Turn Street Kitchen, Oxford: July 2017
A Great concept, but does not deliver top tasting food.
Local, seasonal produce – tick. Low carbon footprint – tick. Sustainable – tick.
On paper Turl Street Kitchen is just what Oxford needs; a modern, forward thinking restaurant that boasts a daily-changing menu created from produce locally available. Sounds perfect, right? Unfortunately, not!
I was seated fairly quickly by a friendly waiter. It was not too busy; scattered with students on laptops and friends drinking coffee. There were wooden tables and chairs situated randomly around the room, some tables with benches. I was in the front room which had pretty tea-lights hanging from the ceiling and a window view onto Turl Street – great for people watching! I liked the quirky relaxed vibe it gave off and I didn’t feel I was going to be judged if I ordered only a soft drink. The menu appealed to my food taste, with simple classics reasonably priced. The menu had the date on and stated it was ‘Fresh, seasonal, local’. It was delivering its promise.
I opted for the free range chicken, tarragon, mushroom and bacon braise – surely you can’t go wrong. When ordering I asked where the chicken was sourced, I got a confused waiter looking at me as if to say ‘does it matter?’. Well, if ‘fresh, seasonal, local’ food is Turl Street Kitchen’s bag – why yes, it does matter. I got a half-hearted guess of a reply to which they needed to confirm with the chef – I never got a final answer.
Slightly disgruntled I continued to look around at the various tables filled with coffee and paper pads – maybe I was expecting too much?
The food arrived looking appealing though the chicken was somewhat struggling for air from all the sauce. The chicken was very good – fall-of-the-bone-tender, and fresh. That’s as far as it goes.
The sauce lacked depth and needed further reduction. I wouldn’t have known tarragon was in it if I had not read the menu. It needed to pack more of a punch – if you are going to use tarragon, let my taste buds know! It needed more salt and pepper; whether the table shakers were for me to self-season, I’m unclear. The flavours needed to be bolder and the dish lacked imagination with a few under-cooked potatoes on the side.
I wasn’t going to sit through dessert, so I finished there.
I wanted Turl Street Kitchen to really deliver as I had heard great things from friends. The concept is great! However, if the menu is changing daily, dishes cannot be perfected. This needs a chief and his brigade to be on top of their game when it comes to flavours, which for this visit they were not.
Although not the best tasting food in Oxford, this place is relaxed and welcoming. Great for a catch up over lunch or coffee with friends but I would not recommend it for a special occasion or if you are wanting top tasting food.