After the closure of The Ball Green Door, Oxford had a vacancy for a pop-up restaurant. Thankfully the city's would-be underground diners didn't have too long to wait: along came The Field Kitchen to supply that secret supper demand.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, pop-up restaurants have no permanent base, but hold evenings in different venues on an ad hoc basis. Run by chef Rupert and his team of able assistants, The Field Kitchen first 'popped up' on Hogacre Common during summer 2012, but has ventured inside for the winter months. I went along to one of its January nights at the Jericho Community Centre, a surprisingly cosy little venue on Canal Street.
Around 30 diners filled the cute, candle-lit room, made inviting by The Field Kitchen's own touches such as handmade tablecloths and vintage crockery. The atmosphere was somewhere between an intimate restaurant and a meal at a mate's: with smaller tables largely occupied by different groups of friends, it didn't have the same dinner party vibe as at at-home supper club, but it definitely had a sociable feel. Adding to the ambience was a guitarist, tucked away in the corner providing a soundtrack to our evening.
N and I were seated on a shared table with another pair of diners, who we chatted to over a welcome glass of red wine. The menu is available to view in advance of events on The Field Kitchen's website, but it was also chalked up on a board as a reminder. We started with puy lentil, fennel and carrot broth served with homemade sourdough bread.
Rustic in appearance, it was a comforting dish with a hint of paprika lending welcome winter warmth. Even Goldilocks would have approved of the portion size: just enough for a starter.
After a short interlude, the team whisked in our main course from the van outside. The Field Kitchen is fully mobile: even the cooking facilities are on wheels. The fillet of sea bass was served with a warm salad of roasted squash, balsamic red onions and rocket. My plate was a little squash-lite, but N's had a better ratio. It was light and fresh, made seasonal by the accompaniments. Vegetarians were offered the same dish with halloumi in place of fish.
The 'winner' of the night (in N's immortal words) was the dessert. 'Mum's treacle tart' came served with a dollop of lemon zest-topped creme fraiche, and was utterly delicious. Incredibly flavoursome, it rounded off the relatively healthy meal with a good helping of indulgence.
All in all, it was a lovely evening with great food and a brilliant ambience. Everything ran smoothly, with only a short wait between courses. More fun than visiting a restaurant yet without the overly intimate feel that makes some people unsure about supper clubs: if you don't fancy sharing a table with 4 or more other diners, the Field Kitchen is definitely one for you.
Price: £35 per head. I was a guest of the Field Kitchen (thank you!).
For upcoming dates and locations, visit the Field Kitchen website.
And that's all from me. Hasta luego!