Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Fishes: 3 for the Set

You'll never be able to say that Oxford suffers from lack of piscologist-themed food venues.
Behold, my latest excursion into the world of upscale pubbery: The Fishes.
As they say right up front on their website, the "heart of gastropubbery in Oxford"
Oh, the elusive and beguiling concept of the gastropub.
Not quite a pub. Actually, nothing resembling a pub.
Welcome to the subtle variations that are your dining/drinking options in the UK. Instead of the "traditional" pub food that has characterized and frightened many a US tourist in years past, the gastropub prides itself on not only a hearty alcohol list (and no one will turn their nose up at you for ordering wine here), but also inventive and remastered dishes. Some gastropubs try to keep at least some English flavor to their menus, featuring things like black pudding mashed potatoes. Others, like the Fishes, conform mightly to the concept of continental bistro cuisine.
Large starter options have been reclassified as cute little one-item bites, affordably priced at 1.75. Which sounds reasonable until your order of crudites arrived and you realize you've paid the equivalent of almost 3 dollars for sliced raw carrots and celery. Not even a friendly dip comes alongside. Dips are priced individually as well, so you'll have to pay an additional 1.75 if you have any hope of turning your poor carrot slices into something that doesn't resemble what your mom packed you for lunch during high school.
Things like a "Vegetable Muffin" pop up on the menu, sounding ridiculously pretentious. Served with warm gazpacho (which I believe misses the whole point) and a "bed" of spinach leaves, it's one of those things that surprisingly comes exactly as described. Indeed: a muffin made of vegetables.

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