With a prime riverside location, this new brasserie no doubt comes into its own during the warmer months, when the terrace opens up. However, it's also a lovely spot for dinner at any time of year, with its white walls, light wood furniture and candlelit alcoves. The main menu changes with the seasons, offering well-priced French-influenced meat and fish dishes (such as swordfish steak, £12.75) along with a selection of stone-baked pizzas. The Christmas menu offers even better value, though: 3 courses for just £19.95. With 4 options for each course, we weren't limited on choice, but at such a good price, would the dishes deliver?
A, N and I greedily sampled one of everything on No1 Folly Bridge's Christmas menu, starting with baked goat's cheese salad, a salmon and prawn tartlet, parsnip and celeriac soup and a ham hock and game terrine. I admit I wouldn't usually opt for soup as a starter, but a taste of this creamy, subtle yet rich tasting parsnip and celeriac number had me rethinking my ideas. Notoriously fussy N also loved it, but preferred the terrine: both my carnivorous companions said that it was a real meat lover's dish, densely packed with good quality meat, and offset well by a cranberry relish.
|Badly photographed salmon and prawn tartlet|
The salmon and prawn tartlet's buttery pastry and smooth flavours won me over, while the goat's cheese salad with roasted pear and walnut provided an interesting taste combination. It was probably my least favourite though, as the salad seemed to dominate: the toasted goat's cheese would have packed much more of a punch without the lettuce leaves.
Suitably impressed by our starters, we had time to rest our rapidly-filling stomachs before the main event. We were all surprised to note the absence of turkey from the menu: traditionalists may not approve, but would no doubt be appeased by the roasted pheasant (shot that morning and prepared in-house) served with pigs in blankets, honey and parsley carrots, fondant potatoes, sprouts and chestnuts. A and N were certainly impressed: it was wintry and festive without following the usual Christmas dinner format; the roasted meat was tender and juicy, with a lasting flavour; the chestnuts and pigs in blankets were singled out for particular praise. Although my pescetarian ways prevented me from trying any of the pheasant, I was impressed by the portion size – the low price doesn't translate into small servings.
|Pheasant with all the trimmings|
|Crispy sea bass|
|Roasted vegetable tagine|
With a lovely location and a strong menu that succeeds on almost every dish, No1 Folly Bridge is well worth a visit, whether it's over the festive season or not. Although this site has been through a number of hands in recent years, hopefully the current owners will manage to stick around for a while. Given the quality of their offer and the fact that the restaurant was almost full on a Wednesday evening, things are looking good.
No1 Folly Bridge is at No1 Folly Bridge, OX1 4LB. Tel: 01865 201293. The Christmas menu is also available on board the restaurant's boat – see website for details.