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4th November 2013

The Cornerhouse: one of the culinary highlights of the year so far.

The Cornerhouse stakes its claim as the best Oxford Road restaurant–offering a range of stylish classic dishes on a student budget.

I say Cornerhouse, you say cinema? Well maybe, and you’d be right, but there is far more to 70 Oxford Street than just independent film.

Succulent pork ribs, stone baked pizzas generously topped, bread made in-house, locally brewed beer and ale, and possibly one of the finest cheesecakes I have had the pleasure of eating are things one would associate with a very good restaurant.

Luckily, that’s where we ate this week—a venue of cool music, sophisticated conversation, attentive service, and above all excellent food thoroughly reasonable priced. The Cornerhouse restaurant, far from being just an attachment to the cinema, is a quality gastronomic entity in its own right, a standalone eatery well worth a visit.

Having heard of the bread that is baked, in house and daily, we opted for the Artisan Bread Selection. We were brought olive focaccia that had simultaneously a substantial and light and springy crumb. Yet there lacked a little flavour, I’d have preferred more of a punch of garlic or black olive or rosemary here.

For starters there was Albondigas from Spain, Croque-Monsieur from France, wings for the Deep South and Potted Shrimp from Morecambe. Maybe a little lacking in identity and cohesion, but I’d back them to be executed well (all served as small plates/sharers, nothing exceeds £8). We however made a beeline for the mains, as we wanted room for the delights of the patisserie chef.

‘Slow Cooked with our own BBQ sauce, fennel and cola’ delivered all the depth of flavour, richness and stickiness that you would hope from very large helping of ribs (£11.25). The sauce had caramel, a tinge of aniseed, a little spice—a nice balance of sweet and savoury. By the end of it my fingers and face were smeared with feral dashes of sauce that had escaped by mouth. The horseradish coleslaw, stylishly decorated with Nigella Seeds, was a real winner, instead of being a sad side; it packed a warm, crunchy punch and was a worthwhile addition. The chips were thin cut fries, crispy, well-seasoned, and homemade.

We also had the Pizza Le Reine (£8.25). The base for great pizza is always essential, and the stone bake was authentic—thin and crispy. The topping was plentiful and the classic combination of Le Reine flavours were deliver in spades. The black olives were sharp, the Serrano ham soft and the Parmesan shavings were salty, the rocket peppery and fresh, and the mushroom brought a very deep savoury taste. When I have pizza I always order Le Reine, and this was a brilliant example of one. There is an entire menu dedicated to Pizza, though far form just a pizzeria, I think I would class pizza as a bit of a speciality here.

We moved onto dessert. Vanilla cheesecake with a tart raspberry coulis, presented with two Mikado-like chocolate covered sticks (£4.95). The cake itself was seriously good, one of the best I have had in a long time. Not overpoweringly sweet, you could get a taste of cheese, and the texture was sublime. The base was buttery and crisp—no soggy bottom here. The sauce was the deepest red and balanced the creaminess with sharpness beautifully.

A word on drinks I think is also appropriate. The beer selection has improved exponentially to now include local brewery Outstanding (Bury) and the increasingly popular American pale ale Shipyard from Maine. These will appeal to craft beer drinkers without a doubt, but there are also some more recognisable labels to fall back on as well. Wines start from £15.50, and for that you can get a soft and fruity Tempranillo/Syrah blend. At the top of the range there is Some Young Punks—both white and red, I guess they are the Brew Dog of wine producers right now—young, cocksure, but really delivering the goods. Both the Riesling and Shiraz are priced at just under £30 if you’re treating yourself.

Proceedings, as so often, were rounded off with coffee, which is taken seriously here. We left not just full and satisfied, but happy in the knowledge of unearthing a gem on the Oxford Road corridor.




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