After hearing plenty of good things from friends and reading many reviews on the Guardian, Square Meal & Crumbs, The Ox seemed the perfect place to celebrate my brother’s 19th birthday with our parents (especially as Dad was paying).
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, apart from a ‘meaty’ menu and I knew it was under the same ownership as Hyde & Co and The Milk Thistle so I was expecting a cool, 1920s, mahogany theme. I was so right.
At first glance you wouldn’t even know it was there as it is underneath the Commercial Rooms, which is a Weatherspoons (upstairs/downstairs reversal or what). For those who are interested it was previously occupied by Stephen Markwick’s as a highly acclaimed bistro, however even before that it was originally a bank vault, rumoured to be a secret bunker in the war.
History lesson over, as you walk down the marble staircase you appear at the restaurant and from the moment you step in (and your eyes adjust to the dim lighting) it has a very edgy, prohibition 1920s feel. With a mahogany bar, chandeliers, wood panelling, secret cocktail booths and stuffed animals hidden on the walls, it oozes mystery. It reminded me of Hawksmoor but less stuffy and cooler.
Once I dragged my eyes away from the décor my attention switched to the menu, which did also not disappoint. I do not want to bore you with all the options however here is the link to the menu.
First things first – wine list. The wine list is long enough to provide sufficient choice, but short enough to avoid confusion and panic. Despite the choice of incredible wines we just had to go for the very fitting and not too pricey Tomero Malbec 2011, Mendoza, which was everything you would want it to be. It was smooth, fruity, slightly smokey and elegantly delicious.
Onto starters: we did not want to fill up too fast so we ordered some olives and Roast Bone Marrow, Parmesan and Caramelised Onion Toast to share. There was plenty to go around and on return I would love to try the other toast options available.
As expected, the dinner menu contains a lot of meat. There are five cuts of steak to choose from, from the 6oz D Rump at £14 to the 12.5oz sirloin (£27), each served with triple-cooked chips and a sauce (you can choose between green peppercorn, béarnaise and Madeira roasting juices). Other main course dinner options include The Ox Burger with smoked Cheddar and fries; fillet of brill with mussel velouté and fried sprouts; and, for the veggies, gnocchi, mushrooms and squash.
Despite my effort to have a healthy January my brother and I decided to share the 30oz T-Bone steak (850g), triple cooked chips, sauce, leeks & greens with béarnaise sauce – after all who goes to a steak house and has a salad? (The guilt – I only had a soup for lunch and Sam definitely ate about 20oz of the meat).
I have to say the meat was phenomenal, juicy, succulent, pink and melt in the mouth. All of their steaks are cooked in a charcoal grill which brings a smoky, almost barbecued edge to the impeccably sourced meat supplied by Winterbourne butcher Nigel Buxton. The chips were big, chunky (more potato makes me feel healthier) and gorgeous, and the leeks and greens side was delicious, bringing another texture.
My Dad went for the Rib Eye and was equally as impressed, whereas mum had the 6oz Rump, which was a bit chewy, and she was not hugely overwhelmed. However they had a side order of baby gem ranch dressing, Parmesan lettuce, which was incredible.
The dessert menu came around and as much as I wanted the chocolate delice, peanut butter crunch with salt caramel ice cream, I resisted and agreed to have a spoonful of my brothers’ double chocolate brownie ice cream – which was delicious. Creamy, chocolaty and yummy!
The staff were friendly, cool and very attentive without being pushy and were very knowledgeable about the wine and food. This is always a plus as sometimes I do question if the waiting staff have literally walked in off the street and picked up an apron.
I think its worth mentioning, at lunch, the set menu is a bargain – £15 for three courses and £12.50 for two – excellent value and I will definitely be going back. Also the cocktail menu looks sensational, I will definitely be back for the One Last Word (Tanqueray Gin, Green Chartreuse, Yellow Chartreuse, Maraschino,lime juice, grapefruit bitters).
In summary – great décor, phenomenal food & authentic.
The Ox, The Basement, 43 Corn Street, Bristol, 0117 922 1001. Open lunch, Thurs-Fri, 12.30-2.30pm; dinner, Tues-Sat, 5-10.30pm.