Friday, 21 September 2012

The Anchor, Hayfield Road

Update (May 2013): sadly the current tenants of the Anchor are leaving and the pub no longer serves food.

The Anchor is in a secluded corner of north Jericho and unless you live in Walton Manor, have a child at the primary school opposite or are on the way to Port Meadow, you're unlikely to walk past by chance. This is a shame, as displayed outside is one of the most appetising menus I've seen in Oxford, a whole page of interesting, tasty-sounding dishes at fairly reasonable prices. But the number of reserved tables shows that plenty of people are in on the secret.
(daily specials; there's another, longer menu too)
There's no garden but the quiet patio outside was a good spot for a late summer's lunch, even if sautéd duck livers on toast with truffled lentils and red wine sauce (£6.50) was perhaps a more autumnal kind of starter. Still, there was plenty of liver and chunks of duck meat and the rich sauce soaked into the brioche toast; the lentils were tender, a pleasure rather than a chore to eat. Next came a minute sirloin steak (£12.50: it was the dish of the day and the price included a drink). Juicy but nicely charred, and clearly of high quality, this was definitely one of the better steaks I've had in Oxford, and the accompanying green peppercorn butter was unexpectedly delicious, with a subtly sharp flavour. The chips, however, were a little too crispy.

The chips were probably the weak point on a subsequent visit too, although this time they were dry and a bit tasteless. However, the pea and parmesan omelette they came with was flawless (£8.50). Fluffy and light on the outside, the inside managed the impressive feat of almost being undercooked but not quite. Its rich and slightly gooey texture was enhanced by small, sweet peas and I was pleased to find more green peppercorns in the salad dressing. The Firestarter's steak sandwich (£8.50), which contained plenty of lean meat and a judicious helping of fried onions, was also a success.

Unfortunately the special rhubarb and ginger bellini was the meal's only other disappointment: it appeared to consist of very ordinary sparkling wine with only the faintest hint of fruit or ginger, but it was easy to forgive this once dessert had arrived: chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream (£6). The fondant looked homemade and was bursting with delicious chocolate sauce (the Gü version will never seem quite the same again), while the ice cream had an amazing salty tang and was definitely the best of this flavour I've tried.
Quite apart from the food, there's something very likeable about The Anchor. The staff are very friendly but not annoyingly matey. The interior is a lovely low-key example of thirties chic, lots of dark wood and pale walls and a few period posters, more authentic than a retro pastiche; the ladies' toilets, at any rate, appear not to have changed much in the last fifty years although they're very clean and clearly well looked after (there's also a weighing machine, which might be useful after a few chocolate fondants). It's a welcoming, calm place - and although it's not often mentioned in the same breath as Oxford's more high profile gastropubs, I think it should be.

The Anchor
2 Hayfield Road OX2 6TT
01865 510282


The Anchor on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

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