A few weeks after their grand opening, a fancy affair with nibbles, fabulous cocktails and even an appearance from the legendary Raymond Blanc, the Bitten team managed to coordinate diaries enough to have dinner at No.1 Ship Street Oxford
The building has a very contemporary bistro feel with a restaurant on the ground floor and a more relaxed dining area combined with a champagne and oyster bar on the first floor. As one of us is perpetually late, we adjourned to the first floor for a cocktail whilst waiting for her. Our dining group that evening consisted of the usual Bitten team, Matt who was designated driver for the evening and special guest, Hannah. Hannah is an old friend who used to work in the University before deciding on a major life change and enrolled in Leiths Cookery School, commuting from Oxford every day to lessons. These days she helps run Sophie’s Cookery School as well as her blog, A Bond Girl – excellent recipes and an extremely useful tried and tested section.
My cocktail choice was a mojito which went down extremely well, especially considering my vow of not drinking, made just 36 hours earlier! The driver in our group went for a Thor apple spritz with ginger which he described as amazing and actually ordered a second during our meal. Hannah ordered a blood orange martini which she describes as “well balanced, not too sweet and delicious. Some complimentary oysters were supplied with a choice of dressings and these were really good.
Once the fourth member had arrived we went back downstairs and took our seats at the ridiculously glamorous copper topped tables that I really, really lust after – despite knowing that three kids, a dog and a hatred of visible fingerprints mean I would spend entire days polishing. Having already sampled the flipping good bread and butter at launch night, it was unanimously agreed that we could do with a portion whilst perusing the menu.
Having swiftly demolished that, we selected the following for our starters:
The steak tartare went down very well with the meat well chopped and seasoned. Stout rarebit was an unusual addition and one whose tastes confused us until we checked the menu and saw exactly what it was. The quail’s eggs were fully boiled which was a shame.
Hannah says “My starter of the house terrine – a game terrine, on the evening we visited – was solid. A flavoursome, meaty, well-textured terrine, with a considered salad (onions marinated and not left raw, leaves well-chosen and not just dumped on the plate) and a tasty bit of sourdough toast did me nicely.”
“I usually order fish soup whenever it’s available,” said Jacqui “as it’s a preferred dish of mine, and one that I have plenty to compare against for review. This one looked a little dull compared to others I’ve tried and was sadly slightly underwhelming on taste too. Not so bad I would refrain from eating again, but only if there was nothing more exciting on the menu.”
I went off menu slightly and decided to have one of their salads as a small dish purely because it contained two of my favourite things – charred cauliflower and burrata. The cauliflower was good, with a nice smoky flavour but the burrata was much more like mozzarella in texture – lacking that oozy creaminess that makes it so distinctive. The rest of the salad was fine although I did find the sourdough bread a little too chewy.
Onto the mains and again we diversified, a fish dish, an offal dish and of course, steak. And this is where it really became a game of two halves!
The fish went down very well with someone who’d grown up on a tiny island where fish was the mainstay of the diet. A light but satisfying dish (and he polished off the remaining sauce with our fries!). From Hannah “The kid faggots with aubergines, chickpeas, and pine nuts I enjoyed for my main course were excellent. Rich, full flavoured, and excellently seasoned, they had that distinctive taste of offal, but not to the extent that it would scare off anyone who was wary. It came on a ratatouille-esque base, which was very well done. The dish was very hearty and so rich that I couldn’t quite finish it, which is very unusual for me, but I’d definitely order it again.”
And then there was the other team…
The fries were deeply unexciting, tasting like standard frozen chips. We hadn’t been asked how we’d like our steaks cooked but had assumed they would know the best way to serve it. Both of us prefer our steaks to be cooked on the rare to blue side and given that a flat iron has so little fat marbling, assumed it would be served with a slight crust and some very definite pinkness inside.
I chose mine to be accompanied by the anchovy butter which was fine in flavour but lacking in quantity, especially as the meat was a little chewy. You can see from the picture above that it was more on the medium rare side and honestly, it was okay. Not the best steak I’ve ever had but a long way from the worst.
Jacqui has a slightly different take on her meal: “as a frequent cooker of steak at home and with an equal fondness for it when dining out, it’s typically my go-to when reviewing. Flat iron steak with Cafe de Paris butter sounded spot on, but this was the first occasion I’ve left half a steak on my plate.
“My steak was medium to well done at best, with its texture set and very little pink. To the waitress’ credit, she offered to replace it upon my objection, but with the prospect of eating long after everyone else (I’m a notoriously slow eater) and Becca’s steak not looking much better, I decided against it. Aiming for the pinker parts of my steak, I found it to be lacking volume of the aforementioned butter, rendering it too dry for my liking. I could have complained again at this point and requested more butter, but gave up and saved room for pudding instead.”
Feeling somewhat underwhelmed at this point, we decided to push the boat out with desserts.
The deep fried white chocolate custard was ordered as it sounded intriguing and tasted good but wasn’t as gooey as we’d have hoped. We already know that Hannah is a peanut butter devotee so there was only one choice for her “for dessert, I looked no further than peanut butter parfait with toffee sauce. What can I say? They had me at peanut butter, to be honest. The parfait was light and mousse-like, with a pleasingly crunchy exterior for a contrasting texture, and a perfect balance between the and sweet so as not to be overwhelming. My favourite dish of the evening.”
Meanwhile, we’d opted to share the cookie dough skillet. I’d had to step out for a little while and by the time I’d returned Jacqui had made some serious inroads into the dish which speaks for itself! Crispy, gooey and with a decent amount of chocolate this was a good dessert.
Overall though, we left feeling a little underwhelmed especially considering the whole evening had cost us £189 including £21 service charge. Considering that’s for a table of four, with cocktails at £8.50 each, it’s not too bad working out at around £32 a head for three courses. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of other places that are just better that I’d rather go to.