If you’re finding silver service less appealing these days, then Osney Food Shed could be your perfect antidote to the stiff waiting crew. Not a piece of pomp or ceremony in sight, this tiny restaurant above a fish shop is an oasis of canteen-chic, but with a food offering that competes with any decent bistro within a ten-mile radius.
Tucked away on Osney Mead industrial estate, Osney Food Shed (known by some as Haymens Fishmarket) is the sister company to Alden’s Butchers, both of which previously resided in Oxford’s Covered Market. Downstairs, you’ll find a modern fish market selling everything from fish accompaniments and deli products,to frozen fish and seafood, and freshly caught fish displayed beautifully over ice. On my recent visit, I walked away with a stockpile of locally cured salamis, fresh crab and delicious smoked duck breast.
Take a wander upstairs, past a micro menu of three choices casually taped to a table, and you’ll wonder if you’ve gatecrashed the staff canteen. A glamourless fire door opens into a dining room no bigger than the HR Manager’s office at my old job, which looks into a kitchen a third of that size. Within that tiny kitchen, chef Kuba concocts an ever-changing and uber short menu of seasonal dishes, based on what’s available in the fish market below. The concept restaurant is a lesson in creativity, showcasing the versatility and affordability of fish.
Price points vary from £5.95 fish and chips available every Friday, to the £9.50 pan-fried hake I tried on a recent visit. Both much lower price then you would find in a restaurant and testament to the achievable in our own home kitchens.
Desserts do not feature at Osney Food Shed, neither do starters, and drinks are self-serve from a small table in a corner of the room. The dishes served to you will be a juxtaposition to the setting – cooked and presented professionally, on par with something you’d be served in a flashy, big brand restaurant by a horde of waiting staff.
My plump, flaky hake was expertly cooked with crispy skin intact, served on a bed of well-balanced hollandaise, Jersey Royals and greens, finished off with delicious tarragon breadcrumbs. The paprika-crusted squid was delicious sat atop a generous portion of herby chickpeas and accompanied by a lemon and garlic mayo. On an earlier visit, I’d sampled a downright delicious tasting plate of fish & chips, tuna burger and Japanese wagyu beef fillet steak – the latter of which you won’t find on the menu (before you go running).
If you haven’t yet been to this dinky dining room, I’m in two minds about you going. On the one hand, it’s so understatedly good that it’s a must-try, on the other, I’d selfishly hate it to get so busy there’s never a table available. It’s the perfect juxtaposition of restaurant-quality food in canteen-chic setting you never knew you needed.
If you do go, don’t leave without stocking up in the fish market below.
Osney Food Shed is open Tuesday – Saturday 12-3pm, opening half an hour earlier on Fridays for the popular Fish & Chip Friday. The fishmarket opens from 7.30am-5pm Monday-Saturday and 9am-2pm on Sunday.