Just over a week ago, numerous Oxfordshire restauranteurs and chefs were no doubt nursing sore heads, after celebrating wins at the 2015 Oxfordshire Restaurant Awards. Organised by The In Oxford Group, publishers of Living In Oxford magazine, the Awards are now in their fifth year, recognising the finest food in the county.
Every restaurant, pub, café and fast food outlet in Oxfordshire was invited to enter the Awards, with each establishment entering getting a visit by an independent reviewer. Reviews were then submitted to a committee who decided on the nominations, while the Public Vote Award is open to the general public and attracts a huge number of votes from all over the UK and further afield. Next year there will be a new Award for sustainability, sponsored by Good Food Oxford.
A list of best restaurants can be a great talking point, with many differing opinions – hence why we created one of our own. One game I always like to play is to see which winners I firmly do, or firmly do not, agree with. So here are my pennies worth with additional thoughts from Becca!
Restaurant of the Year: The White Hart, Fyfield
Jacqui – With a long list of Awards and accolades to their name, The White Hart has yet to receive a Bitten review, but the menu looks pretty decent. Modern British with an emphasis on fresh and seasonal, especially the items harvested from their kitchen garden. There were only a handful of dishes that really jumped out at me – Seared scallops, cured pork belly, black pudding and apple beignet, piccalilli, apple and fennel salad for £10; Roast duck breast, smoked duck and potato gratin, cherries, spinach £20; and Slow-roasted belly of Kelmscott pork, apple, carrots, celeriac puree, crackling, cider jus £18.50
Prices, as you can see, are mid to high, but with their list of accolades ever growing it’s a fairly safe bet execution would be top notch. They also offer a set menu which looks particularly good value at 2 courses for £17 and 3 for £20. One I definitely want to try.
Jacqui – Another one yet to be ‘Bitten’, however The White Hart in Minster Lovell can’t fail being better than our experience of The General Elliott… A much more exciting menu than it’s Fyfield name-buddy (lots of talk of pan juices, confit, truffle, heritage, southern style and a barbaric burger) that ranges from £6 – £6.75 on starters and £9 – £19 on mains, or £8.50 for all mains from a fixed menu at lunchtime. Their set menu looks bang on too, at £16.50 for 2 courses or £20 for 3 courses.
Jacqui – Good to see Oxfork shortlisted, we’ve only been once for breakfast since the takeover by Turl Street Kitchen, let us know in the comments section if you’ve tried their dinner options yet – I have heard good things. And would love to hear from anyone who’s tried Cafe Aloha…
Jacqui – We have a lot of great Asian restaurants in Oxford, let alone Oxfordshire; and while my experience of Yeti has been positive, I do think others more deserving. I’d put Qumin’s, My Sichuan and Kadai & Naan up there, but maybe they didn’t apply to take part.
Becca – Somewhat surprised by this one, Yeti is good but the best? I guess this is what happens when restaurants apply to be in awards rather than selected *adopts cynical expression*
Jacqui – Becca and I popped in to Malmaison recently for what was meant to be a quick lunch, and ended up a lavish three course feast – review to come soon, but it far surpassed expectation!
Becca – Food at Malmaison was way better than expected, though I’m not sure I’d award it best service. Maybe I was dribbling too much to notice but I think I would have rated Kingham Plough higher.
Jacqui – Another near miss for Cafe Aloha, am I missing out by not visiting yet?!
Jacqui – Well this is a contentious one… we’ve found The Oxford Kitchen and The Red Lion to both be inconsistent, but LOVE Pierre Victoire. I’ve only ever spoken to one person who wasn’t a fan of PV, but I’d love to hear more thoughts on that one.
Becca – Eaten at Oxford Kitchen twice now and it’s been good but I wouldn’t rate it as amazing. Pricing can be inconsistent. But I did have an AMAZING dessert there!
Becca – This is interesting, a family local. Used to go there for roasts then the food kind of dropped off. Sounds like it could be worth a return visit….
Jacqui – Yes, yes, yes. I’m a big fan of The Mole Inn, having ventured there many a time, as well as it’s sister pub The Mole & Chicken in Long Crendon. Excellent food, excellent service, in very attractive settings. Perfect pubby pleasure.
Outstanding Contribution: Donald Sloan, Oxford Gastronomica / Oxford School of Hospitality Management
So what do you think… which Awards do you agree with and which would you bestow elsewhere?
To find out more, or to enter next year visit www.oxfordshirerestaurantawards.co.uk