The second Oxford offering from the team behind the successfully transformed Rusty Bicycle, the former Radcliffe Arms in Jericho has emerged from its scampi-and-sports ashes as The Rickety Press. With a smart yet relaxed interior featuring plenty of tastefully arranged books, navy and cream walls and a light-filled conservatory with fresh flowers on wooden tables, The Rickety Press falls on the gastro side of things, but is still very much a pub. So far, so up my street. Opened in May, there isn't yet a wine list, but staff happily talked us through the wines on offer, and the choice of real ales and cider was enough to satisfy all of our party. Thirst quenched, it was time for some sustenance.
Making our way into the conservatory, four menus were quickly rustled up. With a seasonal, daily changing menu featuring the best of British produce, The Rickety Press has its finger very much on the gastro pulse. On our visit, there were 5 starters and 6 mains on offer - just enough choice, but no difficult decision-making. In a nod to summer, I opted for gazpacho (£5) followed by the vegetarian main option, a less seasonal-sounding squash, feta, spinach and pine nut pithivier (pastry) with cauliflower puree (£11).
Starters arrived promptly and were dispatched with speedily: G's ham hock and pea salad with tarragon dressing, topped with a perfectly-cooked poached egg (£5) was a hit, with the oozing egg and the light-tasting dressing receiving particular praise. B (who I must point out has rather exacting standards) opted for the confit duck salad with mango and pomegranate (£6), a beautifully-presented summery starter. Receiving an almost record-setting 8.5 out of 10 from B, the smokiness of the duck contrasted excellently with the sweetness of the fruit, and the spring onions and herbs added to the fresh taste combination. My gazpacho (served with fresh bread) was also fresh tasting and light, with a slightly spicy aftertaste, but I have to say that it paled in comparison with the gazpacho I sampled in Seville last month. Made by a friend's mum and served from a plastic bottle, its presentation was decidedly less elegant than the Rickety Press version, but its flavour was spot on. The pub kitchen isn't fortunate enough to benefit from the help of Pedro's mother, but their interpretation was tasty nonetheless, if a bit thicker than the classic Spanish soup.
|Ham hock salad|
|Confit duck salad|
If the ham hock salad was well-received, G's main course of baked lemon sole fillets with new potatoes, brown shrimps and watercress (£13) was the culinary equivalent of Pippa Middleton: a surprise hit. As he pointed out, it's not exactly easy to make a stand-out dish out of fish, but The Rickety Press pulled it off - I should know, I couldn't resist having a nibble after G slipped into sole-induced rapture. Lightly breaded with a slightly crispy topping, the flaky fish was perfectly cooked and almost melted in the mouth, its buttery sauce adding a creamy touch without being at all heavy.
|Lemon sole fillets - 10/10|
Having passed on a starter, N tucked into the Rickety burger (£11), topped with cheddar and onion relish and served in a homemade seeded bun. It also came with sides of string chips and a dressed rocket and radish salad. N's not exactly an unfussy lady either, but she rated the burger an impressive 9: cooked medium as requested, the meat was excellent quality, well-complemented by the rich taste of the cheese and the homemade relish - just sweet enough but not overpowering. The string chips weren't remotely stringy; they were crisp, golden and a bit too popular with the rest of the table.
|Rickety burger & string chips|
B's chicken, leek and mushroom pie (£11) tasted 'properly homemade, like something your mum would make' (a generic mum rather than mine specifically, her forte is potatoes), with good quality chunks of chicken 'rather than old scraggly bits' (although she later found a small amount of gristle, she would like me to point out). The sprouting broccoli looked more green than purple, but was tasty nonetheless, and the mash also received high praise - no lumps here.
|Chicken, leek and mushroom pie|
My pithivier may not have looked like the most exciting dish of the bunch, but the dome of homemade puff pastry was filled with a beautiful combination of summery flavours. The classic pairing of creamy feta and spinach worked perfectly with the appetite-satisfying butternut squash.
|Squash, feta & pine nut pithivier|
In the name of research, N and I managed to find space for a chocolate fondant served with homemade vanilla ice cream (£5). Our admirable effort was rewarded: it was delicious, a puddle of dark melted chocolate oozing out of the spongy centre. I'm not ashamed to admit I almost fought N for the last bite.
With a laid-back, friendly atmosphere, young and helpful staff and a strong, well-priced menu, The Rickety Press deserves to be a success. The restaurant quality food was some of the best I've had in a while, but there's none of the pretension that sometimes accompanies the gastro tag. This is definitely still a pub. Let's hope it stays that way.
The Rickety Press is at 67 Cranham Street, Jericho, OX2 6DS. Tel: 01865 424581.