Restaurant review: 'If I lived closer, I would book in for lunch every week'

Restaurant review: 'If I lived closer, I would book in for lunch every week'


The last time that I ate at Ox, which was a couple of years ago, I fell into conversation with a man who has lunch there every Friday, at the same corner table. This struck me as a civilised habit, one I aspire to adopt in the future, albeit a little closer to where I live. He has stayed in touch on Twitter and occasionally lets me know about other good meals that he has had. Alain Kerloc’h, who owns Ox with chef Stevie Toman, tells me that on the rare occasion the man can’t make it, his wife steps in and takes up the slot. Every restaurant needs customers such as these.

On this occasion, we visited for lunch on a Thursday, so my friend was not there, but the room was pleasantly full and we sat at the table for four in the window. You wouldn’t think that looking out on to a main road, with the river running alongside it but barely visible, the yellow Harland and Wolff cranes towering in the distance, would be particularly pleasant, but somehow it is.

I love the dining room at Ox. I don’t think that there’s a restaurant in the country that has as high a ceiling, and the simple, modernist furniture is both good-looking and comfortable. A re-vamp of the kitchen means that the chefs are now more on show than they were before. I spot a young man, Matt Logan, whose food I’ve eaten on a few previous occasions, working away alongside Stevie. Alain says that every chance he gets, during his holidays, Matt is off staging in a different great restaurant in New York or Copenhagen. The kitchen crew look like a happy bunch, and the floor staff are delightful, too, relaxed yet wholly professional. The young Italian woman sommelier wears her knowledge lightly, while dispensing good advice.

Having driven up from Dublin just for lunch, it seemed a shame not to go for the full tasting menu, which has several dishes in common with the set lunch.

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Gougeres are the perfect canapé. Chapter One does an excellent version, filled with caramelly, nutty Coolea, today at Ox the filling is of strong-flavoured Coolattin cheddar and beer; there’s mushroom in there, too, I think, or else the beer has mushroomy notes. A tiny pastry shell of beetroot and duck liver is another tasty morsel.

Next comes a beautiful, luxurious dish that one of my companions describes succinctly as ‘hot remoulade’ – shredded celeriac with grapes and trompette mushrooms in an ethereal foam topped with a generous amount of shaved winter truffle.

A tartare of wild Wicklow venison with St Tola and red cabbage dressed with punchy mustard, concealed under a translucent layer of paper-thin mooli radish, is bold and assertive. Scallops and romanesco come in a subtle bisque flavoured with bergamot and sea herbs, and then there’s tender pheasant with intense parsnips and the bright green of Brussels sprout leaves.

Stevie Toman once told me that the Northern Irish customer loves beef, and that it would be a brave restaurant that didn’t have at least one beef dish on its menu. Here, the chateaubriand comes will outstanding smoked carrots, a rich purée of black garlic and a bone marrow jus. The flavours are rich and superbly savoury.

By way of sweetness, there’s brioche ice cream with clementine, chestnut and brandy, the flavours of winter, and the richness of chocolate with cherry and ginger – and a little gold leaf for good measure – with a light coconut ice cream. Petit fours are as delectable as everything that has preceded them – from dainty miso macarons to cranberry jellies and the rosemary-scented 70pc chocolate that reminds me of a very sophisticated Aero bar.

We drink the exceptional Riesling Dirstelberg 2017, from winemaker and poet Agathe Bursin in Alsace (£63), and the Morgon 2017 from Chateau de Grand Pre (£57). The bill for four, with water, comes to £353.50 before service.

If I lived locally, I too would be booking in for lunch on a weekly basis; as it is, my New Year’s resolution is to take the train north more frequently.


9/10 food

10/10 ambience

10/10 value



The bargain two-course lunch costs £22; three courses will set you back £28.


The six-course tasting menu with matching wines is priced at £95.


Truly elegant, properly seasonal, Michelin-starred food served with buckets of charm in one of the most stylish and relaxed dining rooms on the island.


It was tough on the designated driver.

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