Cheltenham has so many lovely eateries after an influx of newbies in 2015, and one of those relatively new-kids-on-the-block is The Ox which is situated on Cambray Place.
I’ve heard a heck of a lot about this place – all good I hasten to add – so it was only right we tried it out. It’s the Sunday roasts that had tickled our fancy so we booked in for lunch on yet another dull and damp weekend when there is nothing better to do than eat good food.
So before I tell you about our visit, let me tell you what The Ox has set out to do: They believe in creating exceptional food using local and seasonal produce. Oh, and they also want their Sunday Roast to be one of the best in Cheltenham – that’s all.
As soon as we walked through the door, a warm welcome awaited us; the staff are friendly and very attentive. We were shown past the extremely well stocked bar to our table. The restaurant is set in the basement of two adjoining properties and can only be described as opulent but comfortable – you can imagine the cast of Downton Abbey down there puffing on a cigar and supping on a whisky after dinner.
Whilst perusing the menu, Kingsley chose to have a Virgin Mary (the non-alcoholic version of a bloody Mary) as this is traditionally served on a Sunday morning to combat a hangover. Not that we had hangovers but, sometimes it’s nice to feel like you lead a more exciting life than you actually do!
We ordered a small plate each to start with, Kingsley choosing the Hickory Smoked Sticky Ribs and me the Chargrilled Roasted Mushrooms, persillade, toast and roasting juices. Essentially mine was mushrooms on toast, but if the menu described it as that, it probably wouldn’t sell very much; however, all I can say is, don’t underestimate some bloody good mushrooms on some bloody good toast, chargrilled and roasted with a persillade (a sauce of parsley, garlic, herbs, oil and vinegar). Kingsley’s ribs were served with a minty fresh slaw which went perfectly with the smokiness of the marinade.
We stuck with the traditional roasts for our mains, I had the Crisp Belly of Pork and Cox’s Apple Sauce and Kingsley had Roast Beef Rib-Eye served with caramelised onion puree, Yorkshire pudding, horseradish and honey mustard glazed parsnip. All roasts are served with roast potatoes, leeks & greens, and we also ordered a side of Cauliflower Cheese with a bacon and parsley crumb. Oh and I mustn’t forget, I asked for a Yorkshire pudding to go with my pork too – because I can’t have a roast dinner without.
Whilst waiting for our food I was explaining to Kingsley how so many roast dinners can be a let-down for me because I expect every single element to be as tasty as hell. I promise I’m not as high maintenance as I sound – I can wake up and be out of the door in 5 or 10 minutes, it’s just where foods concerned I get a tad fussy! The worst sort of places serve up over-cooked, chewy and dry meat alongside vegetables that have had the life boiled out of them; thankfully, most places manage to serve well-cooked (not overcooked) meat, but then alongside that they serve some really uninspired boiled broccoli and carrots. Very few places, manage to make every single part of a roast dinner work for its place on the plate.
As our lunch was brought to the table, my first thought was ‘wow those roast potatoes look good’ and my second thought was ‘that cauliflower cheese looks even more amazinger’ (what a fantastic new word I made up there).
So was it good? Yes, yes, and yes, every part of our lunch was special: Kingsley’s beef (cooked medium rare) melted in the mouth and perfectly seasoned too, my pork was tender with a beautiful layer of crackling on top, the honey mustard glazed parsnips and carrots, the football-sized Yorkshire’s, the crispy roast potatoes, the leeks & greens with a hint of thyme, and that cauliflower cheese (with plenty of cheese) with bacon and parsley crumbs.
I’ve got to say, this roast rivalled our Christmas dinner, it really was something special, and the staff and surroundings only added to that. There was one thing I was not happy about though, and I mean really not happy…I didn’t have room for dessert!!! My jeans were fit to burst so we had to get home so I could change into my comfy, stretchy leggings!
I will return, and it will be of an evening to enjoy some of what their well-stocked bar has to offer – and I’ll skip starters if needs be, just so I can have dessert.