Sunday 26 January 2014

Cornish Capers

Location: Cornwall, UK
MiniF1 had a fabulous time running around on the beach in Newquay

Last May, with MiniF2 due to make an appearance three months later, we headed off for a 'babymoon' to Cornwall, because there's nothing quite like a good waddle along the beach when you're several months preggers. With MiniF1 quickly approaching 'terrible twos' though, holidays were no longer the calm, relaxing break they once were - as any parent will know, a holiday with kids can be more like hard work than any day at the office. But what the hell, it'll be fine, right?

With friends in Penzance, we planed to stay somewhere nearby. Hours of searching through holiday cottage websites left me feeling somewhat disappointed, with most places too far north, in the middle on nowhere, or appallingly decorated (seriously...? that much chintz?!). We were relieved to find a little gem of a cottage, based almost bang on one hour from our friends and 15 minutes from the coast. Booked through Sykes Cottages, The Boat in Tregony is a three bedroom, double-fronted stone cottage, with separate dining room, a bathroom, a shower room, off-road parking and cute manicured gardens. Comfortable and traditional, with solid pine furniture and neutral tones throughout, The Boat came with stair gates provided (by prior arrangement), so all we needed to take for MiniF was a pop up bed - result.

Our accommodation for the week, The Boat. Booked via Sykes Cottages

One of the big ticket attractions in Cornwall, other than the beaches and the food, is of course The Eden Project. Which turned out to be one of the more, well... eventful days - consisting of projectile vomiting pretty much throughout, as one of our friends' children started coming down with some kind of bug. But, I must admit, even though I had my doubts about Eden (not being particularly excited by plants or greenhouses), it turned out to be pretty cool, minus the puking. The two main 'biomes' (which are basically big bubble-shaped greenhouses) are made up of a rainforest biome, all big plants and humidity, and a Mediterranean biome, with a lovely cafe, olive trees, terracotta planters and children's entertainer singing along with his guitar. The Mediterranean biome was my favourite, evoking feelings of being in a rural Greek village, basking in the sun, while the wind and drizzle outside became a distant thought. I could have happily stayed there all day!

A brief break from waddling through the rainforest biome

We had to leave in a bit of a hurry, as the poorly little girl we were with was literally chucking up all over the place. If we had more time though we would have checked out the large dining area, between the two biomes, which seemed to consist of row after row of long 'kitchen bars', where chefs were preparing all manor of treats right in front of eager looking diners. MrF did manage to grab me a swift pasty on the way back to the car though - well done MrF, you made a pregnant woman very happy! There is also a visitor centre if you have a little longer to linger than we did - worth checking out.


Before our trip to Cornwall, I'd researched online, as per usual, for the best places to eat in the area. Many of the more renowned places were a little further afield, quite pricey, or a bit too formal, and with MiniF1 in tow we didn't want any of those things. We ended up mostly dining at highly rated cafes, uncovering some utterly wonderful dishes (without a single pasty or cream tea in sight!).

Clockwise from left: Victoria Inn; Provençal Fish Soup; soup accompaniments Parmesan, Aioli and Croutons; Slow Braised Primrose Herd Pork and Peppercorn Faggots, with Champ Potato, Local Greens and Onion Gravy

Tucked away in the small village of Perranuthnoe, The Victoria Inn looks like any traditional village pub from the outside, the only hint you get about the quality within is the window display of various accolades. 'Chef Stew' trained with Raymond Blanc and Michael Cains, plus, as their website understandably boast, "has achieved recognition in all the major food guides every year since 1998"... pretty impressive qualifications! 

The traditional theme continues inside with dark wood, stone walls and a small cosy fireplace. An extensive menu lured us in with a fine selection of shellfish, pate and steak, but we were ultimately captured by the same dishes - Provençal Fish Soup for starters, then Slow Braised Primrose Herd Pork and Peppercorn Faggots for mains, served up with Champ Potato, Local Greens and Onion Gravy - how goo does that sound?!

