watching a swan gliding along on the water - they were no doubt paddling furiously under the surface, but everything we saw above the water was sheer elegance. If this is simply the start, then I seriously look forward to seeing what they can do in the future. Clearly a happy place to work, this is a huge credit to the owner, Baz, who is obviously putting his heart and soul into the place; it's wonderful to see it's paying off for him - they had to turn away numerous potential diners throughout our visit, so I'm sure they won't be short of passing trade.

A great addition to the Oxford food scene, St Giles Cafe is absolutely somewhere you need to try. So, having done breakfast and dinner now, I guess I'd better go back for lunch sometime soon! Not that I'll mind though, in fact I'm thoroughly looking forward to it.

Overall score: 8.5/10

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

St Giles' Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday 7 June 2013

Restaurant Review - The Broad Face

Location: 30-32 Bridge Street, Abingdon, Oxfordshire OX14 3HR, UK

My Foodie radar peaked recently, seeing pictures emerging on Twitter of stunning food, artfully plated up, captured by diners at a restaurant called The Broad Face, in Abingdon; I'd never heard of the place before, but it looked intriguing. 

'C', one of my closest and oldest friends, lives in Abingdon, but we'd rarely dined there; I'd eaten in a couple of average Abingdon pubs before and 'C' had taken me to local 'night club' Strattons on the way home from a night out (I won't go into detail, for the sake of decency, but sticky is the only description that jumps to mind!), so my view of Abingdon wasn't one of culture and gastronomy. So, due to our 'interesting' history here, 'C' was the obvious companion to investigate further; MiniF, 'C', and her boyfriend 'P' in tow, we booked in for a spot of midweek lunch. 

Restaurant Reviews, Oxfordshire. FoodieOnTour

Calling ahead the day before, to arrange the booking and request a high chair, I was disappointed to hear they don't have high chairs - although I was told the chef could cook anything I might like for MiniF. Strange to think they would be so accommodating with the food but not provide somewhere for children to sit. I booked anyway, deciding to take a collapsible high chair with me - not ideal but much better than trying to sit MiniF at the table in his buggy (he would be at least a foot to low & would not be a happy bunny). 

Arriving a few minutes early, I found a car park - as advised when I booked, just to the side of the restaurant; although, as it turned out, with a parking meter. I didn't envisage this, so hadn't brought any coins with me. Handbag, wallet and car all tipped up and shook, I scraped together just enough to cover the cost of parking (max 2 hours available). Phew. Mild panic over, I packed a sleepy MiniF into his buggy and made my way into the restaurant.

Food and Restaurant Reviews, Oxfordshire. FoodieOnTour

On first impression, the place is lovely - flooded with light from a large front window, furnished with rustic wooden tables and chairs, and complimented by an earthy decor of pale wooden floors, dark olive panelling and cream walls. Our table was booked for 12 o'clock, so fairly early for lunch, although I was very surprised to see the place completely empty.

MiniF happily chilling in his buggy, I left the high chair in the car; soon joined by 'C' and 'P', we ordered our drinks and got to work on the menu. 

While pondering the menus, we were served some beautifully presented bread, with butter and salt, all artfully displayed on a slate tile - this is just how I like butter to be served, with salt on the side so you can season to your liking. With 'Luncheon', 'Set Lunch' and 'A la Carte' options available, there was plenty to choose from: scotch eggs to snails, steak on toast to lemon sole, confit duck to pig cheeks - you won't find it difficult to find something you want to try. 'C' and 'P' both selected the Steak on Toast with Melted Onions, Salad and Chips (£9.50 each), while I chose the Pig Cheeks, Lentils and Roasting Juices (£6/£9).

Food and Restaurant Reviews, Oxfordshire. FoodieOnTour
Freshly Baked Bread (provided by Dan Degustibus bakery)

The menus proudly boast that all their food is sourced from the best suppliers, produced to the highest standards in-house, fresh every day to order; and advises that, due to the freshness of their products, some waiting can occur.... Don't worry though, this little Foodie didn't have to wait too long for her food. I hadn't checked my watch once when the food arrived, a good indicator that it wasn't long. The Steak on Toast (basically a steak sandwich) looked great, but I'm pretty sure 'C' and 'P' were looking at my Pig Cheeks with a slightly green tinge, as it looked amazing...

