I really want my first proper review, in what seems like a few years, to be a good one. So when I get to Tipsy, a brewery in Oxford, and they sit me down and explain to me that “during the lockdown we built a new bread section”, a smile draws on my lips.
Homemade bread can be disappointing. The chefs decide they can bake bread, without questioning whether they should, and so we endure individual sourdough balls stretched with a Kevlar crust containing seaweed, ash and shavings. finely peeled pretension.
This is not the case at Pompette, where the baguette is simple and remarkable: a real chewing, encapsulating a creamy and airy crumb. It is accompanied by a galette of Bourgogne butter and a promise. The bread is the simplest thing, but when they get it right off the bat, you immediately click your critical phaser from ‘kill’ to ‘stun’ to a setting of ‘happily hum to yourself and let these guys get you. to feed “.
Pompette is quite French. Not entirely, slavishly French, but French by origin, raised in France and with a strong accent. Chief Pascal Wiedemann was Executive Chef at Terroirs in London and began his culinary career under the brilliant Henry Harris in Racine. Even more promise.
There is nothing sexier than the quiet confidence, especially in a steak tartare. Who needs a fussy parts kit with a showy egg yolk? Why the hell should you do it yourself? It’s the chef’s job, and Wiedemann does it competently. The meat and shallots are chopped by hand, sprinkled with generous sweet green herbs and sprinkled with tangy and vibrant capers. It’s meaty, of course, but fresh, light and happy. All the more reason, then, to serve it with a large slice of this Ur-baguette, soaked and fried in a beef coulis. It’s a great way to start a meal.
At this point I thought to myself if I was on top of a mountain with this guy and he told me he tied the rope, I would be happy to throw myself over the edge without checking.
In a good sashimi restaurant, you should always examine the cut side of the fish. It should be smooth, cut all at once. It doesn’t make any difference for the flavor, but it does prove that the chef cared enough about having a sharp knife and was skilled enough to use it. Likewise, Bayonne ham with celery remoulade may be easy to cook, but at Pompette you can see that it has been freshly sliced, the celery freshly garnished. Someone out there cares, and they can’t help but show it.
A chicken is a hell of a thing to grill: if the thighs are done, the breast is dried out. But if you find a bird that’s small enough, like Wiedemann’s Herb-Pickled Cockerel, and know how to prepare it, then each serving is miraculously the right thickness for broiling. You think he doesn’t need anything else – until you try the aioli.
A nicely cut turbot was grilled rare to the bone and served with asparagus. It came with some excellent Jersey Royals, but the white butter was so rich, emollient, and plentiful that I had to order crisps to wipe it off.
There was of course cheese. A small selection – Comté, Epoisses, Fourme d’Ambert – but carefully organized and handled with care. And to finish, pistachio tart, gariguette strawberries and crème fraîche.
Afterwards, I wanted to wipe my lips on the tablecloth, unwind to Montmartre, jump off a canvas and go to Deux Magots in search of absinthe and love, but I don’t think they do it that way in Oxford.
Wiedemann’s talented partner Laura deserves a special mention. We’re only hours away from the new ‘dinner inside’ regime, and she has somehow managed to not only recruit a full indoor brigade, but also train them in the classroom. one of the best service I have had in years. A balance on the line where efficiency and attention meet warmth, intelligence and welcoming friendliness.
Together, the Wiedemanns deliver a masterclass in hospitality in the neighborhood brewery of your dreams. As I leave, I notice a house for sale on the same street. I’m just saying.
7 South Parade, Summertown, Oxford OX2 7JL, 01865 311166; pompetterestaurant.fr
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