So why am I here? Well in all honesty I was asked to come down and check it out, and yes ‘on them’. I hope this hasn’t impacted on my impartiality. We’ll see eh?
So, straight to the bar – good to see a few cask ales on, nothing inspiring or different, but I don’t mind that. A couple of well kept ales is all I really want (out of life), yes diversity adds interest and I am spoilt by my more regular haunts but its not a prerequisite, particularly if coming for food. Anyhoo... A well kept pint of Timmy Taylor's Landlord was provided and I was perfectly happy with it.
Having had a look at a sample menu online and seeing starters priced between £5-£8 and some main courses well over the £15 mark I’m slightly surprised to see an A-board outside advertising 2 courses for £10. It turns out to be a separate, set menu. So being the greedy buggers we are my companion and I have decided to try a bit of everything.
First up is ‘Pan fried Scallops served with crispy black pudding and a raspberry vinaigrette’, in short a mini triumph, classic combination of flavours and textures brought together with a twist of fruit. This combo is a no-brainer, so long as well cooked. And it was. £7.95.
The ‘Pear and Blue Cheese Salad’ is less my cup of tea though the contrast of melted cheese and pear is appealing. The accompanying salad was very good and substantial but I am slightly questioning the use of capsicum, perhaps one flavour too many for me, £4.95.
And finally, from the 2 courses for £10 menu is the ‘Ham Hock Terrine with homemade Piccalilli’, also coming with unadvertised bread and butter (win!). Perhaps this says more about me than the place but it is probably my favourite of the three, the terrine is dense, meaty and fibrous (in a good way). The piccalilli is slightly sweet complimenting the salty ham. It also shows some effort and skill. Fried black pudding and scallops will always be delicious.And to the main courses... We’ve been recommended the pies and the burger and duly oblige. Throwing in the pork belly from the set menu. Having three meals between two alleviates the problem of feeling short changed when ordering a veggie option, my thinking being we’re already having beef and pork, so let’s try the veggie pie, in this case Cheese and Onion (made with ‘How’s Yer Father’ from the Saddleworth Cheese Co). Very impressive – again the drizzle gun is out but so what if it tastes good? And it does. The pastry is short, crumbly and delicate – some of the best of its type I’ve ever tasted. I’ve always been a suet or rough puff man when it comes to savoury pies, this might be enough to convert me. The filling unctuous, gooey and tasty, a good cheese pie, £12.95.
Next, from the set menu comes pork belly on bubble and squeak mash with apple sauce and gravy. I wanted to love this but I’m sorry to say I didn’t. A (too) large percentage of the slice of belly was just white, un-rendered fat. Yes I know pork belly is fatty, but too much white wobbly stuff is pretty unappetising. In addition the skin wasn’t crisp– although a delicious cross of crackling sat on the dish as it arrived. It was as if the whole belly had been rolled, slow boiled and sliced. A quick finishing in a pan would have worked wonders. Everything was tasty, just slightly marred by the meat.
Particularly by comparison with.... The Giant Ox Burger – with bacon, relish, dripping in cheese and as big as your head. We asked for medium rare and got it. If you like massive burgers and fries you’ll love this. Personally I do, although not being able to get a burger into my mouth does pose a problem as I do want to be able to taste the entire thing simultaneously. Ah you know what? Who cares, its a massive burger you’re either into it or not – I’d probably rather have 2 smaller ones, but whatever, you get the idea right? £13.95
And so we’ve made it to the end.. nearly... yeap we did it. A ‘Lancashire Cheese Board', a very enjoyable selection from the Ox’s well chosen suppliers: The Saddleworth Cheese co. £8.95
It was really nice to be in an old historic pub in Castlefield that hasn’t resorted to Sky Sports, The Ox is a very pleasant place to be in, the atmosphere is nice and the staff are friendly and attentive. The food is a bit of a puzzler, the 2 courses for £10 seems fantastic value – I think Haddock and chips would be my choice next time. Though, If I do have a criticism of The Ox it's that it’s not clear what the place is about – having Gressingham duck at £18 on the same menu as 2 courses for £10 seems a little unbalanced and I would imagine slightly confusing to punters. Pub grub or fine dining? – Does The Ox need to choose? I don’t know, but wish them all the best.