Since launching Bitten, Becca and I have been hoping to make it inside a college hall to sample their food. We follow them on social media and their food always looks stunning, plus have verbal reports to back up the quality too. So, we were overjoyed to finally obtain an invitation to a special event at Hertford College, where the kitchen team were showcasing their catering skills for fine dining events.
In addition to student meals, many college halls offer private event hire, including wedding celebrations. While you may not be able to marry onsite at Hertford College – without special license from the Archbishop of Canterbury and being part of the college community – you can book the college hall for your wedding breakfast and party, fully catered for by the college kitchen team. You could even use the famous Bridge of Sighs as a spot for photo opportunities!
The meal we were invited to was a far cry from usual students meals, consisting of a sumptuous 7-course tasting menu. We may not have been dining like students, but we did have the benefit of experiencing their kitchen team and stately wood-panelled dining hall, decorated with pictures of historic alumni, overlooking lawns of the Old Buildings Quadrangle (‘OB Quad’) on one side and Bodleian Library on the other.
Our tasting menu began with a light chicken consommé, served with shredded chicken thigh and a delicious, dainty croqueta of roast sweetcorn, manchego and lemon balm, before moving on to a set, chilled crab bisque with crayfish tails within, and a saffron aiolo and squid ink tuille perched on top.
Course three was a real talking point, consisting of a whole compressed confit carrot, served cold with roast garlic aioli, carrot & orange puree, decorated with sumac and carrot tops. I don’t think any of us at the table were used to eating cooked and chilled carrots, but all agreed it delicious. Nutty in flavour and pleasant in texture, the lone carrot shone.
Following promptly was halibut poached with saffron and olive oil, served with Jerusalem artichoke puree and asparagus – thoroughly tasty and dainty in proportion.
Course number five was the star of the show for me – lamb loin & shoulder from Aldens Oxford, with the shoulder transformed into a petite ragu with a Spanish white wine, plated up with a cauliflower puree and crispy potato straws. The meat was absolutely stunning, loin roasted to pinky perfection and melt in the mouth amazing.
Who doesn’t love double dessert?! To round off the meal we were treated to both a truffle-esque baked chocolate ganache ball, served alongside a tart, set, vanilla & citrus yoghurt, plus a slice of poached tangerine; AND a little turret of hibiscus parfait, decorated with candied cashews and mango shards. Both puddings were well thought out for flavour and consistency, signing off the evening beautifully.
The entire meal was perfectly paired with a selection of wines and was a grand example of what the college is able to offer for celebration events.
For your own private event, they would typically offer a 3 or 4-course menu with the option of canapes, petit fours and coffee. As well as having menu options to choose from, the college can also work closely with event organisers to create a perfect menu, offering buffets and lighter options if a formal sit-down meal is not what you’re looking for.
The dining hall seats up to 120 people, but other areas of the college can be made available to hold drinks receptions in. Booking in advance is always needed, as the College needs to work around its students so that their studies are not disturbed.
To make a private booking at Hertford College:
Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 01865 279426.