Think old and traditional Oxford pub, minus the typical pub grub. At The Old Tom, situated along St Aldate’s, you’ll find that familiar welcoming pub atmosphere, fused with a traditional, fresh and aromatic Thai menu.
After a warm welcome, I was surprised at how busy it was for a Wednesday evening. The pub is almost separated in two inside, with a pub at the front and small restaurant area at the back. The rear restaurant area holds around seven or eight tables, which had filled up by the time our food arrived.
It makes me incredibly happy seeing independent restaurants and pubs brimming with business, despite the likes of the shiny new Westgate – especially in Oxford which boasts drinking holes and eateries filled with history. Originally called the Great Tom after the bell in Christchurch college, this relic of a building has remained since the 17th century.
Drinks orders taken, our hungry tummies were occupied with some ‘wins every time’ prawn crackers and sweet chilli dip (£2.95).
Diving straight into dishes that had been recommended from the menu by the team at Old Tom, we ordered our starters. Kanom jeeb (£5.95) steamed homemade pork and prawn dumplings, with a sweet and sour sauce; as well as the laab tod (£5.95) deep fried minced pork balls with mint, coriander, lime and chilli – a lot of chilli. These bad boys packed a punch in flavour, and a kick of spice.
Bring on the mains!
For mains, we had the king prawn pad Thai (£10.95), of course; a gaeng phed ped yang (£10.95) roasted duck red curry with pineapple and peppers, served with jasmine rice; as well as a stir-fried side dish composed of chicken, carrot, mushroom and cashews (usually sold as a main with rice for £9.95).
The pad Thai packed all those traditional flavours you crave when wanting this dish, and the prawns were utterly juicy and amazing. Plus, it was huge! The curry was lovely and I enjoyed something a little different with duck as the main element, which was beautifully tender. The pineapple part just wasn’t for me; I never was one for pineapple and cheese – it’s simply one or the other – unpopular opinion? Perhaps!
The chicken and cashew dish was nice, but very much a side and not something I’d rave about. I know ‘nice’ isn’t usually a sufficient descriptive word, but one that sums up my overall opinion of the meal.
I do love that all of the ingredients at Old Tom are sourced directly from Thailand, ensuring that utmost authenticity. Also that the restaurant boasts a menu you wouldn’t necessarily expect in a time-worn, ‘ye olde’ Oxford pub. But whilst I was satisfyingly full and had a lovely meal, it wasn’t the best Thai I’ve ever had.
With the Thai authenticity part in mind, however, you will find fish and chips on the menu. I’m not convinced it’s ordered often, so do let us know if you’ve tried it!
This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t recommend The Old Tom. The groups of people eating and drinking midweek showed it might be ideal for a bite to eat after work, or casual weekend meal. The restaurant is quite decently priced too. You could get one tasty dish for around £11 and leave with a content tummy, having also enjoyed excellent service.
I later found out that The Old Tom has a sister restaurant in London’s Marylebone, Monkey and Me; seeing as I’m in London most days, it would be rude not to give it a try sometime soon.
The Old Tom Contact Details
We dined as guests of The Old Tom