There is a plethora of restaurants in Oxford you might think, right? Enough choice to keep you dining out for a few months perhaps, but if you discount the chains, it’s slim pickings. That really is quite disappointing for a city of this calibre. We all know the reasons …. the impact of the college kitchens, the size of the (non-student, non-tourist) population ….. so to have a new restaurant literally pop-up every now and then is very welcome.
The pop-up in question popped up last weekend at TVC Oxford, The Varsity Club, on the High Street.
Chef Jorge Fernendez, originally from Portugal, trained in Seville and London before moving to Oxford and cementing himself within the passionate team at Branca in Jericho. This is not Jorge’s first pop-up night at TVC and he returned by popular demand to cook for his many fans.
It is a fantastic concept, a win-win for those talented, energetic and confident enough to cook and equally for the willing customers eager to sample the dishes of food but without the necessity and responsibility of opening a restaurant in permanent premises.
TVC produces great food in its own right, fantastic quality sharing boards and small plates, but these pop-up nights add another dimension. New talent, new ideas, new flavours all of which should be encouraged. Etch is another night they have hosted, with more in the pipeline.
Jorge introduced his eclectic menu with an homage to the cocktail expertise of TVC, a tangy mojito sphere and creamy lime foam, molecular mastery and a burst of flavour which really woke up the senses.
There is nothing better than homemade loaves of bread, which arrived at the table accompanied by a number of potted condiments including a smooth black bean hummus and a smoked mackerel paté.
The first course was an astonishingly good pan-fried octopus tentacles and turbot, gently drizzled with a creamy dill sauce and served on a bed of roasted broccoli and cauliflower purees.
This was followed by shoulder of lamb, but not as we know it. Slow cooked, pulled from the bone, seasoned with Moroccan spices and pan fried in rounds. It was highly seasoned and incredibly moreish.
The sweetened honey cake for desert appeared smelling of ginger and cinnamon which Jorge paired with a homemade lemon ice-cream. Couldn’t ask for more really, except for more of the same.
Just a brilliant experience and so satisfying. Here’s to the pop-up.