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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I visited Belfast and Northern Ireland as a guest of Tourism Northern Ireland and Tourism Ireland but as always my comments are my own honest opinions.
Boutique Travel Blog’s founder and editor, Kathryn, also blogs at TravelWithKat.com where she shares her passion for discovering new countries, cultures and cuisines.
That is very affordable. I think I spent more than this last time I went to Pizza Express! I actually went to a Michelin star place in Valencia and it was also not expensive, so it is good to shatter the perceptions that you need £200 to walk in the door. It looks quite rustic and relaxed too.
Yes, there was a nice and relaxed atmosphere – not stuffy at all.
Looks delicious! Like the idea of a bargain lunchtime deal for a taste of Michelin starred dining without a huge price tag.
It really was very good value
Never mind the food… I want that wine rack! The food looks amazing and what a treat and great value
Ha ha! Me too. I’ll be redecorating my living room soon and I was going to have a bookcase along one wall but now I’m thinking wine rack!
I can’t believe the cost! Wow – under £30 is amazing for Michelin starred. I wonder if there’s anything similar in London?
I have no idea but I think we need to find out!
You don’t usually hear the words affordable and Michelin in the same breath. I found the food of Ireland fantastic and it sounds as if OX could be added right on to my list. They’ve done a nice job keeping the decor chic and simple, letting the food shine all on it’s own. Thanks for sharing this great find.
Affordable and Michelin star don’t usually go together, this sounds excellent!