The Folly Restaurant, Oxford: September, 2017
If you want that special evening, book the cruise and dine package at The Folly – nothing compares in Oxford.
The Folly is one of those restaurants that one hears about frequently in Oxford, for all the right reasons, but not one that too many people have been. If driving over the folly bridge blink and you will miss it. It was for this reason that I made an extra effort to get myself out of the city centre and to The Folly.
It sits just to the side of the folly bridge, next to the river Thames. It is in the perfect location and with its floating terrace makes for a rather special outing. There is a cruise and dine package that offers, as it says on the tin, a thirty-minute cruise down the Thames followed by dinner at the restaurant.
I arrived to a friendly welcome and received a glass of prosecco for the cruise. It was a sunny evening and I couldn’t wait to jump on! We were off. There were around ten of us on a small boat and a guide who was present with information, but not intruding on our enjoyment – it was the best balance. The mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll first told the stories of Alice in Wonderland from this bridge and cruising along I could see how his imagination got the better of him. It was bliss; prosecco in my right hand and Christchurch meadow to my left. As we docked back onto the terrace we were greeted by the restaurant staff who showed us to our table. We were lucky enough to have a table looking out to the river. With candles lit and fresh flowers it was beautiful, making it the perfect spot for romance or celebration.
The menu was simplistic. Serving Modern-British, The Folly aimed to provide simple, delicious food. They offered a wine pairing service too, though this was not covered in the cruise and dine experience.
To start I ordered the Leek and Emmental Tortelloni (tortellini’s bigger meat-free sister). It was served with toasted almonds and a carrot puree. It was a lovely setting and I was expecting good food but when my starter arrived at the table I was in awe. It was a work of art. I thought to myself “this dining experience is going to be a step above the rest if looks are anything to go by”. I tucked in and I was not disappointed. The leek and Emmental gently eased my palate into a state of euphoria. The delicate blend of the classic cheese and onion combination allowed the nuttiness of the almonds to come through and mixed with the sweetness of the carrot worked wonders. The pasta had bite; could it get any better? I was eager for more. The standards had been set and expectations were high.
My main arrived and despite its rather provocative placement (what do you think?), was another plate which had the wow factor. I had duo of pork which consisted of glazed pork cheek and pressed pork belly served with buttered mash, kale with a red wine reduction and poached pear. It was simplistic but so very flavoursome. Pork cheek is one of those things that can be a bit hit or miss, but it was neither. It was slightly overcooked but not so much I needed to wash it down with my glass of red. Apart from that, however, it was a resounding hit taste-wise. The flavour from the fat on the belly left a guiltless smile on my face and the mash and kale humbled my grin and provided balance. I was on the verge of wishing it was a trio of pork, I wasn’t sure a duo was enough. The pork needed to be the star of the dish so adding more mash or kale would have ruined it, but maybe I was being a tad greedy. Never the less it was very enjoyable and I would order it again – with or without an extra helping of pork…
For me, there was no option on which dessert to have. It had to be the chocolate fondant. Following my recent fondant failure, I hoped The Folly would have been able to restore my faith in pastry chefs.
The sun had set and the table was dimly lit by a candle that guided me to the fondant. I was ready for it. The big reveal. I had never wanted a gooey centre so much – what was wrong with me? The spoon tentatively broke into the fondant and at the same time I heard the breaking of glass, mazel tov! It was perfect. It tasted as it should have; rich and creamy without the slightest hint of that floury taste one can sometimes disappointingly receive. It was served with banana ice cream that was, shall we say, “pas pour moi”. For me, banana belongs in a yellow skin and eaten out of it. That’s all.
The Folly was beautiful. A perfect location matched with truly great food and with fantastic, flawless service. The cruise and dine package costs £49 per person and includes a glass of prosecco, a thirty-minute cruise, and a three-course meal. It excludes drinks and sides. For me the package is underpriced, so book now before prices go up! The Folly sits above most restaurants in Oxford at present and is one I would not hesitate to recommend and take the family to for that special evening.