In one of the most iconic streets of Oxford, it is prerequisite that an iconic venue should serve it. St Giles is one of the rare areas in Oxford that has been dominated by one restaurant for too long, but in the Ashmolean Dining room, the area has a new champion.
Sitting on one of the most famous tourist attractions in the city, the Ashmolean Dining room has the kind of glamour and wow factor that will draw diners from all over. Couple this with a fantastic rooftop terrace and the result is a unique offering that this city has been crying out for.
The journey to culinary excellence begins with a lift to the top floor, adding to the sense of anticipation. The whole venue has been furnished to create an ambiance of serenity, with an undertone of class. Normally, however, class comes at a price tag – not here though. Whilst it’s not the cheapest place to eat in the city, it is by no means the most expensive.
Starting options are plentiful and varied, with sharing platters and boards available. We went for the platter of seafood weighing in at £14, and containing cured herring, Icelandic prawns, smoked salmon and caper berries. An ideal option for a romantic meal for two, or to share amongst comrades, either way, tucking in with hands is the only way to do it.
However, as it should be in a classic, the prologue sets up the main event without stealing the show. I ordered the Monkfish tail saltimbocca for main course (pictured) and it didn’t so much steal the show, it stopped it long enough for me to enjoy every mouthfull.
One of my reservations about fish dishes compared to having a steak is that, though the fish is inevitably tasty, there is never enough of it. Well, you might as well leave your stereotypes on the ground floor, because this portion was everything you would hope from a fleshy specimen such as the Monkfish. In a generous portion, and served with wilted kale, glazed carrots and a zesty salsa verde this was as complete a dish of food as you could hope to find.
Accompanied by a bottle of Tsing Tsao beer, this was truely a culinary experience. My honest appraisal? I compel you to go and eat there. Main courses are fantastic value, and with the most expensive item £19, I challenge anyone to argue they are in any way over priced. However, one of the forgotten bastions of eating out is the complete experience. We genuinely felt like we had come away from somewhere special, and I will be taking any visitors to the city here. It is a refreshing change to have a non-chain restaurant in the city centre.
I’ve always been a firm believer that if you get the small things right, then the big things will follow and the Ashmolean Dining Room is on its way to big things.
Food of the Ox rating: 9.5