The soup was gorgeous - just rich enough, topped off with croutons perfectly flavoured with garlic and herbs and accompanied by plenty of parmesan and aioli. The faggots were bloomin' marvellous; tender, meaty, flavoursome balls of delight. The vegetables complementing the dish were tenderly prepared and equally pleasing. Overall this was an excellent meal, it was just somewhat unfortunate that the intimate setting didn't quite fit with a troublesome toddler, so we made our exit swiftly after the mains. 

Clockwise from left: quiet corner of the cafe; stunning chicken Nasi Goreng; amazing sticky ribs with 'slaw and fries

In need of lunch en-route through Newquay one day, we stopped off at Little Kahuna after a good run around nearby Towan Beach. Small and simple, the cafe is far from OTT, with a small galley kitchen and the remaining space taken up by plain wooden tables and chairs.

The menu was my idea of heaven.... Mussels, Pad Thai, Sticky Ribs, Slow Cooked Beef, Halloumi, Seafood Linguine... they literally could not have designed a better menu for me. For MrF, who had been desperate for some "fragrant food" all week, there was also plenty to choose from. We both ordered in record time, me desperate to get my hands on Slow Roasted Sticky Ribs with Coleslaw & Fries, MrF salivating over the Chicken Nasi Goreng, accompanied by shallot, garlic, ginger, lemon grass and chilli.

MrF's Nasi Goreng was stunning - you could literally taste every single flavour, all of which were perfectly balanced. My Sticky Ribs were to die for! These were, by far, the best ribs I've tasted, even better than the ones I had in New York. Simmered for three hours to render down the fat, then marinated in homemade sauce before being slow roasted for a further three hours, these ribs were melt-in-the-mouth, fall-off-the-bone, sticky, sweet, perfection. The salad was fine, the fries and coleslaw tasty, but the best thing, other than the ribs, was the combination of fries, coleslaw and sticky rib sauce... umami heaven!

SeaDrift Kitchen Cafe, Porthleven
Clockwise from left: Outstanding Salmon, Crab & Tiger Prawn Risotto; inside the cafe; Crispy Duck Salad

After a couple of shocking night's sleep, thanks to MiniF, we were keen to ensure our little monster caught up on some Z's. Deciding to use the old 'get him to sleep in the car' trick, we drove all the way to Lizard Point, the most southerly part of the UK, then back again via the small fishing port of Porthleven, where I'd earmarked a little place to visit called SeaDrift Kitchen Cafe. With décor that's part nautical, part retro diner, SeaDrift feels fresh, warm and inviting. The staff were lovely too - each incredibly helpful and hospitable, very well suited to the venue.

Clearly a popular place for both locals and tourists, there was a steady stream of customers throughout our visit, but then, with the cafe currently featuring as number one on Tripadvisor for Porthleven, I expected the food to be good. What I hadn't expected however, was one of the worst cases of food envy. Drinks ordered and MiniF settled in a booster seat, we got to work on devouring the menus.... steaks, salads, brunch, plus lots and lots of fresh seafood. In a moment of stupidity, I ordered the Crispy Duck Salad, while MrF chose a Salmon, Crab and Tiger Prawn Risotto.

Now ordering the Duck Salad wasn't stupid because it was bad (it was actually very tasty), ordering the Duck Salad was stupid because we were right by the sea, and because it had no chance of living up to the seafood risotto! Cue one very green eyed monster. Whilst I was enjoying my dish though, I only had eyes for the Risotto, and thankfully MrF was happy enough to share. The taste was outstanding, reminiscent of Moules Marinière - creamy, garlicky, with the delicious taste of crab, salmon, and wine coming through, topped off with great big juice king prawns and shaved parmesan - flippin' amazing!

Bathing in the afterglow of great grub, we were happy to stay a little longer. MiniF had been tucking into a lovely children's portion of sausage, chips and fresh vegetables with a portion of ice cream to follow, so I decided to keep him company with a very majestic Mixed Berry Pavlova. When I think back, that phenomenal risotto will always be one of the stand out dishes of the trip! 

