THE OX (Restaurant review, Bristol)

I’ve been wanting to try out the Ox in Bristol for a while now, especially as my friends have been saying such great things about it. I love a good steak restaurant and Bristol has loads to offer; the Cowshed, Steak of the Art, CAU… all of which are great. But the Ox is known for having something different about it – a unique vibe – that I couldn’t wait to try.

Going to the Ox is not just about the food; it’s an experience. Firstly, it’s tough actually getting a table as it gets booked up so fast and, secondly, finding the restaurant in itself is an adventure. We found ourselves walking along Corn Street, located exactly where the dot on Google Maps told us we should be, yet the Ox was nowhere to be seen. Luckily I’d been told beforehand that the restaurant was located underground and so we eventually spotted a small sign with an ox head on just under the Commercial Rooms. It felt like we were entering somewhere secret, somewhere that only a few people knew about, so there was already an air of mystery and excitement about the place before we entered.

The décor inside is rich and quirky, dimly lit with lots of mahogany furniture and leather-backed chairs. An array of intriguing paintings covers the wall and the wooden panelling and collection of candles really make it feel like you are stepping back in time.

The starter menu included a range of tempting ‘Small plates’, including hickory-smoked ribs, pumpkin and ewe’s curd salad, smoked salmon with crème fraiche or ox tongue with pickled vegetables. You could also choose from the ‘Toast’ section, with toppings such as roast bone marrow or wild boar ragu. For us, we were finding it hard to choose so we ended up going for the charcuterie plate as it had a little bit of everything. There was iberico salami, cecina, pork and pistachio terrine, rabbit rillettes, pickles, plum chutney and chilli mustard. It’s fair to say that, if you’re a meat lover, this restaurant is a little slice of heaven.

The main menu was, as expected, focused around steak, offering a 6oz rump, 10.5oz rib-eye, 12oz sirloin, 6oz fillet or even a 10.5oz bavette d’aloyau (translated to ‘bib of the sirloin’ in English).  My boyfriend went for the bavette as it was something he’d never tried before. The bavette has characteristics of a flank or skirt steak and, although it can be a little fibrous and fatty, it was packed full of flavour. The verdict was very positive; ‘I’d definitely go back there for steak’ he said, which is praise indeed considering how much of a steak connoisseur he is. It’s great to see restaurants making the most of the less well-known cuts of meat. I also liked how the prices on the menu all included chips and a sauce as it can be offputting if you’re constantly spending money on sides.

I decided to see what their non-steak options were like and chose the lamb dish. They didn’t give away too much on the menu but when it arrived it was full of surprises; lamb belly croquettes, pea purée, calcots and lamb so rich in flavour that it a joy to eat from start to finish. Without a doubt, this was one of the best lamb dishes I have eaten and if I go back I would be very tempted to order from the non-steak section again.

Desserts were a delicious dark chocolate mousse with orange purée and crème fraiche and then we also chose from their ‘Ices and sorbets’ section, choosing one scoop of malted chocolate and one scoop of passionfruit and meringue. Although we’d never come across these flavours on any ice cream menus before, they were both delicious!

Since opening in 2013, the Ox has already built a fantastic reputation for itself, winning multiple awards and going on to open additional restaurants in Clifton and Cheltenham. Notable achievements so far include the award of ‘Bristol’s best steak’ in the Bristol Good Food Awards and being chosen as the UK’s 47th best restaurant in the National Restaurant Awards. I’m definitely planning on making a second visit here. It’s somewhere that would be great to bring friends, especially if you’re wanting to show them one of the best independent restaurants Bristol has to offer.

You can find the Ox on Twitter @theoxbristol, Instagram @theoxrestaurant or online at www.theoxbristol.com

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