Food and Restaurant Reviews, Oxfordshire. FoodieOnTour
Steak on Toast with Melted Onions, Salad and Chips

Food and Restaurant Reviews, Oxfordshire. FoodieOnTour
Pig Cheeks, Lentils and Roasting Juices (large portion)

On tucking into the Pig Cheeks, I was very pleased to discover it wasn't just style over substance - the meat was tender, flavoursome and delicious, slow cooked and melt in the mouth; the accompanying vegetables were all well paired and perfectly cooked; the sauces (meat juices, an apple purée and, I'm guessing, pea purée) completing the dish wonderfully. The serving of pig cheeks was incredibly generous, so much so that 'C', 'P' and MiniF were all allowed to indulge without me feeling overly possessive.

The Steak on Toast was also going down well: the meat was served pink (I'll come back to this) in more of the earlier fresh bread; the chips tasty and well cooked; the salad... well, not much you can say about a side salad really. Back to the meat - I, personally, like my steak served pink, however I appreciate not everyone does. There was no request, on ordering the food, how 'C' and 'P' would like theirs cooked - I'm fine with steak being automatically served pink, but it's certainly a sticking point for others, so just a minor point on their behalf. 'C' also found some of her steak a little too chewy.

Half way through our food, as I could have predicted, MiniF decided he was fed up of sitting in the buggy, so off I went to fetch the high chair. On asking the waiter if they minded me bringing in our own high chair, I was advised they had been out and bought one since we spoke the previous day - talk about great customer service! As a full time Mum, I know plenty of parents like me who like to eat out, with children in tow, during the week and weekends - so it's pretty vital to have at least one high chair available (I'll need two soon please).

Anyway, I digress.

Very happy with our mains and with some time to spare, we took a look at the dessert menu. The only option for me, while pregnant, was a Berry Crumble, so ordered this. 'P' requested a Mango and Passion Fruit Cheesecake, and 'C' a coffee.

Food and Restaurant Reviews, Oxfordshire. FoodieOnTour
Mango & Passion Fruit Cheesecake

Food and Restaurant Reviews, Oxfordshire. FoodieOnTour
Berry Crumble

I wasn't able to sample the Cheesecake, but it was a thing of beauty and, I was told, tasted just as good. The Berry Crumble was delicious, although a little too sharp for my taste; I prefer a little more crumble with my berry, so finished once I'd consumed the prior.

Coming to just shy of £55, the food was fantastic value given the quality and presentation. The chef here, Michael Riemenschneider, not only knows how to cook delicious food, he also has an expert eye for presentation. The service, also, was incredibly good - charming and professional. Under new ownership since February this year, The Broad Face thoroughly deserves the good reputation being currently built up on-line - I'll definitely be back, most likely more than once... especially now I know they have a high chair. I'm also looking at Abingdon differently and look forward to finding some more local gems, I wonder though if any can outshine the new Broad Face.

Overall Score: 8.5/10

Whilst three more tables did fill up while we were eating, there was still plenty of room available for lunch; so spread the word people - this is one place you need to try!

The Broadface
30-32 Bridge Street
OX143 HR
Facebook: @The-Broad-Face
Phone: 01235 537775

The Broad Face on Urbanspoon

Thursday 6 June 2013

Restaurant Review - The Royal Oak, Oxford

Location: 42-44 Woodstock Road, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX2 6HT, UK
Food and Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour

I'm not a massive burger fan, I don't eat them very often and I rarely manage to finish a whole one; I've had some bad experiences with burgers you see - they're either too big, too greasy, or just plain meh. Over the past few months though, I'd seen pictures of some tasty looking burgers being served up at The Royal Oak; and I have to say, they were having an impact on me - I was actually starting to want one. Upon hearing they were launching a weekly burger day, I checked out the menu - Pork & Chorizo Burger with Caramelised Onion; Handmade British Brie & Bacon Jam Burger; Handmade British Beef Burger topped with Pork Belly and Black Pudding...  that was it, I was finally tempted back to the dark side.

