No.1 Ship Street, Oxford: July 2017
Has Oxford found itself a charming new eatery? yes!
After attending the launch party, I was extremely eager to eat at No1. Ship Street for all sorts of reasons, but mainly because it’s arrival in Oxford is very much needed; a modern British brasserie in the city centre aiming to provide top quality food and service. Did it deliver? Yes, and, with a loving sprinkle of attention-to-detail, it will be the place to eat.
Co-owners Ross Drummond (General Manager) and Owen Little (Head Chef) aim to provide a grown-up space for Oxford, and that is exactly what they have done. The interior provides a relaxed atmosphere, whilst gently whispering opulence and class. Uniformly-set cutlery and linen napkins sat comfortably upon freshly polished rose-gold plated table tops, with classic wooden chairs as partners. Dimly lit lamps floating on the Brunswick-green walls provided a warm, inviting, and somewhat romantic touch.
My obsession with perfection couldn’t help but notice we were sat on the only table without a rose-gold table top; the table was round and did this provided difficulties in fitting it or was it simply an oversight? Either way matching tables would be better but it did not take away from my overall impression, too much.
The printed menu offered a small, and rightly so, selection of mouth-wateringly tempting dishes which saw my confidence in the chef’s abilities rocket. Get it right and we have found paradise; get it wrong will and it will lead us to believe that Oxford is forever dammed to become a foodie’s-fantasy. It still amazes me that with Oxford being over-populated with high-flying academics, and exploding in fiscal-fanatics, that there is still only a single handful of well thought out, highly-appealing restaurants.
The wine list was short and sweet and that combined with the knowledge of the manager a glass of Abbostdale Chenin blanc from Swartland, South Africa was chosen. Chilled, refreshing and although has received mixed ratings from wine critics, held its own against the more prestigious Chenin blanc regions. Red would have better suited to my starter, but I wanted white – so sue me!
To start I chose lamb kidneys with garlic toast, cumin, and coriander. It arrived and my first instinct was to lift the plate up and pour the sauce down my throat straight to my heart; the smell was incredibly rich, with tones of onion, red wine, and cumin giving my olfactory senses a wake-up call and demanding they stand to attention – it’s time for business. Presented well on the plate, I started. The kidneys were just as they should be, with a slight bounce and a trace of red in the centre. Many people feel that offal is awful and should be left at the butchers; it brings back memories of one’s grandmother cooking kidney, liver, and bacon into a state of sterilisation and past the point of no return. Cooked well, however, and you enter a room full of hidden flavours and,
for all the health-junkies, packed with protein and low in fat. Are all you non-believers tempted yet? The sauce tasted just as it smelled, deep, warm, and rich with the garlic giving it an injection of colour and completeness.
The confit chicken for main continued my food journey with comfort and pleasure. Served with peas, lettuce, onions, and bacon it really did deserve its place on the menu. When it arrived we were not entirely sure if we were supposed to eat with our fingers, but the waitress quickly remembered that, for the most, neanderthalism is greatly frowned upon and so provided us with a knife and fork. The chicken fell off the bone, just as you would expect, and with the crispy skin on top restored all faith. The bed the chicken lay upon was just as liberating, proving fresh and intensely creamy attacks on my taste buds. Although I finished the lot there was perhaps a tad too much on the plate.
Deep fried white chocolate custard has always been something on my hit-list and, until now, I have never experienced the same enjoyment as people who have had it gush over. Deep fried treats always send my arteries into defence mode and concerns over which statin I will be prescribed in later life lingers in the back of my mind. Perhaps a cousin to the deep fried Mars bar it tributes the manager’s Scottish routes. However, I ordered it.
Severed with a smile and care it had landed and, with the arrival of a spoon shortly after, I could tuck in. Whilst visually somewhat out of place on a dessert menu; looking like two croquettes on a blueberry compote, the taste was far from beige carbs. Think crème Brulee fused with white chocolate wrapped in crispy strudel pastry. It was delicious. Heavenly in fact – a real fine thing. I did, however, think the diabetic coma I almost fell into could have been avoided by using a spoonful less of sugar. It was a trifle too sweet, but I enjoyed it all the same.
The brasserie was gently flowing with customers and the staff were calm; not appearing to be stressed. New establishments always take some time to settle into the production line needed to run it. Whether or not the swan effect was in full motion is unimportant, the service it appeared smooth and professional whilst maintain a friendly aura. With just a few little tweaks needed to the order of service and attention to detail, this venue is set for truly great things and is one I would highly recommend.