Sam's, Fowey
Clockwise from top left: Tempura Fried Red Mullet; Eden Mess; the interior; Sam's fries

Our holiday in Cornwall was coming to an end and for our final day we decided to drive up the coast, through St. Austell to Fowey (pronounced Foy). Arriving in Fowey is like going back in time, with narrow one-way streets, old buildings towering over and bunting strung above - we decided to stop for lunch at a local cafe dating back to the 80's.

On entering Sam's, you can't help but be smacked in the face by it's interior design - racing green banquette seats; pink candy stripe furnishings; exposed stone walls; wooden floors, bar and tables; Americana posters and memorabilia. The word garish does spring to mind. Checking out the menu, we found a decent selection of burgers and grills - the obligatory ham, cheese, veggie and chicken burgers, along with a few extra burgers and steak. If you're looking for something a bit fishier, they also offer cod, salmon or red mullet burgers. 

Our interest lay elsewhere though, we had our eyes firmly fixed on the specials... specifically on the Tempura Fried Red Mullet! So, Red Mullet ordered for each of us, plus a side of fries to share, we settled in with a couple of drinks. MiniF was beginning to stir from his nap at this point, so thankfully it wasn't too long before our impressive plates of food arrived. Consisting of a large mix of salad leaves, vegetables and herbs, the salad wasn't your boring 'out of a packet' variety. I'm not sure the black olives went particularly well with the Asian flavours, but the rest was fab - fresh leaves; crunchy red cabbage; cucumber; tomato; onion; chives; plus mangetout (which I wasn't quite feeling the love for). The mullet was definitely the highlight though - fresh fingers of fish, with a fragrant coriander and chilli rub and ever-so-light tempura batter... delicious, all mopped up with some well-matched sweet chilli sauce. 

Deciding we had just about enough room for dessert, we both opted for the towering Eden Mess, with berries, meringue, clotted cream and ice cream. Whilst also enjoyable, I found mine lacking in meringue. Based purely on that Tempura Red Mullet though, Sam's was a worthy finale as an end to our culinary adventure in Cornwall. 

Sunday 19 January 2014

Restaurant Review - Quod

Location: 92-94 High Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4BJ, UK

I hate to admit it, but sometimes MrF is right. Not all the time, but sometimes. And on an even rarer occasion, he nails it right on the head. 

When Quod was booked for a New Years Day meal with my sister and her family, MrF complained, calling it 'vanilla'. "No" I said, "it'll be fine" I said. 

Damn him, he was bang on.

With a very limited choice of restaurants open on New Years day (everyone else sleeping off lock-in hangovers), we were pretty much left with hotels to choose from, so Quod it was. Big Sis wasn't quite ready to reign in the festive eating, wanting something nice, expensive and somewhere she could be delivered straight to the door. Tick, tick, and tick.

Previously an old bank and part of the Mogford Group (along with Gee's and The Old Parsonage), Quod is an impressive looking place, with high ceilings, neatly uniformed waiters, artwork on the walls and a modern, upmarket vibe. The car park to the rear is available to both hotel and restaurant guests, with a couple of hours complimentary parking for diners.

Overall our meal was very pleasant - endive salad with poached egg, pancetta and croutons (£7) for me, followed by slow braised beef in red wine, with button onions, lardons & mushrooms (£15.50). There was an onglet steak available but, having little faith it could match the glory of Port Mahon's steak platter, I decided to pass. MrF had a crab risotto to start (I can't recall the price), which was particularly tasty, then joined me in the braised beef.

The flavours, presentation and preparation of the endive salad were all perfectly fine. The beef was nice, though felt lacking in tlc during the cooking process, missing a tenderness expected from a slow braise. This, combined with a shortage of meat and lack of impact from the sauce, meant that 'nice' and 'fine' were the most excitable descriptions I could stretch to.

Endive salad with poached egg, pancetta and croutons
(I forgot to photograph prior to egg massacre -
at least you can see it was runny though!)

