It’s been nearly a year since Mark Bradbury and Chris Murray took over this former studenty sports pub located on Marston Street in East Oxford (nearest Iffley Road). They renovated the space completely – ridding it of the multiple tvs, and replacing it with stylish furniture from Licious, including glass cases which formerly belonged to the Ashmolean Museum, pre-renovation. There are gorgeous wood floors and tables, old-fashioned school desk chairs, cinema seats, work from local artists, and at least one giant deer head.
One of the main ideas behind the Oxford Blue is the pairing of food to beer and wine, courtesy of Chris, who used to own Bottega Wine Bar on Walton Street. Each dish on the menu is paired, and if you choose that pairing, the alcohol is slightly less expensive (this only applies to the first glass, I found out).
I know the Oxford Blue is well known for their Sunday Roast Lunches, and their rare meat evenings, so I had slight concerns about dining there, as a non meat eater. I checked the menu online and was very happy to find two vegetarian dishes and one fish dish.
We arrived at 6.30pm on a Saturday night, as we had a concert around the corner at 8pm. I was surprised to find the place so full of diners and drinkers! It was buzzing with energy and laughter – always a good sign. We were seated at a small table next to one of the Ashmolean cabinets, which was filled with wine and a gorgeous sculpture by Rachel Ducker, whose work I really like.
We decided to share the Fried Calamari appetizer, which was perfectly cooked. The calamari was tender on the inside, and the herbed batter was crisp on the outside. The portion size was just right, and I was relieved it was all rings and no legs (I’m not a fan of tentacles). It also came with a nice little side salad. I enjoyed this dish very much.
For the mains, we ordered both vegetarian dishes on the menu: Potato Gnocchi with Wild Mushroom, Sage and Parmesan Cream, and the Roast Pumpkin, Tomato and White Bean Stew with Pesto. I started with the Gnocchi, while hubs worked on the Stew, and then we traded half way through. I absolutely loved the Gnocchi dish. The dish contained an unusual mixture of wild mushrooms, which were incredibly flavourful, while the gnocchi were oversized, soft and pillowy, which I loved. The cream sauce didn’t taste too heavy, and there was just the right amount of sage to give it a lovely flavour. Overall I thought this dish was fantastic. I had to stop myself from devouring the whole thing, greedily. After the Gnocchi, I was slightly disappointed in the Stew. There was nothing wrong with it at all, but I’m not the biggest pumpkin fan, and overall it tasted perfectly fine. But I wasn’t jumping out of my seat for it. Hubs completely disagreed with me and preferred the stew over the gnocchi, so happily switched plates with me again.
Overall I was really impressed by Oxford Blue. I would happily go there again. Next time I’ll try the Pan-Fried Sea Bream with Puttanesca Sauce, Roast Aubergine and Aioli if it’s still on the menu. Or maybe I’ll have the Gnocchi again. Mmmmm the gnocchi…
I have two constructive comments for Oxford Blue. First, I find it disappointing when I’m given a dirty, crumpled wine list (and with writing on the back this time). It was just a printed sheet of A4 paper. Print more of them, and throw them away when they get messed up. Second, get rid of the salt and pepper pots, please. It’s my mission to rid the world of these. Unless i’m told specifically that the salt and pepper were placed in the little open-air pots just for me, I can only assume someone else had their grubby hands in there before they ended up on my table. Especially because they came without tiny spoons. AND the server put one on top of the other when he carried them away, so now I have to think about what was on the outside of the dishes, or on the table underneath them. Ew. They really gross me out. Get shakers instead!
Have you eaten at Oxford Blue? Leave your thoughts in the comments area below.
The Oxford Blue
32 Marston Street
Oxford, OX4 1JU