Becca – March 2014
Having spent several hours drinking lots of exceptionally good coffee and with ninety minutes to spare before the school run, we decided to do a quick stop off at The Fishes in North Hinksey to check out their refurb and new spring menu. When we got there, the tubs outside were being replanted to fit in with the new spring theme, although the plants were about to get battered by a massive hail storm. The glorious vagaries of the English weather.
The last few times I’ve been to The Fishes, I’ve always sat in the bar area so have to confess that the decor didn’t really register as having changed that much, apart from a new smell, a lingering waft of Farrow and Ball in the loos (lovely loos and decent hand wash and moisturiser by the way!) and considerably more fish themed ornaments, such as the lamp shades. But it was fresh and clean and modern and contemporary etc etc. All very nice. And of course they have that wonderful garden which makes them a winner in the summer months.
But I was there to eat and to cast a beady eye over that new menu… Bit of an odd one for me I have to admit. Nothing really grabbed me as an “oooooh, I need that NOW” but I put that down to being mindful of the time I had and probably not in a particularly good eating mood. However, I was impressed to see something different on a menu instead of bloody confit of bloody duck yet a-bloody-gain and that eternal favourite *insert rare breed* belly pork which I love but you can’t really go wrong with belly pork. It’s a cheap cut which gets tarted up to Jodie Marsh levels and presented pretentiously, which always gives me eyestrain with the number of eye rolls involved.
I finally decided on a Cold Cuts Board at £13.50. This comprised of a mini Shepherd’s Pie (not cold obviously, but let’s not quibble over descriptions too much, a cold cuts board with a random ramekin of hot stuff wouldn’t be descriptive enough on the menu), which was surprisingly tasty considering it’s a dish you generally make far better at home. Mince and shredded meat in a savoury gravy with creamy and crusty mash, I would have eaten more happily but I wouldn’t order it as a main purely because I could make my own at home! Also erring on the side of warm rather than cold was a mini wholegrain loaf which was lovely but didn’t come with any butter and I was almost finished before I realised so there was no point in asking! Anyway, the cold stuff was Iberico salami which I didn’t find particularly flavoursome, Aubrey’s rare roast beef, Aubrey being the butcher that supplies their meat. This was lovely, rare, soft, great flavour and plenty of it. Then there was a confit Tiddenham duck and rabbit ballotine (so they did get a bloody duck confit on there somewhere after all!) which I hadn’t registered on the menu and ate happily, thinking it was pressed pork. Whatever it was, it was good. Capers and dinky little cornichons were scattered around and there was some salad-y garnish and a pot of home made piccalilli which was really sweet and tart with vegetables that you could recognise.
Hubby had gone for the manly dish of a steak sarnie £9.50, only here it was Aubrey’s peppered steak ciabatta with fried onions and mushrooms and a bowl of leek and potato soup – spring weather, remember! He’d asked for his steak blue and of course it came out medium rare. Lesson to be learnt here, if you want a blue steak, ask for it raw – you might get it blue! However, it had a good flavour, a delicate peppering and was absolutely fine. Soup passed muster too!
No time for dessert despite the neighbouring table’s enticing looking steamed honey pudding with clotted cream £6, but I’m sure we’ll be back at some point, hubs wants the fish board, £14.50 just for the kedgeree arancini! The cheese board looks pretty impressive too, £13.50 to share.