Monday, 13 December 2010
The Ox Bar & Inn, 71 Liverpool Road, Castlefield, Manchester, M3 4NQ
Continuing from the last post … (special shout-out to SJ in Japan who requested something on English food!)
After sleeping for what felt like days (it was in fact, only 8 hours) and waking up with my tongue stuck to the top of my mouth, eyes slightly swollen, and hair like a bird’s nest after a flapping session with the girls, I took a well-needed shower and was all ready to eat again. The first thing which took my fancy were the mince pies. As I walked into the kitchen, all 8 of the pies (and 2 cookies) were staring me in the face, so I took the decision to eat half a mince pie. And then the other half.
That craving satisfied, we watched a little weekend telly – a bit of Nigella cooking some terribly-bad-for-you stuff (what’s new), a bit of Australian MasterChef (who knew you could make little sugar balls out of caramelising sugar?) and then who-knows-what (all these cooking programmes blurring into one) which just made me more hungry.
Which made the decision to go for a Sunday roast one of the best decisions of the day.
Now, before I continue, let me state this fact. I have not been much of a fan of Sunday roasts. I mean, I like the idea of it and all, and do understand the fascination that other people have with the stuff, but I can’t say it’s one of the things I’d choose to eat out of all other things. What is my bug bear with it? Well, lack of taste, to be honest. I prefer food with strong, jazz-hands tastes. Food which leap off the plate and onto the taste-buds shouting ‘TAAAAAASTY’. Which is not what I’ve experienced with roasts so far.
Before any of you decide to tell me how wrong I am (was), and that I’m pathetic for not having tasted THEEEE best roast there is before having made these comments, look, this is what the post is about. My roast-realisation, is what I’ll call it. Roast with the most.
How did we find this place? How did we stumble from mince pies to roast with the most? Well, word has it that this place does one of the best Sunday roasts in Manchester. Now if Word has it, then we also have to have it. After having walked past a few frozen canals and through the cobbled streets of Castlefield, we arrived at The Ox.
A sturdy white building right by the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), this was a building I usually walked right past – either on the way to Dpercussion in Castlefield, or to Akbar’s for a curry. Whenever we went by in the summer, there would be quite a few people having drinks outside in the sunshine, and therefore, I always had it in my mind that this wasn’t a place that served food – thus, not interested.
Oh how wrong I was.
Coming in from the cold, grey day that was Sunday in Manchester, we were greeted by the warm, brown, woody interior of this Ye Olde English styled pub. The bar counter was made of dark-brown wood, with lots of brass-coloured pub-things hanging off the top, and huge paintings of (slightly overweight) oxen around the place.
A crackling fireplace, lots of squealing, happy children, and plenty of food around completed the picture of a nice Sunday lunch at the pub.
As we managed to get a last-minute table booking, the 5 of us were sat at a table for 4 right next to the fire. Couldn’t complain though, as that kept us warm and toasty (literally toasty) and that also meant we could try the famed roast out! Menus at the ready …
For £12.95, we could have had 2 courses of either a starter and a main, or a main and a dessert. Add another 2 quid and you could have all 3 courses! Why not!
Because I’ve had too much mince pies, that’s why.
This is what else we could have chosen from the set menu.
2 courses selected, we sat down and waited - me with my pot of tea, and the others with a hangover.
When the first courses arrived, I almost had to calm myself down from the flurry of excitement I felt. It wasn’t even my food that had been served, but hey, sometimes taking pictures of food is even better than eating it (very rarely, I must say).
The pate looked amazing – almost like a very rectangular piece of avocado that was just ripe. Around the outer edge of the rectangle, there was a thin greenish frame while the inside of the rectangle looked pink and soft. For what it was, they sure were generous with their portions. Our friends who had this looked like they enjoyed it a lot. Not much talking, lots of pate eating.
Pity about the melba toast though. I can’t say any of us were Melba toast experts, but from our limited store-bought toast experience, this sure wasn’t Melba toast. It looked more like a well-browned piece of tortilla that had been stacked up nicely on top of the pate.
As friends do, we offered them some of the bread from our starter so that they could make a pate butty with it. Classy stuff, us.
This was the starter I had (actually, I shared this with the fiancé – we were both saving space for the kebab after this). What? What’s wrong with having a kebab after a Sunday roast? Nothing, is the answer, when this is THEEE best kebab in Manchester! Anyway, back to our starter. I had no clue what a rilet was when I ordered it, but as I fancied having some fish, I chose the only fish option on the menu. I won’t lie and say that I was blown over when the dish arrived. It was quite small, and paled in comparison to our friends’ generous chunk of pate.
However, when I had a bite of it, I realised that the menu was true to its word. Describing it as smoked haddock with butter (or something like that), this was exactly it – fishy, tender and flaky, and buttery. So much so that we didn’t have to add any butter to the bread and you could still taste the butter. Despite thinking that the portions were quite miserly when I first started on the dish, I actually thought that it was just the right portion size when I’d finished it. Any more and it would have been too much fish.
Then came the main meals. Boy oh boy was I excited when I saw the others’ meals (we’d all but one ordered the same thing) – the Yorkshire pudding was HEEUUUUGE!
From where I was sitting, I could just about see the beef on the plate when the waitress was bringing it over, and it looked exactly like how I think perfectly cooked beef should look.
Generous slab of roast beef on plate. Magnificence.
Not only did we have mash potato (creamy mm mm), we also had mash sweet potato, roast potatoes (crispy mm mm) and beans which didn’t look like they’d been cooked since last week (like so often the case).
The beef was one of the nicest, if not, THE nicest roast beef I’ve had in a Sunday roast. It wasn’t actually roast beef, in my opinion, which is probably why I liked it so much. It tasted and looked more like steak than it did roast beef. For one, it didn’t have the carving serration you’d find in a carved slice of beef. Also, it wasn’t dry. How amazing is that! Juicy, rare (just the way I like it), and immensely tender, this was one good piece of roast beef.
The roasties were perfect – soft and mushy on the inside, kinda crispy on the outside. The mash was buttery, and the beans – well, only tried one but it was OK (fiancé had the rest).
On the whole, this must be one of the best Sunday roasts I’ve had, and will definitely set the benchmark for others. Rubbing our happy bellies, we then set off to Abdul’s in Fallowfield for some of their mixed kebab – didn’t take any pics so you’re gonna have to check out the older post on this if you wanna see any pics of it.
On the way back to the car park, we walked by the frozen canal – good thing we were warm with food.