When I think of The Ox restaurants in Bristol, I always picture unashamed decadence, statement cocktails, a strong wine list and a menu that would make any proud steak lover cry.
I choose to go here on a regular basis because of another reason, and that’s quality. Food is taken seriously at The Ox, with an emphasis on local and seasonal produce being at the forefront of the menu, and expert chefs creating and cooking exceptional dishes.
The Ox always feels like a real treat, and I had only ever visited the Corn Street venue up until this week – when I was lucky enough (well, I was pretty much giddy with excitement) to be invited to go along to the Clifton restaurant to sample their new ‘casual dining’ menu; which centres around – you guessed it, BURGERS. And I reckon I’m a pretty qualified judge when it comes to those.
The Ox at Clifton has all the similar trappings of its Corn Street predecessor; elegant furnishings and that sophisticated, polished feel. There are however, some differences; big floor to ceiling windows result in the restaurant being much lighter, and it’s bigger – with the open kitchen being visible from wherever you may be sat. The most noticeable difference here is the impressive marble-topped bar area, which is an eye-pleasing focal point within the setting.
After pulling up a stool and starting with some drinks, we were of course offered the opportunity to sit down at a table for dinner had we so wished; but sitting up in the hub of all the excitement was part of the fun and felt very New York City of us. I realised I don’t do it often enough, as there is something arguably “cool” about sitting opposite the bartender working his magic, making conversations with others who may be sat nearby and generally soaking up the atmosphere.
Cocktails and my standard Malbec were ordered and arrived alongside goodies of marinated olives and beef dripping popcorn (yes it’s a thing, and yes it’s more addictive and moreish than you could possibly imagine).
The first small plates to come out from the kitchen were hickory smoked ribs with chopped salad and buffalo chicken wings with a blue cheese dressing.
This may come as a surprise, but I rarely order ribs when eating out. Too many times have I been left covered in BBQ sauce and disappointed at the amount of actual meat on the bone. But these were delicious; sticky, (without the sauce going absolutely everywhere – which I know is what a lot of people want when ordering ribs, but I often find the flavour gets lost in an overwhelming abundance of sauce) with lots of fleshy meat that fell away and a smokiness that was not too overpowering. Although it was a small plate, this was still a generous amount with three decent sized ribs and a side of salad.
This will not however surprise you, that I am a big fan of chicken wings. The Ox’s stood the test of time. Smaller Buffalo wings that again came as quite a generous portion (we had about 6 on a plate), marinated in a thick hot sauce with a slight kick, I’m guilty in the fact that I was licking the bones. The blue cheese dressing was excellent; not too runny or gloopy, it was creamy and stood up to the sauce on the chicken perfectly, a match made in heaven I would say.
If you were to tell me the night was going to continue in this fashion I would’ve fallen off my stool.
Next up was the moment of truth….the burgers.
As we all know, we’re not short of a bun or four thousand in Bristol. The Ox is keeping their offering simple. Firstly, you choose your meat; the options are the prime-cuts beef burger, or the spiced chicken burger. Once this has been decided, you then have the freedom to choose from a range of options, including grilled field mushroom, bacon, pastrami, confit onion and blue cheese. We were very lucky to try a whole range of menu combinations between our burger crew – and you can imagine my delight when I saw these bad boys all lined up on the pass ready to be eaten.
To look at, the burgers were nothing short of grand. The prime beef cuts were piled high, some with pink strands of bacon peeking out from underneath the top side, others oozing blue cheese all over the meat and down onto the plank it was served on. The spiced chicken fillet portions were not for the faint hearted; large chunks of bird were cushioned in between soft buns topped with sesame seeds and glorious green lettuce leaves escaping from either side. In a word, the burgers looked EPIC. I was excited.
If I had any doubt in my mind that the burger offering at The Ox was not going to stand up to Bristol’s finest, that was soon banished upon my first bite. Juicy and still a little on the pink side (how I prefer it), the meat was well seasoned and flavoursome, not that I would have doubted the chefs here serving us anything less. I’m a gherkin girl and was pleased to have this crunch to cut through what was quite a mouthful, alongside tomato and plenty of bacon. The blue cheese offering was equally as delicious, and therein lies the beauty in picking your own toppings – you can have as little or as many as you like, according to what you fancy. The burger ticked all of the boxes for me, it tasted great, had just the right amount of toppings without going overboard and falling apart and it was comforting, I knew it was going to be good, but not this good.
Now, onto the chicken burger, and what can I say, it was nothing short of sensational. As everyone knows, I have long championed the ‘Prairie Girl’ burger from Burger Theory as one of my all-time favourites. Well, The Ox’s chicken burger is right behind it, maybe even next to it. It was EVERYTHING you could ever want in a chicken burger! A huge fillet, smothered in crunchy, crispy, spicy breadcrumbs which tasted just glorious. The crunch from the chicken with the softness of the bun meant I really didn’t want it to end. It didn’t get old. Even writing this now I want another one, and another one. It was absolutely one of my favourite things I have eaten this year so far.
Another important point to mention is the burger buns. They stood united; didn’t crumble, flake, break or go soggy from the juices of the meat and fall apart.
Coming in at £12.50 a burger, this is an absolute steal for (what I said at the beginning), quality. Going to The Ox doesn’t always have to be for a special occasion or for when you want to dress fancy (although it is always perfect for that sort of evening), you can also pop in for lunch or an early supper and eat a decent meal for a great price.
If you are a burger lover like yours truly, then I’d encourage you to add it to your list.