Slow braised beef in red wine, with button onions, lardons & mushrooms 

A decent meal, just not one that inspired a passionate review or a revisit any time soon. We didn't stay for coffees or desserts, just as well seeing as the bill already reached £170, including that 'oh so controversial' 12.5% service charge. The total bill may not have been excessive for four starters, five mains, two kids meals, plus drinks - but with tastier food available cheaper elsewhere in Oxford, I know where I'd rather be.

Elegant venue and setting, but the food didn't leave me wanting more. Vanilla indeed (just don't tell MrF he was right).

Overall score: 6.5 

P.S. I'd love to hear people's thoughts on the 12.5% service charge. Personally, I'm not a fan. I like to tip based on my experience of the service at the time, rather than it being assumed.

92 – 94 High Street

Twitter: @MogfordColl
Facebook: @mogfordcoll
Phone: 01865 202505

Friday 17 January 2014

Nothing Like a Sunday Roast

Location: Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, UK
Published in Dec/Jan edition of Vale Life Magazine

Dec-13 / Jan-14 Edition of Vale Life
It’s that time of year again - the chill in the air, the pretty autumn leaves, heating goes on and winter coats come out. Don’t worry though, I have the perfect solution - get yourself down the pub, grab a table near a roaring fire and tuck into a glorious Sunday Roast!

I'm all for salads in summer, but you can’t fail to get excited by the promise of giant Yorkshire puddings, crispy roast potatoes and blushing beef, all smothered in delicious gravy and topped off with a dollop of horseradish. Makes me drool just thinking about it.

This winter, I'm on the hunt for the best local Sunday lunch. But what goes into making the ultimate roast?

Well, let’s be clear, the star of the show HAS to be the meat – well-seasoned, great quality and cooked to perfection (if lamb or beef, it had better be pink). Second in the pecking order are golden, crunchy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside, roast potatoes. No ready-made, cook from frozen rubbish; proper, homemade roasties.

Next up is the Yorkie (and yes, size DOES matter), closely followed by decent homemade gravy. The Foodie household does like a generous serving of gravy, so no scrimping! Last but not least, a nice selection of veggies and condiments; I can’t eat a roast without its accompanying sauce. Well, I can, but I’ll moan about it.

So, where better to go to start my search than The Thatch in Thame, recent runner-up for Best Sunday Lunch in the South, in the Observer Food Monthly Awards (along with Best Restaurant and Best Place to Drink). It’s always great to hear of a local business earning recognition, so MrF and I popped along to check it out for ourselves.

 With its higgledy-piggledy beams and thatched roof, The Thatch looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale - pop inside though and you’ll find a modern but cosy gastropub. I pleased to say I can vouch for the quality of their roasts – the pork and beef were tender, delicious and perfectly cooked; the roasties some of the nicest I've tasted for a while (bar my own, obviously); the gravy ample and flavoursome, and yes, they had condiments. Wait, did I forget to mention the Yorkies…? They were GIANTS!

With just enough room for dessert, we topped off the meal by stuffing our faces with a selection of fabulous puds – the crème brûlée and chocolate torte were especially good, leading to a battle of the dessert spoons.

Exceptionally good quality beef and towering Yorkies

Wouldn't you though...?

The Thatch is now serving its new autumn menu, featuring steak supplied by butchers Aubrey Allen (holders of a Royal Warrant), plus salad and veg from locally based Bucksum Salads, who also picked up a recent award for Best Local Farmer. Go check it out for yourself if you get the chance… just make sure you leave room for one of those delicious puddings.

(The Thatch, 29-10 Lower High Street, Thame OX9 2AA. Tel 01844 214340.

So, the search continues and I’d love to hear your recommendations. Do get in touch with your favourite place for a spot of Sunday Roast!

