30.7.08

the High Table Restaurant, Oxford

The spacious layout overlooking High Street

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.

bread, balsamico, and olive oil from Crete

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.

4 comments:

Jennywenny said...

Hey there, my mum just sent me your blog and I'm just reading about the earthquake yesterday. I am a little ways away in san diego, for us it was really just a little rumble but it woke us all up a bit!

Yannis said...

Great to hear from you! :)
how are you?
we had a great meal last night....
glad that you are all ok in CA.

Niall in Oxford said...

Hi there,
I booked the high table restaurant in Oxford for a party of 10 ppl for the 7th March 2009 to celebrate my graduation.

I cannot STRESS sufficiently how BIG a Mistake this was. I duly noted down on my blackberry ALL the things these guys did wrong so that hopefully you will not do the same mistake.

- The restaurant is owned by the Accor Hotel chain and I was contacted by staff offerring fixed menus to simplify the staff's efforts. I offered the menus to my family members but the DAY before the booking I am informed it is NOT possible to have one set of guests on one menu and one set of guests on another. NO Flexibility at ALL, even after discussing on the phone the special occasion and my family travelling over from continental Europe. The staff CANNOT get any more UNHELPFUL.

- I booked 1.5 months in advance for 10 people and on the day I was given 2 separate round tables of 5 close to the door. I protested and asked for better seating and got the "Take it or leave it" shrug of the shoulders approach from the staff.

- We ordered prosecco dry as aperitif and got WARM sweet Prosecco Moscato (used as a desert / after supper beverage). When sending it back the staff explained in Italian ( I am Italian) that normally English customers cannot tell the difference and so they hoped they could get away with that!!! OH MY GOD!

- We ordered a platter to share for all (10 people) explaining what we wanted and the waiter did not get it and came back back with one small platter and no plates for all the rest. Complete joke. 10 mins later plates arrive for all and a another 2 small platters.

- My brothers wife asked for some other bread (not sour dough as she is pregnant and does not like the taste) and got back burnt on the outside frozen on the inside Hovis bread.

- The Apple Crumble is a DISGRACE and is not fit for human consumption.

- The service is incompetent and slow

- The food is average at best and at worst inedible.

Despite the high sounding name this place is on par with the most dissapointing of college meals (and I have been to most college halls).

Do not go there for a special occasion and given the amount of decent places in Oxford actually don`t go there at all.

Niall in Oxford

Yannis said...

Wow Niall, I'm so sorry to hear about this experience. You should have come to Jamie's Italian......

I am really sorry about this.