The Big Bang exists as a conscious reaction against pseudo-gourmet frippery.
Having said that, anyone who actually cares about good food should be delighted by this recent addition to Walton Street. Nearly all the ingredients are sourced locally, and the individual dishes are designed with a great sensitivity to complementary tastes and textures.
The menu consists of a diverse range of bangers-and-mashes and pies, priced between £4.99 and £8.99. For your money you get two fat sausages on a mound of mashed potato, with fried onion, a dollop of red cabbage, green peas and gravy. Chances are, if you are an Oxford-based sausage-lover, you will already be familiar with the kind of high-quality sausage available in the Covered Market. It is the careful combination of well-cooked components (I was particularly impressed by the unanointed peas, balancing the richness of the other flavours with their green freshness) that makes this better than anything most of us are likely to get at home.
My venison bangers came with a gorgeous, garlicky, rosemary-scented mash – just enough garlic to accentuate everything else, but not reek-level. One of my companions went for Lincolnshire pork and tomato sausages, which were accompanied by a mustard mash and an excellent stilton gravy. Her bangers went particularly well with the sweetcorn relish, one of three sauces provided. The other two, a wholegrain mustard and a tomato salsa, we felt were comparatively unremarkable. As of next week, however, a new range of mustards is being brought in from the local company Shaken Oak . The third of us opted for the steak and ale pie. The filling was delightfully tender and rich, but we thought the pastry topping was less satisfactory – it had a disappointingly doughy texture. It was, on the other hand, accompanied by some of the best chips I have ever eaten. These aren’t actually offered on the menu as a side dish, but if no one in your party is having one of the pies with which they are served, it’s worth asking.
The beer-drinking member of my party was pleased by the range of Hook Norton ales (£2.85 – £3.35), and would particularly recommend the Twelve Days ale (while stocks last!). The wine-drinker and I started with whisky-and-ginger (£2.50) and went on to sample the house red and house white and the Deakin Australian Sauvignon. The owner, in his Navy days, was in charge of buying the wine for the ships on which he served, and six of the best of his repertoire make up the wine list. The Deakin Sauvignon is especially successful in combination with pork. The one we both particularly liked, however, was the house red. It’s good value, French, incredibly easy to drink, rich, soft, cuddly and fractionally sweet.
Only one strictly vegetarian dish was currently on offer: Basil & Vine Tomato Sausages with the house speciality: rose mash. We had the opportunity to sample this mash, which is pretty special and rather strange: mashed potato of a deep and intense pink. The colour comes from beetroot and red cabbage, and the overall effect is peppery, vinegary, moist, hot and extremely moreish. The mixture is apparently stirred twice overnight at 3am and again at 6am by a long-suffering chef.
The apple crumble with which we finished was, like so much here, unusual but sensitively designed for its context, i.e. after large portions of filling, savoury food. A strangely light and munchable version, with tender apples and a low-key topping; not too sweet either.
Although – or perhaps because – this is a small operation and a first-time venture for the owner, it is very professionally run – the premises are spotless, everything arrives at the right temperature (this matters for mashed potato) and the service is rapid and friendly. It even offers a takeaway option. There is a further reason to visit this January if you are in a sausage mood – until the end of the month, the company is dedicating 10% of the takings and all tips to the tsunami appeal.
From Daily Info