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Oxford Michelin Star Restaurants

Location: Oxford, UK
With a city as diverse as Oxford, filled with plenty of food loving locals, you'd really think we'd have a Michelin star or two by now. We do have two Bib Gourmands (the award which recognises those establishments offering good food at affordable prices, the limit being £28 for three courses) to be proud of: Magdalen Arms in East Oxford and Rickety Press in Jericho; if you fancy a bite to eat at a Michelin star restaurant though, you have to hop in your car and get out of the city – but once you do, we have a pretty amazing selection to choose from...


Le Manoir aux Quat'Saison, Great Milton (2 star)
Image courtesy: Paul Lomax

MrF booked a table as a surprise for my birthday a few years ago, as I turned out to be pregnant though, I was unable to indulge in everything I would have liked - however MrF was pretty happy to have a designated driver! Technically masterful and delicious food, exquisite service in a truly stunning location - plus they are very child friendly. A la carte starters cost upwards of £40, the most expensive being plancha-seared scallop with cauliflower purée and curry oil, for £44. Mains range from £48 to £54; at the top end, roasted fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef with smokey mash, ceps and red wine jus sounds divine! Several tasting menus also available, starting at £79pp. 

The Nut Tree Inn, Murcott (1 star)
Image courtesy: David Hawgood, via Wikimedia Commons

Out in the sticks, with it's pretty thatched roof, olde-worlde low ceilings and wooden beams, The Nut Tree Inn feels somewhat 'story book'. Exemplary service, as you would expect at this level, plus fabulous food and an equally fabulous drinks list. Starters range from a very reasonable £7.50, though the pick for me would be foie gras terrine with spiced cherries and fresh almond, at £14. The mains, again, start at an affordable £17, given the star, but I'd head straight for the Grilled fillet of aged Charolais beef with triple cooked chips, baked tomato, onion rings, tarragon butter £30. Weeeell, you gotta push the boat out sometimes .Definitely book a taxi so you can delve into their fab wine list.

Now this one I haven't been to yet, but am intrigued to try. A la carte starters include seared foie gras with sweet corn pancake, pickled apple, cider and honey dressing, with prices starting from £10.50. Mains pricing is from £21.50 and include loin of local venison with bubble & squeak, braised red cabbage puree and parsley root. Yummy - when can I book?!

Oxfordshire Bib Gourmands:

With Oxford's flourishing food scene, and several Michelin star bred chefs running and opening restaurants in and around the city, don't be surprised if we see a few more accolades coming this way over the next few years. If in the meantime you fancy driving a little further afield though, there's plenty more to choose from. Oxfordshire's neighbouring counties have some pretty decent options too...





  • Red Lion, East Haddon, Northamptonshire (Bib Gourmand)


Sunday 12 January 2014

Restaurant Review - Cleaver, by Ox_Bex

Location: 36 George Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 2BJ, UK

This week's review is courtesy of fellow local foodie friend, @Ox_Bex. Quoting her own Twitter bio, Becca is a "social media whore, opinionated, bossy and occasionally sweary". So you can see a) why we get on, and b) why I was more than happy to welcome her as a guest reviewer! Check out Becca's blog at, or follow her inimitable, entertaining and downright straight-talking Twitter feed @Ox_Bex.

Fire and Stone in Oxford closed it's pizza oven doors recently and their owners, Prezzo, have replaced it with one of their new ventures, Cleaver. There's currently four in the chain, Cobham, Wokingham, Leatherhead and Oxford. Starting a new chain here in Oxford says good things for the burgeoning food scene here, in fact since the New Year I've heard of at least six new ventures that have just started or are about to start. Great news for us foodies!

So, Cleavers. Advertising as a chicken, ribs and burger place with handmade Scottish beef burgers, Norfolk chickens and locally sourced pork ribs cooked in view of the diners in their open kitchen on an open grill and rotisserie. But I'm slightly baffled by the lack of steak, especially with a name like Cleavers. Oxford needs a good meat house (apologies to all vegetarians) and Cleavers have missed a trick here. Plus the location seems odd, I know they already have that property but opening a burger restaurant directly opposite Byron and GBK seems daft! 

