The Marsh Harrier Oxford – Jacqui – Apr 2014
Having visited The Marsh Harrier Oxford a few months ago, and thoroughly enjoying some tasty bar snacks, it was about time I revisited – this time to sample their roast dinners. The Marsh is always a popular drinking pub for MrF en route home from work, and I can see why. It’s a comfortable pub, recently redecorated in soothing, homely, Farrow & Ball’esque colours; the staff seem friendly, as do the customers; it has a nice garden; and it’s literally equidistant between our house and MrF’s office.
So, having covered them previously, I won’t launch into full review mode, but what I will do is give you a little insight into recent events, and answer that all important question – can they cook a good roast?
After my earlier review, I was invited along to a ‘tasting day’ – nothing formal, but an opportunity for the kitchen to show the pub’s customers it’s new menu. On arrival, we grabbed a seat in the garden and waited patiently to see what the plan was. Then we waited some more. And some more. Before long it became apparent that things were a little haphazard. Waitresses were bringing out large, cheap looking, disposable platters (not a great look) and delivering them to seemingly random tables. When a platter finally made its way to our table for sampling, we were pleased to see a good selection of items, though none of which stuck in my memory (other than the overly dry mini burgers and quite dull potato wedges). The odd thing was though that the platter before us didn’t match up with the sampling menu on the tables. Disorganisation seemed to be the theme of the day. Since then, as I understand it, the chef has moved on and someone else has donned the chef’s whites – the menu remains and is being cooked perfectly well. As to better organisation, I cannot complain so far.
Anyway, on to the Sunday Roast! I ordered the Topside of Beef – quelle surprise! At £10.95 it was good. Ok, I can expand more – it was really good. The meat was delicious and of decent quality, as were the vegetables. In fact I’d say I was pretty happy with the entire plateful – until I spotted the ‘cook from frozen’ yorkie *sigh*. I know they have a really small kitchen, so maybe it’s impossible to get a big stack of yorkies prepped alongside all the other required elements, but that styrofoam texture of a frozen yorkie isalways a disappointment. Don’t let that be the overarching impression though, as the meat really was very tasty, and cooked well.
For dessert, I’d gone for the high-risk Hot Chocolate Fondant with Vanilla Ice Cream (£4.50). How many fondants die the death of an overcooked centre? Millions? Billions..? Trillions…!? Unfortunately this one fared no better – dry throughout with a slightly less dry middle. The texture was actually quite unpleasant, so much so that I didn’t even finish half of it. A shame really, because I know they do some great dishes here. Stick to the bar snacks and meat and you won’t go far wrong, but I’d definitely steer clear of the puds – both of the Yorkshire and dessert variety.
Jacqui – Sep 2013
With The Marsh Harrier Oxford being one of MrF’s favourite locals (within 15mins walking distance), he was bitterly disappointed when, on taking me there for a Sunday lunch early last winter, I reported back that I thought the food was utterly rubbish! Think Aunt Bessie’s roast potatoes (other brands are, I’m sure, available) and overcooked beef – not my ‘thang’ at all.
When I heard the pub was under new management and that they had revamped the menu, I hoped for the best. So, almost a year since my last visit and a mere 5 days after the birth of MiniF2, we went to find out if the Harrier could finally become a favourite local for the entire Foodie family.
Arriving on a sunny day with the whole clan, we weaved our way through the mid-redecoration bar and headed straight for the back garden; shaded in parts and sunny in others, with plenty of space to get comfortable (or run around, in MiniF1’s case), the garden is a very pleasant place to relax. Celebrating my new found ability to drink (some) alcohol, I immediately ordered myself a big old glass of Pimm’s – ahhhh, all going well so far…
I’d already heard the Harrier were serving up Black Pudding Scotch Eggs and had pretty much pre-ordered it in my head, so this immediately jumped off the page as we perused the short, but perfectly formed, menu. To accompany my Scotch Egg: Triple Cooked Chips and a Beetroot, Goats Cheese and Hazelnut Salad, with Honey & Mustard Dressing – well I had to sample a few things and 3 starters/bar snacks for a tenner is a good deal in my book! MrF unsurprisingly went for the Handmade 6oz Beef Burger, topped with Bacon and Blue Cheese, served with Triple Cooked Chips and Coleslaw.
A little sun worshipping and running after MiniF1 later, the food began to arrive. MrF’s burger first – standing proud on the plate, next to some fresh looking coleslaw and thick cut, if a little pasty looking, chips. My trio of bar snacks next – the Scotch Egg first (looking flipping amazing!), closely followed by the Triple Cooked Chips and Beetroot & Goats Cheese Salad. Nothing gets my taste buds going more than a selection of tasty treats, so I was genuinely as happy as a kid in a candy shop at this point.
MrF dug on into his burger – the feedback: “It was nice, but I’d prefer to swap the blue cheese for a different type of cheese. Really, really good triple cooked chips, but just not enough of them”.
For me, the big question was where to start first?! I’m usually a fan of leave-the-best-till-last, but on this occasion, the Scotch Egg was freaking callin’ to me. And O…M…G… it was glorious! Thin, crispy shell; salty, tasty, black pudding layer; followed by a bright yellow, soft centred egg. Paired with a flick of brown sauce this was very, very, sexy food.
Next up were the Triple Cooked Chips and the Beetroot & Goats Cheese Salad. The chips were indeed excellent, well-seasoned and crispy, maybe a little paler than I personally prefer, but tasty nonetheless. The salad delicious – a traditional pairing of ingredients, somewhat unable to fail. Each of my starter/bar snack dishes was just that, a snack; but eaten together, just enough for a main meal.
Overall we were hugely impressed with the new menu and even more impressed with the quality of it – everything tasted superb. Great food, a big glass of Pimm’s, sunshine AND a pub garden… I think I’ve found my new favourite local, MrF will be happy! I look forward to seeing the finished result when the refurbishments are complete – until then, I’m sure I’ll be back for more.