We’re spoiled for choice in Oxfordshire when it comes to fantastic restaurants, but if you’ve never been to Two One Five Kitchen & Drinks, you’re missing out. Big time. Formerly The Oxford Kitchen, holding the city’s only Michelin star, the restaurant relaunched over lockdown with a more relaxed dining offering and new name (a nod to its location on Banbury Road, in Summertown). Fear not loyal customers – it’s still the same award-winning team at the helm.
Buzzy – we arrived on a Wednesday lunchtime and although Summertown was relatively quiet, pretty much every table was filled inside and out throughout the whole service. I’m told this has been the case since the restaurant reopened. Basically if you want to eat here, book ahead.
Fine dining can often come with a stiff atmosphere, but not here – the vibe is relaxed and welcoming, and the decor paired-back with exposed brick walls and modest place settings (there’s no worry about which fork you should be used for which course). The funky Andy Warhol prints hung on the walls bring a splash of colour to the space and compliment the vibrant food.
For special occasions, there’s also a private dining space upstairs.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Executive Chef Paul Welburn has years of Michelin cooking experience under his belt and knows his stuff when it comes to creating dishes that make the most of British staples, yet are totally inventive (see his stint on The Great British Menu for drool-inducing evidence).
His menu makes the most of seasonal ingredients, with most sourced from UK producers – pork from a family-run farm in Suffolk, micro-herbs and greens foraged locally in Oxon, fresh fruit and veg from Covent Garden Market – the list goes on.
The shtick here is that everything is prepared from scratch in the kitchen and the passion for food is evident, from the taste and presentation, to the staff who are eager to talk you through the menu and share their favourite dishes. No surprise the restaurant was awarded 3 AA Rosettes pretty much immediately after reopening.
Seeing as it was lunchtime, we opted for the set menu at a very reasonable £35 for two courses, £40 for three, although there’s also a five course tasting menu available all day for £55pp (plus £40pp for wine pairings). I will be returning to scoff that one evening, elasticated waistband in tow.
To start I chose gin-cured chalk steam trout (try saying that after a glass of fizz), fennel, dill, tonic and lemon puree which looked like a piece of modern art with its vibrant pinks and greens….
…whilst my plus one chose the confit duck cake with raspberry ketchup (see what I mean about inventive?), beetroot and black garlic – we were told this is one of the most popular dishes on the menu, and she wasn’t disappointed.
For the mains, I continued the fish theme with roasted stonebass (although lemongrass smoked halibut was a close second choice). It arrived on a bed of pea puree, with griddled baby gem lettuce (a revelation) and crisp potato slathered in warm, punchy tartar sauce. Bliss.
My carnivorous companion chose the 48-hour pork with carrot puree, radish, mustard, pineapple and Szechuan pepper which was met with silence – the highest of compliments. The presentation: flawless.
Now, if you’re one of those people who’s always ‘too full for dessert’ then you’re going to want to have a rethink here. The raspberry cheesecake with fennel, sable Breton and elderflower (recommended by our lovely waiter) was the perfect balance of creamy, tart and sweet. Then the caramelised Ivoire chocolate with coffee and asparagus ice cream (yes, it really works!) was virtually an X-rated experience for the tastebuds. Gun to my head, I couldn’t tell you which one was tastier.
For drinks, there were plenty of options including a carefully curated wine list (28 by the glass or there are more options by the bottle) and selection of signature and classic cocktails. The Yorkshire Rhubarb Sour, with Paul Welburn’s homemade schnapps sounded delicious, although a little boozy for a designated driver (*sob*). If G&T’s your poison there’s also plenty to choose from including local TOAD and Cotswolds Dry Gin.
OUT & ABOUT
If you’re sticking around Summertown there are a string of independent shops and cafés, including Vanilla boutique and Columbia Coffee Roasters. Alternatively, you can head 10 minutes down the road to central Oxford with its unbeatable shopping (see Westgate Oxford) and cultural offering (see the Ashmolean, Pitt Rivers, Museum of Natural History or our feature here for under-the-radar hidden gems). Elsewhere, Port Meadow, one of the city’s novelist green spaces, is just a 20 minute walk.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Foodies, date nights or a special meal out with friends.
Not for: The food here is refined and adventurous – if you’re a fussy eater you might struggle wrapping your head around the inventive flavour combinations (or taste the food and change your ways).
The damage: Not too shabby considering the quality of the food. The set menu is £35 for two courses or £40 for three. The tasting menu is £55 for five courses, with an added £40 for wine pairings. The restaurant has also continued its takeaway option (read the Muddy review here) available for collection and delivery every Friday (mains £18, desserts £7, extras £3.50).
Two One Five Kitchen & Drinks, 215 Banbury Rd, Summertown, Oxford, OX2 7HQ. Tel: 01865 511149