The Oxford Blue | Old Windsor (UK)

When he gets it right, it’s very serious cooking, accurate and often inspiring.
The “Michelin-starred pub vibe” is there, but keep watching the details!

The Oxford Blue is a long-established pub in Old Windsor, Berkshire (UK), just a stones throw away from Windsor, with glorious views stretching across Windsor Great Park. Acquired in 2015 by Chef Proprietor, Steven Ellis, the property has undergone a magnificent transformation marrying the finest elements of tradition with modern practicalities and comfort. It reopened at the very end of 2016. Tables are well-spaced, so they have not tried to jam too many customers into the space and the atmosphere is comforting but with a nice level of class.

Head Chef Steven Ellis grew up in the Middle East but went to catering college in the UK. He cooked for a year at Andrew Pern’s Michelin-starred Star Inn at Harome (Yorkshire), Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen and later as Sous Chef at Gordon Ramsay’s flagship restaurant, where he worked for over five years under Head Chef Clare Smyth. At the Oxford Blue Steven wants to present his own unique version of traditional English fayre, sophisticated yet familiar dishes using locally sourced ingredients.

The Oxford Blue is open for lunch from Wednesday to Sunday, for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday. and is closed on Monday and Tuesday. They offer an à la carte menu and a set lunch menu (on Wednesday to Saturday only) at £25 for 2 courses and £30 for 3 courses. Sunday afternoon has it’s own special menu, which basically the à la carte menu with a few added Sunday roast dishes. The Sunday menu offers 5 Starters (at £12.50-£16), 7 Mains (at £22-£30), 6 Sides (at £5) and 6 Desserts (at £8-£10). During weekdays they also offer a Set Lunch and Early Supper menu (2-courses £25 and 3-courses £31). A Sunday Lunch menu with a beef and pork roast (at £25-£27) and a special Children’s menu.

We had lunch at The Oxford Blue last Sunday and made our choices from the à la carte menu.

Venison Bonbons & Wholegrain Mustard Mayonnaise

Great start with these bonbons of venison from the Windsor Great Park estate. Just the right size and simply scrumptious. A bowl of these with a G&T would get me through the evening just fine!

Homemade Cider Bread & Cultured Butter

Nice warm crispy homemade cider bread, served in a paper bag which is torn open for you on the table. Cultured butter is typically created by adding live bacteria (cultures) to the butter before it’s churned, (versus regular butter which is cream that just goes straight to the churning machine). This results in a higher-fat product, which in turns makes the butter more silky and gives it a richer taste.

Braised Suckling Pig Trotter with Black Pudding, Apple and Sauce Gribiche (£16)

Great signature dish! Pig’s trotter is braised, picked and painstakingly formed into a gleaming cylinder, soft and seductively succulent. A bed of thinly sliced acidic apple adds crunch and freshness, as does the shouty sauce Gribiche with flavours of capers and tarragon. It’s simply delicious. Excellent crackling crisps. All together a divine dish!

Pork Crackling Crackers

The crackling deserves special attention. Nice and thin, crunchy crackers. Scrumptious.

Salmon Scotch Egg with Confit Lemon and Sorrel Velouté (£12.50)

Perfect runny egg in the Scotch egg. Scotch egg taste very nice, but couldn’t taste much of the salmon. The sorrel volouté full of fresh, citrusy and green notes. Very good on it’s own, but somewhat overpowering the Scotch egg. Nice dish, but needs a better balance of flavours and taste.

Roast Crown of Windsor Great Park Partridge with Seasonal Baby Vegetables and Stuffing (£25)

Unfortunately the partridge filets were not prepared properly as the tendons were left in there. The meat was also very tough, which made it very unpleasant to eat. A real shame as the rest on the plate was fine. The best part of the dish was the stuffing!
So we didn’t finish the dish. Unfortunately the staff only noticed it when we had finished the other dish and came to collect our plates. They apologised and took the dish away, but didn’t offer us another dish (which we probably would have declined anyway). After the meal, when we were presented with the bill, the staff member mentioned they took the dish of the bill (which was good) and the explanation of tough partridge was that it was game and it can happen that there is a tough one in there. Not sure if I agree with that to be honest and it doesn’t explain the tendons that were left in there…

Beef Wellington with Carrots, Shallots and Truffle Mash (£30)

The beef was also a bit tough. Needed a bit more resting I think. Nice and pink though and seasoned well. Good flavours, but the toughness of the beef kind of destroys that. Really liked the mash with just enough truffle in there. But all and all, not a star dish to me.

Yorkshire Puddings, Vegetables and Roast Potatoes

Because it was a Sunday lunch the dishes were accompanied by the English Sunday roast necessities. Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and veg. I only missed the big bowl of gravy!

The Oxford Blue’s Cambridge Burnt Cream (£9)
Vanilla – Cinnamon Biscuits – Homemade Marmalade

Nice presentation! The Cambridge Burnt Cream (The British version of the crème brûlée) was served too cold, and was too stodgy and lacked flavour. The orange marmalade was way too bitter. Too strong for the Cambridge Burnt Cream in any case. Cinnamon biscuits were very tasty and well baked though. No harmony in this dish.

Rhubarb (£9)
Mille-Feuille – Poached Rhubarb – Custard

Fortunately we ended with a great dessert! Tangy rhubarb with creamy custard. The Cambridge Burnt Cream should have had this consistency! Smooth sorbet and crisp mille-feuille. Great dish and perfectly executed.

Chocolate with Sea Salt & Hazelnuts

Nice bit of salted chocolate with hazelnuts to go with our coffees and always fun to smash it up yourself!

The staff is very efficient and continuously attentive. You will never see your water glass empty or your table freckled with crumbs. The service is in line with the professionalism and sophistication of the food and overall feel. The Oxford Blue is presented as a pub (flagstone floors, tartan upholstery, ales on tap) but it really is a restaurant, and a seriously sophisticated one at that.

To be honest I have mixed reviews about this lunch. There were a few hick ups and mistakes in some of the dishes, some easily corrected, others just sloppy. But when he gets it right, then it’s very serious cooking, accurate, assured and often inspiring. The Chef is clearly aiming for, and working hard to get that star recognition. The “Michelin-starred pub vibe” is there, but keep watching the details!