The Magdalen Arms

The Magdalen Arms, Iffley Road Oxford. 01865 243159

Now clearly it would seem obvious that I would want to promote a relatively local and new gastro-pub enterprise. BUT this is not one of those ‘for the sake of it’ cases. I have been waiting to find somewhere consistently brilliant to eat in our area for years and heard about the above a few weeks ago. Yes I am well behind the times because it opened early last year (!!) but this says more about my being stuck in my ways than anything else.

Anyway, last night we tried it. I was stunned. It was the best meal I have eaten since last in Paris at Chez Andre on the left bank and that was so memorable I can still conjure up the flavours in my mouth to this day. I have tried to re-create that menu many times in my own kitchen – never quite matching it of course, but nearly. I know a bit about cooking, both my granny and mother having been Cordon Bleu trained to different degrees. I also know how important the role of the environment is to the experience of eating. The Magdalen Arms hits ALL the buttons – and particularly mine!

I had deep-fried cornish squid with aioli followed by mustard rabbit, pureed broad beans and new potatoes sautéed with spring onions and hispi gabbage. Everything was freshly prepared and cooked – quite exquisite. A feast also for the eyes! I won’t go on about each honest morsel, just trust me it was the best!

We’d had a drink in the pub garden before the meal and left our jackets on chairs to denote ‘ownership’ (no reservations in the bar and the restaurant was fully booked). On our return we found two little duralex water glasses and a wonderful old pichet (german with vines and leaves around the bowl, wide lip and a few chips in the base), a small basket of thinly sliced, very fresh, coarse breads and fabulous Normandy (my guess) butter. A lovely welcome.

The service throughout was friendly, authoritative and appropriate at all times.

The place itself (ex ‘Victorian working man’s’ pub) combines rustic/bistro and vintage/homely a la N-N/East London. Not pretentious just stylish and completely comfortable with itself. So of course the people eating and drinking in it also felt comfortable – and so did we.

I want to go at least once a week and at around £50/60 for two which included a really good bottle of vin de Pays D’Oc (no pudding but they looked amazing), we may very well do this.

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