The menu is divided into three sections, chicken which is available as a quarter, half, whole or wings, burgers with fairly standard toppings and obviously the ribs which you can order as a bowl, half rack, full rack, half rack with chicken wings or half rack with quarter of a chicken. Sides are ordered separately and include the usual fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings etc. There's also salad on the menu but being a committed meat eater, they didn't register! 

My friend and I both ordered the half rack and wings, me with a side of sweet potato fries and her with a side of onion rings. Somewhat naughtily as it was barely 12.30 in the afternoon we decided to have a drink too. Apparently the rioja was eminently quaffable and went down very well whereas my buffalo mint julep was pretty much pure bourbon and resulted in my needing a nap all afternoon! 

Half Rack of Ribs with Wings

Sweet Potato Fries & Onion Rings

The food arrived very quickly, although there was only approximately ten diners altogether so I would have been concerned if it hadn't. Ribs were okay. I suspect they were cooked plain, then basted with a tangy tomato sauce and browned off rather than cooked with a dry rub and then slow cooked in a sauce, allowing the flavour to permeate the meat. They weren't dry but neither did they fall off the bone when you picked them up. I found myself having to gnaw more than I would like in somewhere which is predominantly a rib restaurant. Three chicken wings on the side were hot, had nice chargrilled lines on the crispy skin and were sprinkled with sea salt. The sweet potato fries were good but they're becoming a bit of a staple on a lot of menus at the moment and everywhere seems to buy from the same supplier. It really doesn't take that much effort to sprinkle a little paprika on them to make them stand out a little and jump on your tastebuds. Onion rings were the same.... Finger wipes were supplied for the inevitable sticky fingers but had a slight bathroom cleaner fragrance!

Desserts were also familiar, warm chocolate brownie with ice cream, waffles, cheesecake but with three slightly different options. A lemon sherbet alaska ice cream topped with glazed meringue sounded good but the chocolate salted caramel tart sounded better! This came with a small pot of sea salt so you could season according to personal taste which I particularly liked. The base was a crisp chocolate pastry, a layer of caramel and a rich chocolate filling - but not so rich you couldn't finish it. My dining partner went for the banana bread and butter pudding which was more like a sponge than layers of buttery bread, custard and banana slices with no raisins or sultanas to be seen anywhere! 

Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart

Banana Bread and Butter Pudding

Good, prompt and attentive service, water brought when requested, £50 for the two of us. Would I go again? Probably not. Good but not fabulous which to be honest is pretty much what I expected. 

Overall Score: 6/10

36 George Street
Twitter: @Cleaver_UK
Phone: 01865 251718

Friday 10 January 2014

Foodie News - JANUARY

Location: Oxford, UK

As a new regular feature, I'll be rounding up the local food goss and restaurant news. While I'm kept pretty up to date on all the goings on, I'm bound to miss something, so I need as many little birdies tweeting in my ear as possible.

If you know of any Oxordshire restaurants closing/opening/re-launcing/etc, then please do get in touch and hook me up with the details.

So, after a year packed full of exciting (and not so exciting) launches, how will 2014 stack up? Judging by recent happenings, pretty damned exciting!

While 2013 saw the likes of Oli's Thai, Jacobs Inn, Pomegranate, Itsu, Bamboo, 1885, Taberu, Anchor Inn, Route 66 and Sushi Corner launching - along with a spate of supper clubs - 2014 is waiting to smack the sushi out of last year's efforts:

