You know what they say, ‘Third time lucky.’ I have called at The Oxford Place twice before to do a review, the first time was on a Monday, they only open Wednesday to Sunday, and the second time it was closed as they were on holiday. It is a family run restaurant so these things happen. Today, however, my persistence was rewarded.
The Oxford Place is Leeds’ only totally gluten free restaurant which means that there is no chance of cross-contamination from other foods. I was anxious to try it because gluten intolerance is a medical condition rather than a lifestyle choice and so it is great that someone is catering, literally, especially for the sufferers. I have many intolerances, as does every grumpy old man, but thankfully gluten isn’t one of them so I was interested to see how the food would compare with the traditional versions.
There is a special lunch menu served between opening time, at noon, and 3.00pm although it is only the main course which is reduced, the puddings are from the normal bill of fare. I had made my mind up by looking at the menu on-line that I wanted to try the Battered Haddock ‘Goujons’ with Skinny Frites, partly to see how gluten free batter would taste and partly to find out why the word Goujons appears in inverted commas on the menu.
When I arrived at about 12.30 I was the only one in the restaurant so I had my pick of where to sit. I noticed that there were several sizes of table which I like as being a sole diner feel guilty about taking up a table for four, or worse, six, when I am on my own and the place begins to fill up. I went to a table set for two and the owner removed the other place setting to give me more room, a nice touch. The restaurant is traditionally furnished but quirky at the same time. It comprises two rooms, one at the front and a larger one to the rear down a couple of steps. Speaking of steps, this must be one of the few eateries and bars in Leeds where the toilets are on the ground floor. I know that floor space is money but I get a bit fed up of a trek to the attic or cellar when I want to go to the loo. I told you I was intolerant. The price of the main course was £9.95 which I at first thought was a bit expensive for small strips of fish and thin chips. I was right, but that is not what I got. I was served with three large pieces of haddock perfectly cooked in a batter made with gluten free flour and beer. Had I been served this dish in any restaurant or pub I would not have realised that it was not made in the traditional style, but I would have been surprised at the quality, and quantity. The batter was crisp and thin with no hint of doughiness and the frites were also perfectly cooked. The latter were served in a small bucket-shaped receptacle which didn’t seem to get any emptier no matter how many I ate. There was a small bowl of tartare sauce and a bottle of vinegar to accompany. The vinegar bottle was small and blue in colour, looking disconcertingly like a tincture of poison in a Victorian era horror film. If that is what it was the effect has not kicked in yet. The haddock itself was not overdone and had steamed in its batter cover. I had ordered a 175ml glass of Viognier at £7.75 to accompany the main course and it was a great match, even though I say so myself. A bottle of tap water was also provided, a 2019 vintage if I am not mistaken.
Whilst I was eating my feast three more people came in and sat at the next table. They were from The Big Apple – Gomersal, and New York. We got chatting after I was asked what I was eating, they didn’t associate the lumps of fish on my plate with the word goujons either. They turned out to be great company and broadened my understanding of what effect gluten can have on some people. One of them said that in normal restaurants they are often limited to salad. The young man had a burger which he said was very good. It was smothered in cheese so the meat was not visible on the photograph I took. His partner said that it must have been good as the only thing he left was the gherkin.
Out of curiosity – honest – I had a look at the Puddings menu and whilst this is a gluten free restaurant it isn’t glutton free so I ordered the ‘Sailor Jerry’ Spiced Rum Bread and Butter Pudding at £7.95 and a black Americano, £2.95. When the pudding arrived it was dense, difficult to get the spoon through, and when I took a bite I found it to be stone cold. I brought this to the attention of the owner who replaced it with a properly cooked one for which he didn’t charge me. This second one was lovely and light with a heck of a hit of rum. It came with custard, something I don’t associate with bread and butter pudding, in my mind it should be served with milk or cream. Whatever, it worked very well, perhaps because of the spirit. The coffee too was excellent.
When I had finished the meal and informed the owner that I was there to write a review he told me that, although he has no dietary problems himself his mother has a strong reaction to gluten and so they decided to set up the restaurant so that people in a similar position can dine in a relaxed atmosphere not having to worry about any after effects of their meal.
Whether you have a gluten intolerance or not I heartily recommend The Oxford Place for the food, the atmosphere and the ground floor facilities.