Monday 23 September 2013


Location: 36 Cornmarket Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3EZ, UK
Doors open at midday, Friday 27th September

Oxford restaurant reviews FoodieOnTour
Slim Salmon

With the upcoming launch of Asian-inspired shop and takeaway, itsu, in Cornmarket this week, I've got some vouchers to give away as part of another Twitter competition. Here are some tasty titbits from their recent press release, along with some piccies, to give you a taste of what to expect...

The store, which can seat over 100 customers, will serve fresh food to eat in as well as for takeaway, including hot noodles, chicken teriyaki, salads, sushi and frozen yoghurt, made fresh from scratch every day.
Oxford restaurant reviews FoodieOnTour
itsu Interior Design
With over 60 dishes on the menu, itsu will offer healthy fast food for under £5. For example, a freshly poached salmon teriyaki, garnished with miso and furikake ‘on a bed’ of seasoned sushi rice with edamame beans and homemade teriyaki and ginger sauce, served in a stunning bento box, costs just £3.89...less than a McChicken Sandwich meal at McDonalds!
A few itsu facts:
  • The Oxford store has created 18 jobs for the Oxford community.
  • itsu was started in 1997 by Julian Metcalfe, the man behind Pret A Manger.
  • The Oxford branch will be the first location outside London for itsu, which serves over 8.5 million customers per year.
  • Hot potsu with chargrilled chicken is the most popular product purchased by itsu customers.

Oxford restaurant reviews FoodieOnTour
Chicken Potsu £5.99

The store, which is hoping to become a firm favourite with students arriving back in the city, will offer a 15% discount on weekday afternoons to everyone with a valid student card
Opening times will be from 10am to 10pm from Monday to Saturday, and 11am to 9pm on Sunday.


Courtesy of the guys at itsu, I have four £10 gift vouchers to give away, for spending in the new Oxford branch. To be in with a chance of winning, make sure you are following me on twitter and keep your eyes peeled for further instructions...

36 Cornmarket Street

Twitter: @ItsuOfficial
Facebook: @itsulondon

Friday 20 September 2013

Restaurant Review - Oli's Thai

Location: 38 Magdalen Road, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX4 1RB, UK
Olis Thai Oxford

Judging by the response to my recent preview of Oli's Thai, there was a lot of interest in the brand new offering to East Oxford's food scene. Opening the very week that MiniF2 was due, I was never going to make it to opening night; however it didn't take me long to get there, popping in for a spot of lunch a matter of days after bringing our new addition home - and boy was it worth it!

After hustling the whole Foodie Fam' out the door (not a small feat these days!), we arrived at Oli's just in time to order from the lunchtime menu, so chose fast: Prawn Crackers with Peanut Sauce to start, followed by Phad Thai for me and Chicken with Garlic, Pepper & Coriander for Andrew, we were all set. I have to admit, I was really bloody excited; I hadn't tasted truly good Thai food since our visit to Thailand over two and a half years ago and I had very high expectations.

Restaurant Review Oxford, FoodieOnTour
Prawn Crackers, served with a Peanut Sauce (out of pic)

A couple of other tables were already occupied, diners happily chatting away over assortments of small, brown, earthenware bowls; so we set up camp at a table near the counter. With an atmosphere that is relaxed and informal, a setting which is minimalist but inviting (check the preview for images of the venue), owners and staff who are incredibly hospitable, Oli' is a great spot for lunch and, I can imagine, a fab place for dinner.

The crisp Thai Prawn Crackers turned up first, with their accompanying Peanut Sauce; followed closely by a carafe of wine and, rather generously, a couple of complimentary sample dishes to try (Lemongrass Mieng and Papaya Salad), courtesy of owners Ru and Ladd.

Restaurant Review Oxford, FoodieOnTour
Lemongrass Mieng
Restaurant Review Oxford, FoodieOnTour
Mieng Accompaniments

The Lemongrass Mieng was stunning to look at; dark green leaves topped with delectable little dollops of red, white and green; served with optional extras of cashews, chillies and dried shrimp. The taste was extraordinary - a swirl of lemongrass spiked with a kick of chilli and the zing of fresh herbs, much more juicy than you first expect. I didn't feel the need to add extra chilli to mine, but I did add the dried shrimp. These little delights are often sold as street food in Thailand and you can see why - they make wonderfully tasty bite-size bundles.

The Papaya Salad was another surprise; I'd been warned it was pretty spicy, so was a little hesitant, needlessly so - it was wonderful! Yes, it was spicy, but I didn't find it overpoweringly so; more or a deep warmth than a smash-your-face-off heat. A delicious little heap of shredded papaya and carrot mixed with green beans and crushed peanuts, the salad was crunchy, sweet, beautifully fresh and packed full of flavour - this is the kind of food I love and would happily eat time and time again (I must nab the recipe from Ladd!).

Restaurant Review Oxford, FoodieOnTour
Papaya Salad

Starters demolished, second carafe of wine started and mouths warmed nicely by the starters, we were excited to see the mains. Yet another feast for the eyes, both dishes looks divine; with bright herbs and vegetables, this had to be some of the freshest looking food I'd seen for some time. Served with Sticky Rice, MrF's Chicken with Garlic, Pepper & Coriander was pounced on immediately - I'm sure Oli's will breathe a huge sigh of relief to find out it had MrF's approval!

