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
Website: www.stgilescafe.com
Phone: 01865 554200

St Giles' Cafe on Urbanspoon

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