  • Cleaver have just opened where Fire & Stone once stood, on George Street. Serving up a simply designed menu of Burgers, Chicken and Ribs. I'm yet to try them yet, but on-line reviews of their other sites are mostly ok, with scores averaging 3.5/5 on Tripadvisor. Check back on Sunday, when I'll be publishing a guest review of Cleaver, by fellow local Foodie Beccalaureate
  • The Jacobs & Field boys embark on their third Oxford venture - Jacobs Chop House - while also extending their existing Headington cafe. Replacing Cafe Noir, also in Headington, the latest edition to the Jacobs brand will sit less than a quarter of a mile from their first-born, but will be serving up "grilled & roasted British meats, fish and veggies" according to their Facebook page
  • Hot off the press, The Oxford Kitchen opened their doors a few days ago, in a Summertown building that previously housed Florio Bar & Kitchen. Florio's having had a great reputation among, well, some people I know, Oxford Kitchen may have big boots to fill; but judging by the new menu, they won't struggle! "The restaurant’s Executive Chef and Head Chef bring a wealth of experience in Michelin Star Dining including Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, L'Ortolan and The Nut Tree, Murcot" VERY. EXCITED.  I'm planning an #OxTweatUp there next month, so if you're keen, follow the conversation on Twitter
  • I can't talk about food news without discussing The Chester, on Chester Street in East Oxford. We've been waiting, literally, with bated breath for the grand unveiling. With a food and hospitality pedigree to be envied, the Chester is owned by Drew Brammer (former Oxfork manager) and Fraser Nicholson (Rusty Bicycle owner), and will be run by Beccy Webb (previous manageress of Port Mahon) and Hamzah Taynaz (Port Mahon's ex chef). For those who miss the famous steak platter, the opening date seriously can't come soon enough!
  • The Black Boy's Chris Grantham and Abigail Rose have just announced their takeover of Berkshire based pub, The Compton Inn. What to expect? "beautiful rooms, wonderful walks, log fires, large selection of real ales, wine, cocktails and, of course, lovely food". Sold! Doors are open and fire is lit, so see you all there.
  • With it's refurbishment well under way, The Old Parsonage aim to be back open in March, with additional bedrooms and a library. It sounds like the main restaurant/bar will remain mostly untouched, but they do plan on adding yet more to their lovely afternoon tea offering, with a new, dedicated pastry section.
  • For all you lovers of Turl Street Kitchen, be prepared for some excitement coming your way. Their next venture - Turl Street Pantry - looks set to go ahead this year. With TSP intending to replace the old Barclays bank opposite the existing TSK, with a "bakery and speciality tea & coffee shop" bringing "handmade, artisan bread back into the heart of the city"
  • And finally... one to watch out for, Bulrush Restaurant, all going well, will be another new addition to Cowley Road sometime this Spring. Expect modern British cuisine, made up of foraged foods and seasonal produce - watch this space for more details...

So, new year, new places to eat it seems - and there are plenty of them. Enjoy!

Foodie x

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Try This - The Angry Texan Burger

Location: The Rusty Bicycle, 28 Magdalen Road, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX4 1RB, UK

WHAT: 6oz Burger, pulled pork, bacon, kimchi slaw & cheddar. Served with hand cut chips and a pickle


WHERE: The Rusty Bicycle (they've had a menu change since my last visit, with a great selection of Burgers and Pies, though the ribs are sadly gone)

HOW GOOD: Epic! The whole things was juicy without dripping in fat, the kimchi slaw a delicious (and on trend) addition, the pulled pork soft and delicious), the burger bun was just the right density to maintain the juices and the chips are some of the best in Oxford.

Sunday 5 January 2014

#OxTweatUp - Sojo

Location: 6-9 Hythe Bridge Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 2EW, UK

So if you were reading the blog a few months back, you'll know I met up with a few others from Twitter, for an #OxTweatUp at Atomic Burgers. Time had flown by and we were all itching for our next #OxTweatUp, so votes cast and availability confirmed, we were off to Sojo on Hythe Bridge Street for a sumptuous Chinese banquet. 

I'd been hankering to try Sojo for ages, supposedly one of the best places for food in Oxford and certainly one of the best for Chinese (along with My Sichuan, which I also want to try). This is one of the select, nationally reviewed restaurants, currently leading the field in Oxford amidst a sea of 'could do better's.

I was pretty excited. Can you tell?

