When OX opened on historic Oxford Street in Belfast in 2012, it soon became the most talked about restaurant in town. In 2015 it was awarded an eagerly anticipated Michelin Star to add to its ever-growing collection of accolades. Its clientele is eclectic, attracting both well-heeled food aficionados and those on a more modest budget, thanks to its reasonably priced but stunning menu.
2016 saw Northern Ireland celebrate a year of food and drink, successfully securing its status as a world class gastronomy hotspot. And, while many restaurants in the city have stepped up to the mark, OX has remained centre stage.
I recently visited OX for a midweek lunch on a chilly January day to see if it lived up to its great reputation.
While nothing much to look at from the outside, inside I found a welcoming, bright and relaxed atmosphere without pretension. The seasonally led menu was limited, placing quality over quantity. You certainly couldn’t dispute its value, with a two course lunch costing £20 and three courses for £25. Where else can you dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant for under £30? If you wish to spend more though, their 5 course tasting menu with wine pairing costs £80 a head. While their lunch menu offers a limited choice, the same could not be said for their wine collection or indeed their extensive list of gins.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first course, and my main course was even better – two chunks of succulent chateaubriand served with ox tongue, sprouting broccoli and a smoked potato – a wonderful mix of rich and earthy flavours. Everything came beautifully presented and service was excellent, without any undue fuss. I was, however, a little disappointed with my cheese course, finding their choice of wafer thin crispbread a less than perfect match for the robust Irish cheeses.
At the end of our lunch, a delightful surprise came in the form of exquisitely delicious passion fruit pastels, delicate jasmine macarons and a dark chocolate petit four with a touch of rosemary that danced on my taste buds.
Overall, my experience of OX was excellent. My two companions were both thoroughly delighted with every aspect of their lunch, and throughout my stay in Belfast, I heard nothing but praise for this extremely popular restaurant. Likewise for their wine bar, OX Cave, just next door.
With their first joint venture such a resounding success, Stephen Toman and Alain Kerloc’h could be expected to open further restaurants, yet I’m told that is not the case. Their preference, for now at least, is to remain focused on OX, a choice to retain quality over quantity that I applaud.
Photography by Kathryn Burrington
Featured image: Caramelised apple, treacle, oats, fig leaf ice cream
Lunch trio (clockwise from main image: Chateaubriand, ox tongue, sprouting broccoli, smoked potato, Butter poached hake, mussels, chevril root, anise, Selected Irish cheeses, fermented celeriac, crisp bread
Interiors: Ox and Ox Cave
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