the High Table Restaurant, Oxford
I had been waiting impatiently for last night's outing with the summer school program (2 week gig at my college) for dinner at one of Oxford's newest restaurants - the High Table. It is owned by the same group that operates the Quod on High Street, Gee's, and the Old Parsonage Hotel. Cuisine at all four venues is typically characterised as 'British contemporary'. Spacious and elegant, there's been a serious amount of buzz about this place.
We were a group of 18 American business and education students, three professors, myself and another St. Peter's student. I had called in the pre-order a few days in advance to make everyone's life a little easier. The price tag? £19.99 for a three-course meal (the pre-theatre dinner menu), excluding wine of course. Not a bad deal at all.
Leek and Potato Soup
Chicken and spinach terrine with chilli jam
Loch Duart Salmon gravadlax with lemon and dill crème fraiche
Char-grilled Pork T-Bone with wholegrain mustard mash, green beans and jus
Pan-Fried Sea Bass fillet with crème fraiche potatoes
Cherry tomato and basil risotto
Iced Mango parfait with Raspberry sorbet
Sticky Toffee pudding with toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream
Classic crème brulee
As we sat down, ordered some bottles of French whites and reds, and started to enjoy the truly flavourful and quality balsamic and Cretan olive oil, we had a little surprise. Electricity went out on the block. This happened right before we were about to receive our first course. We were told they wouldn't be able to prepare the soup, which was fine. I think more people went for the salmon option than the chicken. I had the salmon. It was a quality starter. Loved it. Great on the palette.
Our French waiter (or manager, I couldn't exactly discern) was a bit stressed, despite his attempt to hide it. Nonetheless, Mr. French man and the rest of the staff were very pleasant. This was consistent with the service at Gee's (which I experienced on my birthday). We were told that it was a power outage in the entire block, and that it would take about 1-2 hours to get power up and running again according to the electrical company. At this point, we're heavy on the wine, and trying to come up with a decision as to what to do. Mr. French man said that Quad up the street could accommodate us for our main and dessert. In the meantime, one of the professors in the programme wanted our attention to inform everyone about an earthquake of severe magnitude between Los Angeles and San Diego.
The lovely American students were in fact from LA. As they got on their iPhones to their loved ones in the States, we got word that it was an earthquake of 5.4 magnitude, and that it wasn't as severe as the BBC had just made it out to be. Thank G*d. At this point, we decided to get up and make our way to other restaurant. As half the group steps outside, epiphany! Lights come on, the AC kicks in, and people start laughing. Round two. We manage to sit down once again, and get served our main. I had the sea bass, which was not warm enough for my liking, but still enjoyable and perfectly salted. Presentation was simple yet striking. Apparently the pork option was a huge hit with those who ordered it. A minority enjoyed the vegetarian option, risotto with cherry tomatoes and basil.
For dessert, I had basil myself. I didn't expect it. I ordered the mango parfait with raspberry sorbet, but the parfait base had an overpowering taste of fresh basil. It was kinda wrong. I am all for novelty, experimental dishes, but this particular marriage was not a success. I should have gone with the toffee pudding, since that's what my gut instinct hinted. Oh well.
Overall, it was a pleasant experience, despite the drama that ensued us from the onset. Do I recommend it? Yes. Was it the best food I had in Oxford. No.