As soon as I entered The Oxford Blue, I could tell it was the friendly, neighbourhood venue you’d want nearby for casual dining.
The Oxford Blue is somewhere you can pop in for whatever your mood dictates: a drink, a snack, or a full dinner. It’s dog-friendly, bike-friendly, and all-around welcoming. Tucked just off Iffley Road, the pub has a relaxed atmosphere, quirky décor, and an eclectic menu that sends out all the right signals. All I needed was for the food to live up to its promise, and I’m pleased to say that the kitchen served up some lovely flavours.
Victoria and James, who opened the doors of their new restaurant in August, greeted us warmly, with the enthusiastic support of their pooch Bonnie. As I said, it’s a very dog-friendly place. I’m all about outdoor dining while the weather still allows, so we headed straight through to the comfortable dining area which was full of cosy nooks and charmingly mismatched décor. Walking past the large Ozney pizza oven meant that one dinner choice was settled within minutes.
While pouring us each a glass of prosecco, Victoria talked us through the small menu, which features a varied mix of starters, mains and pizzas. It includes plenty of vegan and gluten-free options. As an interesting alternative to pizza, they have socca (chickpea flour) flatbreads with a variety of toppings. The Oxford Blue aim to cater to different tastes and will make adjustments if they can; you just have to ask.
Overall, The Oxford Blue have put together some really creative dishes, relying on sustainably sourced ingredients and local suppliers. For example, meat from Alder’s Butchers, bread from the Natural Bread Company, and coffee from Jericho Coffee Traders.
We got off to a delicious start with our simple-sounding starters.
The first was a pot of the house-made pickled mushrooms (£6.50), served with pesto and toasted bread. A dab of the rich pesto on a piece of bread, topped by a big juicy spoonful of the earthy mushrooms in their oil, was a lush delight. I had wondered how these elements would work together, but I shouldn’t have doubted. A little messy, but totally worth it.
The second dish was a bowl of potatoes roasted with sundried tomatoes, olives, capers, and garlic (£4.50). It would make a good side, but we savoured it as a first course. The potatoes were delightfully crispy with a soft fluffy interior; the herbs added salty interest to each forkful.
Having committed to pizza, I faced a choice of four – along with a vegan alternative for each. A classic Margherita, one topped with chorizo, jalapeños and lime-marinated pineapple, another with mushroom, walnut, kale, and seed pesto. However, it was the combo of bacon, caramelised onion, pear, and blue cheese (£13.50) that I found irresistible. When it arrived fresh from the oven, it was pretty impressive.
The dough was pillowy soft, with just enough charred crust to give some chew; the toppings were well balanced and the sweetness nicely restrained.
I would definitely order it again, though I might have to try the pesto pizza on my next visit.
For the other main, the tuna ceviche and the buttermilk chicken Caesar salad was tempting. However, how could I resist the special billed as ‘firecracker beef’? It came as a generous mound of tender, shredded brisket, garnished beautifully with avocado, scallions, coriander, peppers, tomatoes, and sour cream. The spiced beef was almost sweet; the grilled bread underneath soaking up all the delicious juices. A little glass of chilled pinot noir on the side was a very fine idea, and I quickly reached a well-fed happy state.
I was eager to see how the desserts measured up to the rest of the meal and decided to sample a classic crème caramel. The rich, smooth custard was well executed and tasted of holidays in France. It was served with a light syrup, and even though I would’ve preferred a darker caramel for extra richness, it was a sweet conclusion to our dinner.
Victoria explained that she’s still experimenting with desserts and invited us to try out a vegan coconut pudding that she’s working on. It needed refining but had the potential to be very yummy. I’m looking forward to seeing it on the menu! As a spoiler, I’ll say that the fruity topping of pineapple, rum and turmeric is a delightful blend. Especially if you like a hint of earthiness, and the little vegan gingersnaps are excellent.
To sum up…
I was totally charmed by our laid-back dinner at the Oxford Blue. I give it a big thumbs up for the inviting atmosphere, friendly staff, and quality food.
We dined as guests of The Oxford Blue, all views remain our own.