Firstly, it's right next to a backpackers, and looks tiny from the front - but don't let either point deter you. Once inside, the place actually seems quite cavernous. The restaurant is split into two dining areas, with a bar in between - thankfully for other diners, our chatty group of 13 were led straight to the back of the restaurant. Dark and dimly lit, the open plan space still manages to retain intimacy, making daytime feel more like evening. What with that, plus the fabulous food and company, I totally lost track of time - so much so I gained a rather pricey parking ticket to show for it. Yay

Let the banqueting commence!

On recommendation from @kalicer, most of the group opted for our dishes to be chosen by the chef, to share (£15 per person for 1 course, £20 for 2 courses - we went for 2). This turned out to be a genius idea (well done Katy), everything was superb and it prompted us to try dishes we otherwise my overlook. 

I didn't get pictures of everything because, well, I was eating. And chatting. And more eating.

There was more than enough to go round - first came aromatic duck pancakes and salt & pepper spicy squid, followed by sweet and sour fish, Szechuan spicy beef & aubergine, a spicy prawn dish, black bean chicken, stir fried green beans, rice, plus an amazing braised pork hock. I think that was everything!

Oh my God, it was so good. The pork hock literally fell off the bone, and tasted superb. The sweet and sour fish was a revelation - I usually find sweet and sour far too sweet, even for me, but this was delicious. The aubergine and beef, again, something I would never think of eating, but also delicious.  

Fan. Bloody. Tastic

If you go in a group, I definitely recommend letting the chef chose for you, we weren't disappointed by a single dish - take it from someone who always orders the same dishes!

So, another successful #OxTweatUp, great food and a great bunch of people. Thanks to everyone who came.

Now... where next?!

Salt & Pepper Spicy Squid

Szechuan Spicy Beef & Aubergine

Black Bean Chicken

Shanghai Braised Pork Hock

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Wednesday 1 January 2014

Foodie Events - JANUARY

Location: Oxford, UK
Winter Wonderland Hyde Park
If you haven't had chance to visit yet, you still have a few days before Winter Wonderland closes on 5th January. Packed with attractions, rides, stalls, food and drink, you will not be bored. Do be prepared for it to be busy though - but with free entry, what do you expect!

Wolvercote Supper Club starter of tomato tarts with anchoiade and salad leaves
I know I've talked about it before, but Wolvercote Supper Club are hosting another fabulous evening on Saturday 4th January - for which you are already too late to book! February is fully booked too, but get organised early and book a seat at Caroline's March event. The menu will be released in January, though bookings are being accepted now at £25 per person, plus £2.50 booking fee. Check out my full review here.

A delicious Seasonal Game Dinner created at the Five Arrows Hotel, Waddesdon Manor, Bucks.
If you're game ;-) The Five Arrows, part of Waddesdon Manor, are hosting a Seasonal Game Dinner on 24th January, with Waddesdon Estate Game Terrine, Eythrope Estate pheasant breast and Rothchild wine all featuring on the menu, book your seat for £59 per person.

Sunday Jazz
If you like your breakfast to a backdrop of jazz, then the Oxfordshire Pantry at Blenheim Palace is the place for you. Running on selected Sundays from 29th December to 30th March, they will be hosting Sunday Jazz. A selection of delicious food options will be available including, breakfast paninis, warming porridge, pastries and fresh tea and coffee as well as the Sunday newspapers.

Oxfordshire cookery class themes January 2014
Cookery Classes to book ahead: 
- Little Cow Creative Cakes are holding a Vintage Cake Class on Saturday 25th January, from 10am to 5pm for £100 per person. You'll learn how to make gorgeous vintage decorations for your own cake.
- Sophie's Cookery School will be running several classes, including wok cooking, cakes and vegetarian this month, places are available for £60 per person.
- CiCi CoCo continue to teach all things Italiana, with two classes in January focussing on winter pasta and regional flavours. Prices from £65 per person.

Not a huge amount for January, after all that festive food I'm sure we'll welcome the brief break. There will be plenty of romantic treats for February though. And don't forget all our fab local farmers' markets, you can find details of them on my Foodie Events Calendar.
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