13 March 2014

The Ox

The Ox Bristol steak restaurant by food blogger, Avon Gorged
I have a bone to pick with The Ox restaurant. It’s only been open a couple of months and yet it is responsible for a surge of food photography which quite frankly, on a Monday morning I could do without. Instagram is suddenly full of rare steaks. I can barely get on Twitter without seeing photos of huge home-cooked chips and delicious things on toast. It’s a good job I have my own office because it’s really not acceptable to drool at your desk.

After several weeks of torture therefore, I decided it was no good. I was going to have to try this out for myself. And so I took my big slobbery chops and got stuck in.
The Ox opened late last year on Corn Street in a delightfully unexpected location. Similarly to its sister venues Hyde & Co and the Milk Thistle, the Ox is unassuming in its signage and you really have to seek it out. The hidden basement location and plush interior of the Ox combine to make you feel as though you’re stepping straight into the past. It’s the sort of place that the smoking ban shouldn’t apply to…a fog of smoke would have topped off the speakeasy vibe nicely.

The Ox Bristol steak restaurant by food blogger, Avon Gorged
The name gives you a clue about the style of food offered by the Ox. If you’re veggie you might want to look away now because this place is steak, steak and more steak. There are small plates offered as starters or to be combined for a shared main. As a group we decided to have a go at most of them to begin with, and the resounding feeling was that the “Toast” dishes definitely came out on top.

These dishes are what the Ox is all about. Mushrooms are roasted with bone marrow and topped with a punchy persillade. A dish of potted shrimps is accompanied by huge slabs of buttered sourdough toast, which scream “dig in”. Oh they were good. You can also get your toast topped with trotters or steak tartare, should you have the appetite for them.

The non-toast small plates we tried – chargrilled squid and scallops with romesco sauce – unfortunately just couldn’t live up to the toast, the squid even nudging towards bland. Although the fried cucumber served with the scallops was a revelation in my book.

And now…after the small plates, the steak must come.

The Ox Bristol steak restaurant by food blogger, Avon Gorged
All but one of my dining companions opted for the rib-eye, served with triple-cooked chips and a sauce (Bearnaise – no contest). Upon arrival of the plates the table was silenced as we raced to be the first one to try. I even blistered my mouth on a chip.

As I started to eat I realised I could relax. All of those photos and tweets full of exclamation marks were right -the Ox can do steak, and do it bloody well. The steaks were tender and well cooked (apart from one that was just slightly over – but as they’d had a powercut in the kitchen half way through, I think we can let that slide). The chips were everything they should be, and they certainly know how to make a sauce. There were clean plates all round.

It’s worth mentioning that the steaks are chargrilled, giving them that smoky, barbecue taste which isn’t to everyone’s taste. There are of course, other options available. The Ox burger, pumpkin gnocchi and regularly changing fish dishes all provide options for the less steak-orientated diner (or in this case – my Mum).  Honourable mention must also go to the salt beef hash and little gem salad side dishes, both of which I got to finish because my companions were a little “too full”. Amateurs!

The Ox Bristol steak restaurant by food blogger, Avon Gorged
Finally, those of us with strength left tackled the puds. The menu lists an impressive home-made ice-cream and sorbet selection as well as a small selection of more traditional desserts. It was not a difficult choice for me – the chocolate delice had me at “praline crumb” – and the taste was as good as any I’ve tried, if a little over-set in texture.

However, I offer one piece of advice; make sure you leave room for the brown bread ice-cream. It’s a real winner.

Quite obviously, a three-course meal at the Ox isn’t going to come cheap. With the quality of meat they serve you can expect a pretty hefty price tag to accompany it. It is most definitely worth the splurge, however they do offer an early evening steak special which, including a glass of wine, will only set you back £12.50. An unbelievable bargain.

And so it appears that I agree with all the Tweeps and the Instagrammers - the food at the Ox deserves to be photographed and shared. It’s too good to keep to yourself. You better be quick though…because I can easily nick a chip in the time it takes you to select a sepia filter. 

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