Parking in St Giles' with 'A', we took a walk up Woodstock Road to the Royal Oak. Set back a few feet from the road, the pub is recognisable by its pale pink exterior; once inside, it's a rabbit warren of rooms - we must have walked through about five or six to get to our table. With warm wooden floors, mismatched wooden furniture and the odd wooden beam, you feel a real sense of history here; don't get me wrong though, the place doesn't feel dowdy. With walls and wooden panelling painted in various Farrow & Ball'esque shades, plenty of scatter cushions and the odd 'statement' piece of wallpaper, the pub feels inviting and cosy.

Food and Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour

Anyway, back to the food... there was a daily menu plus a specials menu, but we weren't interested - we wanted to sample the burgers. 'A' and I had already decided we would order two different burgers and share them between us, so we could sample more - so scanning our way through the menu we decided on the Pork & Chorizo Burger with Caramelised Red Onion & Fries, plus a Handmade British Cheese Burger & Fries with added BBQ Pulled Pork, along with a side of onion rings. Asking the cheery waiter if any salad came with the burgers, we were advised coleslaw was provided, so left it at that. The only thing noted at this point was that we weren't asked how we would like our burgers cooked; I'm usually a medium to medium-rare kind of gal, but for now I need well done, which was also the way 'A' wanted hers.

A good old gossip later, we started looking at our watches, I'm purely guessing (because we forgot to check our watches when we ordered), but it must have been around half an hour by this point - not quite enough to annoy, but certainly enough to recognise hunger pangs. Five to ten minutes later the food arrived and sauces offered; we had to remind the waiter at this point we had also ordered onion rings, which he chased up keenly for us. Onion rings delivered, we got stuck in.

Food and Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour
Pork & Chorizo Burger with Caramelised Red Onion & Fries

Food and Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour
Handmade British Cheese Burger & Fries with added BBQ Pulled Pork

The Pork & Chorizo Burger had good flavouring, but for me felt a little dry, I would have preferred it with more caramelised onion; the fries were tasty, although a little too cool for our liking; the accompanying burger sauce was delicious - really good for dipping the chips in, although it was disappointing to not see the promised coleslaw on the side. The shining star for me? The Cheese Burger with addition of BBQ Pulled Pork was gorgeous - juicy, smoky, cheesy, gooey, deliciousness. Both burgers turned out to be well done, which was fortunate on this occasion, as otherwise we would have had to send them back; however please don't automatically give me well done meat when I'm no longer pregnant, as I will be sick to death of it! Overall, the burgers were very enjoyable and not so big you're left feeling you should be rolled out the door; we didn't have room for pudding, but we both agreed we would certainly go back for more on another occasion.

Food and Restaurant Reviews, Oxford. FoodieOnTour
Onion Rings Batch 1 (top) and Batch 2 (bottom)

The only real disappointment we had was the onion rings; as you'll see from the pic below, we had two batches, as we had to send the first back. Badly overcooked, the initial onion rings we received were brittle and greasy - not enjoyable at all; the second batch was certainly better, but still a little too greasy. It was good of the waiter to organise a replacement for us though, and he'd knocked them off the bill at the end as a gesture of goodwill - thumbs up on the customer service.

All in all, a good meal; maybe not amazing, but I actually think they've got a very good foundation to build on. With a few tweaks, this could turn into a destination pub for me; get those onion rings sorted, heat up the fries a bit more and I'm there - I'm certainly looking forward to checking out the Handmade British Brie & Bacon Jam Burger when I'm not pregnant. What the hell, turns out I do like burgers after all! Who would've thought it.

Overall score: 7.5

As an FYI, Monday night is also quiz night, so don't expect it to be quiet. There is a PA system running throughout the bulding, so if you do want to take part in the quiz, you can do so from anywhere in the pub.

The Royal Oak,
42-44 Woodstock Road
Twitter: @royaloakoxford
Facebook: @royaloakoxford
Phone: 01865 310 187 

Royal Oak on Urbanspoon
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