The Oxford Blue Old Windsor
10 Crimp Hill, Old Windsor, Berkshire SL4 2QY
www.oxfordbluepub.co.uk | Tel: 01753 861954
Having read several fab reviews in local and national press we were keen to give The Oxford Blue on Crimp Hill a try. The menu is described as traditional comfort food with a modern twist and head chef / proprietor Steve Ellis (former sous chef at Restaurant Gordon Ramsey and former protege of both Jamie Oliver and Andrew Pern) has created something really special on the edge of Windsor Great Park!
The décor is Scottish hunting lodge – honey-coloured tartan upholstery, mustardy leather banquettes with antlers mounted on exposed brickwork and huge floral displays instantly make you feel welcome and charmed. Likewise the service; we are met outside as we park our car with a warm smile and directions across the stylish new deck into the restaurant. Throughout the meal, staff were at our side with little more than a glance from us but not intrusive and service was special without being stuffy – as I looped my handbag straps over the chair back our waiter appeared with a clip to hang it on the side of our table.
We were greeted with two glasses of English Sparkling Wine which were perfection while we perused the food and wine menus. As usual we rang ahead to advise gluten and dairy intolerances and the waiter mentioned replacement options when he bought the menus over. As anyone with food allergies will appreciate, it is reassuring when a kitchen takes you seriously ensuring that your meal is going to be safe but also just as delicious as everyone else’s!
Prior to our starters arriving we were served with mini tasters of venison bonbons and vegetable crisps. Following these, warm bread rolls in brown paper bags and proper cultured butter (for Nigel) and oil and balsamic for me. Gluten free bread is not joyful and I often skip it to save the calories but this was the closest I have felt in years to eating “proper” bread – it was fabulously moist and clearly a lot of thought goes into every detail of the food in this place. Having finished the ESW we moved onto Pinot Blush for me and Chardonnay for Nige. We were already having a wonderful evening when we remembered it was actually our wedding anniversary and having had a glass of bubbly and few sips of Pinot it really did start to feel like the most perfect dinner date ever!!
I started with the scallop in a half shell served on a bed of peas, broad beans and a hint of smoked pork belly. Nigel had the pork pie with pickled onions and both looked and tasted amazing. The main courses were equally impressive, turbot for me from the specials menu with courgette, prawn mousse and nasturtiums (a first for me but I’m definitely going to grow them in my veg patch next year) and Nige had the Pie and Mash, rabbit, wholegrain mustard, with a side of pomme puree and a gravy like none other. The puddings were inspired; Bavarois strawberries for me (first fruit of the season) with minted strawberry sorbet and I helped myself generously to Nigel’s popcorn which came with his banana galette served with popcorn ice-cream. Dazzling, assured and sheer sugary perfection. Throughout our meal there were numerous delights; chunky cutlery served from a box as if you are picking after-dinner cigars and I especially loved the slab of dark hazelnut chocolate which came with coffee and it’s own hammer. These served to enhance the dining experience without being gimmicky or distracting from the real star which is the food.
This is a fine dining experience crossed with an upmarket gastropub but with definite Michelin star aspirations. General Manager Daniel kindly showed us around the delightful herb garden and informed us that they are keen to encourage guests to enjoy the garden and it’s a beautiful spot to call in for cocktails or a glass of wine or two whether dining or not. Daniel, Steve and the team are passionate about sourcing fabulous and seasonal produce, locally where possible – from Windsor Great Park game to Berkshire honey – and growing their own herbs and edible flowers in raised beds surrounding the decked garden area. There is also a large exclusive wine attic nestled in amongst the wine stores which guests can book for private dining.
Expensive for sure at around £75 per head including wine, but excessively good value when you consider what you get for your money – and it’s on our doorstep. Book now before the London crowd appears and we have to start booking months in advance – I don’t think it will be long!!