Some time ago, the work wife messaged me on one of the many platforms we use, all excited and bubbly and happy.
“Look at this menu for Pint Shop” she fizzed “It’s awesome and they’re coming to Oxford!!!!”
My interest piqued, I duly clicked the link. And promptly closed it again. “They’re from Cambridge” I huffed. “I don’t do Cambridge. I’m from Oxford.”
“But they’ve got…”
“NO.” and I promptly distracted her with a picture of a cake.
Flash forward several months to when Pint Shop announced they would be opening their second premises in George Street.
Me “Jacqui, have you seen this menu? It actually looks pretty good.
Her “I showed you this ages ago and you refused to lo…”
Me ” Wow, look at this chocolate rum salted caramel triple layer cake!”
Anyway, short version is she was right. And tonight I have to publicly declare that because I ate there and it was pretty damn good.
Pint Shop officially opens on 29th September but they sensibly did a soft launch with 50% off all food to familiarise the staff, iron out any little niggles and make sure everything is as good as it can possibly be. Spread across two floors, you enter into a convivial drinking den dominated by a huge blackboard menu of their carefully selected craft beers. Even as a novice beer drinker there was some good brews on there and they’ve added a description for each one, including type, ABV, where it’s from and cost – whether pint, 2/3 or half.
Downstairs is the dining room. Now I’ll probably upset the owners and the people who did their interior design here by saying it’s nice. There is nothing wrong with it and I hope the plan was to put the focus on the drink and the food because that is exactly what it does. Clean lines, unassuming, hanging pendants, all very calm and simple. Some great art on the walls that I really liked.
One minor niggle is the lighting. Bear with me because this is the exact conversation I had with my husband just after we sat down:
Him: “Don’t laugh at me but the lighting is on the wrong frequency.”
Me: “WHAT? What on earth are you talking about you numpty?”
Him: ” I can see frames.”
Me: *ignores him. eyerolls and continues to read menu.*
Him: “I’m serious, it’s like watching real life at 40fps” (he’s a gamer so everything has a reference. This is probably a man thing, like when you say you’re going to Skegness and they start the whole “Oh you want to go the B4076 and then onto the C52 and come off after the bridge…”
Me: ” I think I might have steak.”
We agreed that in the interests of a balanced review, we should sample as much off the menu as possible. Our waiter (lovely chap, VERY attentive and possibly a little scared of us) recommended the Gin of the Day, Two Birds Old Tom which he described as a lighter, less dry gin and served with a very delicate tonic so as not to overpower the botanicals. We ordered one each to accompany our snack selection of the Limpopo Butchers Biltong with chilli (£3.50), the Moons Green Beer Sticks (£3.50) and the bread, sea salt crackers and cider butter (£1 per person). I’d barely finished saying all that before a procession of waiting staff arrived bearing dishes.
The biltong arrived in a little enamel pot, chewy, meaty and umami satisfying. The beer sticks are salami and I’m now a big fan. Bread was good, better than your average bread basket but didn’t blow me away.
Right about now is when I started taking photographs and finally understood the lighting frequency comments. There is a constant flicker that makes taking decent pictures nigh on impossible!
Next up we had our starters. Southern fried chicken with saffron aioli (£6.50) came steaming hot, crispy and full of flavour. Boneless but with flavoursome meat instead of boring breast, our only niggle was that it’s a little too salty. My gin cured sea trout with buttermilk pancakes and sweetcorn relish (£8) was glorious. The trout has a much more delicate flavour than salmon and the sweet vinegary tang of the sweetcorn works really well with this. A really well balanced dish and just the right amount.
So far, so good and the G&T is going down well, cold, refreshing, slightly woody but with a hint of lavender and very drinkable.
Mains arrived, my flatiron steak (£15) which I’d requested to be rare, had a blackened, caramelised crust with an immense dark red buttery interior. Absolutely perfect for me but vegetarians may want to skip over the next photo. I chose the chilli and garlic butter (£1.50) with house chips (£3.50) as a side. They were my niggle of the night, being way too salty for me.
Major plate envy as the devilled lamb shoulder kebab arrived on a flatbread with chilli sauce (£12.50) with a side of spinach with chilli and lemon (£3.50). A proper kebab but poshed up! Meltingly tender lamb, a decent chilli sauce and even two chilli peppers as garnish. I was only permitted to try one teeny tiny mouthful but I would definitely order this on a return visit.
Dessert? Well of course! An espresso and chocolate pot, served in a dinky dariole pot with a light pouring of cream and a chocolate snap biscuit balanced atop. We love our coffee and this was the most coffee laden dessert ever! Thick, smooth ganache, a good coffee kick and me retrieving the pot back from the waiter so I could use my finger to smudge out the smears the spoon couldn’t reach.
Warm Camden Ink pudding turned out to be a dark, rich, chocolatey stout sponge with a whipped vanilla cheese. No idea what that was, perhaps a beaten cream cheese loosened up. It worked and it tasted bloody good.
Finally an espresso made with Caravan coffee. Not for the light hearted or those with a low caffeine tolerance, this was rocket fuel! Our bill arrived at £86 before the soft launch discount which considering we’d effectively eaten four courses was flipping good value.
Great service, perhaps a little too attentive but that is far better than not attentive enough and will probably settle down after a few weeks. Good location and I’d be more than happy to go back in a little while to see if they’ve tweaked their salt seasoning and if the standards are still the same. If they are, then the Pint Shop is going to rocket its way up my top places to eat in Oxford!
PS If you fancy a bargain there’s a set menu deal at Pint Shop Monday to Friday 12 – 6.30pm. Tenner for two courses, thirteen for three