Restaurant 66a is an award-winning British and continental restaurant located in the Cotswold Lodge Hotel, on Banbury road located in Oxford city centre. In our experience, restaurants in hotels can go one of two ways. They’re either a wonderful surprise or can be underwhelming and leave you reaching for the salt and pepper. Spoiler altert: Restaurant 66a is definitely in the first category, both the food and service were brilliant.
Access to the restaurant is via the main entrance of the hotel, giving you a sneaky peak of the beautifully decorated lounges that hotel guests can relax in. The restaurant itself is decorated in a ‘grand Victorian’ style which blends with the period features in the room such as the high ceilings and chandeliers. Our waiter introduced himself once we had sat down and then went on to tell us the specials; all the while classical background music give the room a relaxed atmosphere.
Our drinks arrived in no time at all, followed by complimentary fresh bread and butter.
The butter serving was generous enough to give each slice of bread a healthy slathering – which we were very happy with!
We started with the Oak smoked salmon mousse (£8) and the crispy duck salad (£8). The salmon mousse was an absolute delight to eat, being both incredibly fresh and light on the palate. The mousse was light, well seasoned and wrapped in a beautiful piece of smoked salmon, giving it added depth. The accompanying sourdough toast was incredibly thin and crispy and the perfect base to pile the mousse onto. The mousse was served with a delightfully sharp pickled fennel and dill salad, sweet pea puree and creamy lemon mayo which combined beautifully to make the perfect mouthful.
The crispy duck salad had all the flavours of the renowned pancake dish you would order in your local Chinese. However, there was no flabby fat or soggy cucumber in sight, which often let down the takeaway option.
The gorgeous crispy duck was piled high on the plate. In fact, there was so much duck it almost outweighed the salad underneath. The Asian dressing was perfect for the dish; enough to have some in every mouthful, not so much to make it overpowering. It complimented the mooli, rainbow carrots and cucumber beautifully.
Next up, the mains. Crispy pork belly (£19) and confit Gressingham duck leg (£20). The crispy pork belly came with freshly creamed potatoes, rhubarb champagne sauce, tender stem broccoli and a cider and sage jus. The pork was beautifully cooked and fell away on contact with the fork. The potatoes were as smooth as you would expect with a wonderful buttery richness. The rhubarb sauce cut through with a sharp sweetness but it was the cider and sage jus that really brought every element of the dish together.
The confit Gressingham duck leg came with braised red cabbage, dauphinoise potatoes, spring onions and a five-spice jus.
The duck leg, as with the rest of the evening’s food, was impeccably cooked.
Rendering down the duck perfectly meant it left no flabby fat or skin, just crispy yet moist meat. The dauphinoise potatoes were creamy and delicious. They held their form yet melted in the mouth with the soft red cabbage and a glorious richness from the well-reduced sauce. The five-spice jus was light yet flavoursome. I do wish I had ordered a side of tender stem broccoli, as the crunchy freshness of the vegetable would have given it an extra texture.
Moving onto dessert… our waiter recommended the chocolate pyramid mousse. We also ordered the creme brulee.
The chocolate pyramid mousse (£8) was a real show stopper, beautifully rich yet light as a feather chocolate mousse filled a dark chocolate pyramid.
The mousse came with berries, chocolate soil, honeycomb, meringue and whipped cream. The soft mousse with the crunch of the dark chocolate and honeycomb was a heavenly combination.
The creme brulee (£7) came with berries and a homemade shortbread biscuit. The creme just set, had a wonderfully smooth texture on the tongue whilst the burnt sugar on top gave the sweet creme a bitter companion, making each bite a delight.
We left feeling as if we had been treated to a brilliant version of the classic dishes that make you feel warm inside. It was the kind of food that wraps you up and gives you a loving squeeze, it’s familiar yet special.
Overall, it was a fantastic evening of brilliant traditional service and delicious food.
We dined as guests of Restaurant 66a, all views remain our own.