Monday, 10 December 2012

The Big Bang, Castle Quarter

The original Big Bang in Jericho closed in August 2011 and is currently a building site. It wasn't easy for Oxford's only sausage and mash restaurant to find a replacement venue but a few months ago it reopened in the Castle Quarter. How is it faring in its new surroundings?

There's a big difference between the original cosy premises on Walton Street and the new location in a rather windswept corner of the castle complex. The dining room is high-ceilinged, angular and noisy. On a fairly busy night conversation between the three of us was difficult. I can see that the restaurant is making the best of a space that isn't ideal, but this setting doesn't really go with the homeliness for which it aims in other respects: mismatched china (and teapots instead of water jugs), a stress on local suppliers, and traditional comfort food.
A breakfast menu and a few other dishes including the 'Brit of the Day' - such as shepherd's pie or a Sunday roast - are offered but sausages are the main draw here. The standard price for a portion of two with mash and vegetables is £9.49 and I doubt you'll find a more extensive selection anywhere, as they range from the classic (Cumberland, pork and leek) to the more gourmet and adventurous (lamb and apricot tagine, piri piri chicken); it's good to note that vegetarians and those on special diets are pretty well catered for too.
(sausages and mash do not photograph well)
So it was a shame that we were disappointed. Two of us chose wild boar & pigeon and smoked bacon sausages, but while the first had a reasonably strong flavour and the second a clear porkiness, I wouldn't have been able to identify them more closely. Traditional Oxford sausages were, again, tasty but nothing special, and I could barely taste the garlic in my garlic and rosemary mash (we also thought that all the mashes could have been a bit more buttery, and the Administrator was unimpressed by his carrot and swede version). The accompanying peas and red cabbage were fine but lacked seasoning. On the whole, the food seemed to lack gutsiness. I don't mind paying £10 for high-quality, locally sourced sausages and mash but I'd prefer such a dish to be more decadent, distinctive...memorable, in a word.

There are various hearty puddings available but to end our meal we ordered the 'Cheese gubbins' which, at £6.50, we thought would be shareable. As the picture below shows, it wasn't an especially generous portion and I don't think the cheeses (blue cheese, brie and (?) Port Salut - there was no explanation) were local.
There were a couple of large parties present when we were there and although the staff coped reasonably well with them we didn't feel especially looked after: I was surprised they didn't talk up the extensive and interesting menu and they seemed to forget about us for periods of time (they also had no record of my reservation, which didn't get things off to a great start). I really like the concept of the Big Bang, but at the moment its execution leaves something to be desired.

The Big Bang
42 Oxford Castle Quarter
01865 249413


The Big Bang on Urbanspoon


  1. I completely agree with you. I visited soon after they opened, and didn't feel comfortable reviewing when they were still finding their feet. Sounds like they're still struggling. As a veggie, I have to say that the veggie option I had was nothing special either. A shame!

  2. We visited too, very soon after they opened, having loved Walton Street. The two venues are as different as they can be, but it is a large and noisy venue. We visited when there were a number of larger groups and sadly my husband and I couldn't hear each other. Having visited in the evening we decided to go back a few weeks ago at lunchtime. We could at least hear each other on this occassion. Sadly, like you I found the food wanting. I love sausages and mash, I love this concept, but again, the service was lacklustre and the food just didn't quite hit the spot.