In a nutshell
This new Cheltenham eatery is an extension of the undeniably cool Hyde & Co Leisure, best known in Bristol for its top collection of dark drinking dens (notably its namesake Hyde & Co, and The Milk Thistle) and laidback eateries (including tapas bar Pata Negra).
Like its sister, The Ox on Bristol’s aptly named foodie Corn Street (there’s also now another in Clifton, such was the first’s popularity), this venue is all about bringing steak and cocktails together.
Tucked away in the basement of one of Cheltenham’s many Georgian town houses, heavy velvet door curtains reveal an almost winter-proof, amber glow. The dining space is subtly divided into a few snug sections, lending an air of cosy privacy.
What’s the room like
Picture a vintage, speakeasy-inspired hideaway with taxidermy, ornate mirrors and an artful hotchpotch of prints in mismatched frames, and lamps hanging from rows of vintage plates. Smooth soul pours from the speakers. Rich textures, warm hues and glossy dark wood, make for one good-looking venue with an eye for detail.
Dave Daly heads up the kitchen – previously head chef of Pata Negra. Dave’s been part of the South West’s foodie scene for some time, working at Michelin-starred Bristol restaurant Harveys in the 1990s, as well as at a number of other West Country greats including Bordeaux Quay and Rockfish.
Meat, of course, is the key attraction here and there’s a succulent spectrum of options on offer, from the classic to the adventurous. Aged for a minimum of 28 days and supplied by Bristol butcher Nigel Buxton, the prime cuts stand out as the main event. Steaks cooked over charcoal on a Josper grill and range from £14 to £29 but don’t miss out on exploring the rest of the menu, too.
There’s seared pheasant for the game lover, vast 30oz steaks for sharing (£65), an intriguing cured meat board featuring wild boar salami and rabbit rillette, and even a few tempting veggie options including pumpkin cannelloni and roasted broccoli with pumpkin hummus and toasted cashew.
Other than steak (ours, a locally sourced, grass-fed 6oz fillet, was satisfyingly thick and rare, just the way we like it; velvety flesh blushed a rich, bloody red), order the charred duck hearts and devils on horseback from the ‘small plates’ section of the menu for plump mini-mouthfuls of tender, juicy bursts of savouriness.
Make sure you find room for a pud, too – the vanilla panna cotta was the stuff of dessert dreams. Gliding onto the spoon with the softest stroke, it’s perfectly soft and creamy and delicately flavoured.
There’s an expertly edited drinks menu, with cocktails designed to be drunk pre-, during and post-steak. The Silver Bullet’s lemony nose and cheeky paprika kick shakes up this super-boozy medley of gin, whiskey and kummel liqueur as the starter.
With the meaty main event, sip on an Ox Fashioned – a classic twisted to be paired with food, thanks to the addition of sherry and the restaurant’s own Ox Gin, mixed by Bristol’s Psychopomp micro distillery. Usually like a big red with your meat? Give 19th To This a whirl – it features Tomero Malbec, alongside tequila.
Our post-prandial poison was the best of the night, though: Gold Conference. A classy top-shelf shake-up featuring Doorly’s rum and Somerset cider brandy.
What we liked
The staff are friendly and knowledgeable with their recommendations, meaning you can delve into the menu with confidence. Even the stylish Laguiole steak knives are worth a mention. They’re stocked in Harrods, no less. Like we said, they’ve got an eye for detail.
The Ox seeks to be ‘a bastion of simple, top-notch British fare, cooked to impeccable standards’. We say, mission accomplished. It’s just the place to unwind – the surroundings, service and menu have this uncanny knack of making stressed shoulders drop.
The Ox Cheltenham, 10 Cambray Place, Cheltenham, GL50 1JS
Written by Rosie Sharratt, January 2016
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