The Phad Thai was marvellous too, with crisp green beans, carrots and beansprouts, mixed in with soft egg and tender rice noodles, served with a wedge of lime. The dish was so tasty, in fact, that I didn't mind it being entirely devoid of meat. Having sampled Phad Thai at multiple venues over the years, I can safely say this was one of my favourite so far; simple, yet delicious and perfectly prepared. The sauce was a lovely light consistency and was just ample to coat the ingredients, leaving you feeling nicely full but ultimately pretty damned healthy. We did counteract the healthiness with two carafes of wine, obviously, but you can also indulge in a custard tart or two if you need something a little naughtier.

Restaurant Review Oxford, FoodieOnTour
Chicken with Garlic, Pepper & Coriander

Restaurant Review Oxford, FoodieOnTour
Phad Thai

Oli's may have only been open a matter of weeks, but there is no hint of 'teething trouble' here - the service was perfect, the food was divine and the setting utterly cool. Serving up some of the freshest tasting food I've sampled in a long time, I cannot wait to return; I definitely need some more of that Papaya Salad and the Confit Duck Penang is certainly on my list!

If you haven't been yet - what the hell are you waiting for? GO, GO, GO!

Overall Score: 9/10 - FOT TOP Pick

Oli's Thai
38 Magdalen Road
Website: TBC
Phone: 01865 790223

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Restaurant Review - The Marsh Harrier

Location: 40 Marsh Road, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX4 2HH, UK
Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour

With The Marsh Harrier being one of MrF's favourite locals (within 15mins walking distance), he was bitterly disappointed when, on taking me there for a Sunday lunch early last winter, I reported back that I thought the food was utterly rubbish! Think Aunt Bessie's roast potatoes (other brands are, I'm sure, available) and overcooked beef - not my 'thang' at all.

When I heard the pub was under new management and that they had revamped the menu, I hoped for the best. So, almost a year since my last visit and a mere 5 days after the birth of MiniF2, we went to find out if the Harrier could finally become a favourite local for the entire Foodie family.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Pimm's O'Clock

Arriving on a sunny day with the whole clan, we weaved our way through the mid-redecoration bar and headed straight for the back garden; shaded in parts and sunny in others, with plenty of space to get comfortable (or run around, in MiniF1's case), the garden is a very pleasant place to relax. Celebrating my new found ability to drink (some) alcohol, I immediately ordered myself a big old glass of Pimm's - ahhhh, all going well so far...

I'd already heard the Harrier were serving up Black Pudding Scotch Eggs and had pretty much pre-ordered it in my head, so this immediately jumped off the page as we perused the short, but perfectly formed, menu. To accompany my Scotch Egg: Triple Cooked Chips and a Beetroot, Goats Cheese and Hazelnut Salad, with Honey & Mustard Dressing - well I had to sample a few things and 3 starters/bar snacks for a tenner is a good deal in my book! MrF unsurprisingly went for the Handmade 6oz Beef Burger, topped with Bacon and Blue Cheese, served with Triple Cooked Chips and Coleslaw.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour

A little sun worshipping and running after MiniF1 later, the food began to arrive. MrF's burger first - standing proud on the plate, next to some fresh looking coleslaw and thick cut, if a little pasty looking, chips. My trio of bar snacks next - the Scotch Egg first (looking flipping amazing!), closely followed by the Triple Cooked Chips and Beetroot & Goats Cheese Salad. Nothing gets my taste buds going more than a selection of tasty treats, so I was genuinely as happy as a kid in a candy shop at this point.

MrF dug on into his burger - the feedback: "It was nice, but I'd prefer to swap the blue cheese for a different type of cheese. Really, really good triple cooked chips, but just not enough of them".

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Handmade 6oz Beef Burger, topped with Bacon and Blue Cheese, served with Triple Cooked Chips and Coleslaw

For me, the big question was where to start first?! I'm usually a fan of leave-the-best-till-last, but on this occasion, the Scotch Egg was freaking callin' to me. And O...M...G... it was glorious! Thin, crispy shell; salty, tasty, black pudding layer; followed by a bright yellow, soft centred egg. Paired with a flick of brown sauce this was very, very, sexy food.

Next up were the Triple Cooked Chips and the Beetroot & Goats Cheese Salad. The chips were indeed excellent, well-seasoned and crispy, maybe a little paler than I personally prefer, but tasty nonetheless. The salad delicious - a traditional pairing of ingredients, somewhat unable to fail. Each of my starter/bar snack dishes was just that, a snack; but eaten together, just enough for a main meal.

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Black Pudding Scotch Egg with Brown Sauce
Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Triple Cooked Chips
Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Beetroot, Goats Cheese and Hazelnut Salad, with Honey & Mustard Dressing

Overall we were hugely impressed with the new menu and even more impressed with the quality of it - everything tasted superb. Great food, a big glass of Pimm's, sunshine AND a pub garden... I think I've found my new favourite local, MrF will be happy! I look forward to seeing the finished result when the refurbishments are complete - until then, I'm sure I'll be back for more.

Overall Score: 8.5/10

The Marsh Harrier
40 Marsh Road
Twitter: N/A
Facebook: @marshharrieroxford
Phone: 01865 718225

The Marsh Harrier on Urbanspoon
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