Oxford Street Brasserie
34a Oxford Street
Harrogate, HG1 1PP
Tel: 01423 505300
Open Tues - Sat Lunch: 12.00-2.30pm Dinner: 5.30-9.30pm
The first test of a restaurant is not the food; it’s the voice on the phone when booking and the warmth on arrival. I received both on my visit to the Oxford Street Brasserie in Harrogate, it continued throughout dinner and even at my request for a menu to take away. They didn’t have one they could give me right there and then, but it arrived by e-mail within the hour, very impressive.
The brasserie is a relative newcomer on the Harrogate dining scene and has stiff competition. It is also severely disadvantaged with its location, down a side street and above Carphone Warehouse and a view of the back of Debenhams from one of the large windows. Once tried however it is easy to ignore this.
The steep stairs up to the first floor open into a generous, brightly lit modern dining room. The staff bounce around like young pups and it seems that nothing is too much trouble for them. Menus arrive swiftly, drinks quickly after, there is no pressure to order and every question of this demanding customer answered with confidence. Gosh.
The menu is equally confident, unfussy and sensibly priced. The most expensive is a fillet of beef at £21.00, though it is served with fresh black truffle so understandable. I am relieved the daily specials board includes vegetarian dishes missing from the main menu.
A tiny cup of chilled Gazpacho arrives pre-starter. Someone in the kitchen has honed their knife skills and taste buds with perfectly cut dice of vegetables and a soup packed with flavour. I wished it were my starter I could have eaten a bowlful. I had ordered a salt cod, ‘Basquaise’ with peppers and air-dried ham. The cod was a large chunk of meaty flakes, squeaky fresh but sadly, despite the nature of the dish that the cod is salted, this had suffered a faintly heavy hand and a lack of thorough rinsing. Duck spring rolls, packed with moist tender duck and a light dressing though quickly reassured.
Throughout the starter, a luscious scent of truffles kept wafting across our table distracting me from my food. Someone nearby had chosen the beef and I wondered had I made the wrong choice in the pasta, with wild mushrooms. No way. A bowl of silky pasta with chunks of powerful mushrooms and - delight, delight - truffles arrived. I couldn’t find any slivers of my favourite fungus so suspect a scented oil but I didn’t care and devoured it with barely a word from my lips. Poached salmon and lobster with crushed Jersey Royals didn’t warrant the same orgasmic sighs of delight from the other half. He thoroughly enjoyed it, but as every morsel had the (good) creamy sauce on it, there was no opportunity to taste anything without it he said.
He chirped up when his all-time favourite dessert sticky toffee pudding arrived. It was his turn for eating in silence. My attempt to share it with him met with a decidedly frosty stare. I rank him as the county’s authority on this dish and he was well pleased.
Dinner came in at a respectable £70.00 for two including an excellent Seven Terraces Sauvignon Blanc - outstanding value for cooking and service of this calibre.