Friday, 13 December 2013

PREVIEW - 1855

Location: Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 1AY, UK
1855 Oxford wine bar and bistro

With the lure of quality wine and perfectly matched food, MrF and I were strong-armed into attended the press launch of Oxford's new wine bar and bistro, 1855. OK, so strong-armed might be a slight exaggeration - we booked a babysitter and got ourselves down there as fast as our carriage could carry us!

Based in Oxford's Castle Quarter, 1855 is the brainchild of three people - Christopher Mulhall and Laurence Howlin (consultant engineers, wine enthusiasts and long-term friends), plus Laurence's daughter Jane Howlin (wine devotee and marketing executive).

Chris, Laurence and Jane clearly knew what they were doing when they put their team together, bringing in resident chef Paul Bellchambers (owner of The Late Chef catering firm, food writer and broadcaster), and wine expert Alistair Cooper (recipient of the Derouet Jameson Award of Excellence for his wine expertise, currently studying to become a Master of Wine, of which there are just 303 in the world).

1855 Oxford interior style

Located in the building where Krispy Kreme used to reside, 1855 has extended outwards, allowing for further seating space. With it's concrete and glass frontage, exposed brickwork and steel interior, the latest addition to The Castle Quarter is elegant sophistication to a T.

The emphasis here is on the wine, with food designed to match, not overshadow. The wine menu is designed stylistically - with wines grouped as "Unoaked and Thirst-Quenching", or "Sea & Ocean" for example, plus very literal descriptions. The concept here is to get you trying other wines you may not usually consider. I, for example, would usually go for unoaked French white, so the menu here suggests I try something like a Hungarian Dry Tokaji... which I did... and I loved.

1855 press launch wine tasting menu
Tasting list for the evening

There were three whites and three reds available for tasting on the night. I'm no red drinker, so sampled each of the whites, while MrF sampled each and every one (no hangovers though, surprisingly enough). As hubs will tell you, I can be incredibly tough to please with wine - not because I'm any kind of expert, I'm just not easily impressed. Annoyingly however, each and every one of those three white wines offered was brilliantly quaffable. MrF was equally impressed with the reds, particularly a cheeky little number from Turkey.

We also had the chance to peruse the food menu, while sampling examples of the dishes. The overriding food theme was high quality picky bits', as I like to call them, plus some larger plates and sweets- delicious cured meats, artisan cheeses, marinated octopus, confit duck, or Normandy tarts for example. Tasters on offer at the launch night included the most melt in the mouth Iberico ham; a beautifully meaty pork pie made from five cuts of meat (reminded me of ham hock terrine - which I love); tender morsels of smoked salmon on dill scones with horseradish cream; charcuterie plates; plus cheese and biscuit plates - lots of great flavours and quality produce. The Iberico ham was simply stunning.

1855 Oxford cheese plate and wine
Tasty cheese plate and a glass of their finest

So with a stylish venue, delicious food and flooringly good wine, 1855 seem to have created something potentially quite wonderful. The staff were knowledgeable, well trained and professional, the Manager warm and welcoming. All in all, a fabulous night and an exciting new venue for Oxford.

Doors should officially open on Saturday 14th December. Tables are available for group bookings, otherwise on a casual, first come, first served basis. I didn't sample any on the night, but 1855 will also be serving up delicious coffee, supplied by local artisan producers Ue Coffee Roasters.

P.S. For those wondering, the name 1855 was inspired by the classification of the finest wines of the Bordeaux region, which originated in 1855.

Justice Walk
Oxford Castle Quarter
Twitter: @1855oxford
Facebook: N/A
Phone: TBC

MrF and I attended the launch as guests of 1855

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