I love food – this may not come as a surprise if you’ve been reading this blog for a while. Whether it’s sat on a cold rainy beach with fish and chips; collapsed on the sofa with that wonderful triumvirate of beer, movie and pizza; or the hushed tones and decadent linens of Michelin starred dining. It’s all great – but one of my real delights is a smart restaurant, some good company, a bottle of very nice red wine and a slab of incredible beef carefully cooked. When the great Marina O’Loughlin raved about just such a place in Bristol I had to go.
Some eateries have big neon signs announcing their presence, The Ox is far more subtle – a simple menu board by an unmarked staircase underneath the Commercial Rooms on Corn Street. The décor is very London steakhouse, think big comfy chairs, dark wood and antique lighting. It’s warm, inviting and reassuringly colonial – you have to resist the urge to oppress the natives while gazing at their stuffed fox.
The menu is simple and equally comforting– a handful of tasty looking starters, a selection of things on toast and the main event – carefully sourced steak. The wine list is as it should be – picked to maximise your enjoyment of the steak. We had a fantastic Malbec – big bold fruit and hints of leather.
Starter – Foie Gras, Bacon and Pigs Trotters
Those three words might well be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen on a menu together. A big slice of nicely toasted bread (top Sourdough from Hart’s Bakery – one of Bristol’s hidden gems); a slab of foie gras the size of my shoe and a heap of delicious, unctuous porky goodness. It’s incredibly good – rich, savoury and very satisfying.
Main – 10.5oz Rib-eye
Most of The Ox’s beef comes direct from their butcher, Nigel Buxton in Winterbourne and the quality is fantastic. A nice thick rib-eye, well aged and cooked rare – crispy, smokey crust giving way to molten fat and juicy meat. Good beef is very special, and this is really good. To top if off they’re using a Josper grill, an eyewateringly expensive oven that eats charcoal and spews out ferocious heat – it’s a wonderful way to cook steak. The chips are nice enough – I’d have preferred a slightly smaller cut, but the béarnaise sauce was great for dipping them in. We had a side of fried sprouts which had been seriously caramelised – I loved the smokey sweet crunch, but l can see that it might not be to everyone’s taste!
Dessert – Rum and Raisin PX Affogato
At this point I was struggling, there was no way I could manage a full dessert so I went for this interesting little number. Affogato is a popular Italian dessert – a hot espresso poured over a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. This is a clever take on the idea – a small glass of Pedro Ximinez sherry poured over a scoop of rum and raisin ice cream. It’s a dessert and a digestif all in one and wonderfully boozy.
The Ox is my favourite kind of restaurant – it does one thing (steak) and does it very, very well. The staff are friendly and welcoming – happy to provide advice and recommendations. The decor is just right – swanky but not oppressive. It is a little pricey, but you’d pay far more in London and for food of this quality it’s definitely worth it. I left very full and very, very happy – this is a great find.