From outside, the Whiteladies Road restaurant looks like the kind of established steak and chop house you might come across in Boston or Chicago; attorneys with cigars in the front, gangsters with scars in the darkened back, all lovers of good food.
We kicked off at the bar with a London Buck, a Bristol-made truffle and thyme-infused gin with ginger ale, expertly mixed by Mike, who I’m delighted to know would rather be called a barman than a mixologist. The drink was gorgeous.
It was also reassuring to learn our food would be served on plates, and the sauces in jugs. How refreshing not to have dinner on a roof tile, chips in a flowerpot and sauce in a watering can.
A restaurant trend I do approve of is the offer of ‘small plates’ on a menu, which provides the opportunity to share several starters without feeling greedy.
We ordered beetroot-cured salmon, chargrilled octopus with chorizo, roast bone marrow with grilled bread and, in honour of the restaurant’s name, ox heart with oyster mayo and crisps. All were excellent but the octopus won (eight) hands down.
The Ox Clifton is a grown-up restaurant and some of the prices are grown-up too on a menu with less choice for the time being than its Corn Street cousin; but there’s also value on offer, not least with the wine list. It includes a house red that tastes like the grapes were trodden, rather than kicked to death by Millwall fans, at £20 a bottle or under £4 a glass.
We knew we’d go big with the steaks so we went big with the wine. Guided by our knowledgeable waiter the fab Fabio, we picked a Tomero Malbec: powerful, full of flavour and good value at £30.
Our mains came from both ends of the price spectrum; the lunch/early evening offer of a D-cut rump with fries and a glass of house wine at £12.50, and the 12oz sirloin, £29.
My rule of thumb is rump for flavour and sirloin for texture. In this case both cuts had both qualities.
We tried all the sauces, not the kitchen’s finest offering, and liked the green peppercorn best. The triple-cooked chips were perfect and so was the crunchy house chopped salad at £3.50.
Straining at the seams, we soldiered through three puddings, starting with a quince and apple crumble – just the right balance of sweet and tart – with creamy ice cream made in-house. All the ice creams looked so promising we had to try the chocolate/malted milk and the peanut & jelly (our favourite).
Nothing about The Ox Clifton is groundbreaking – London’s posh steak house Hawksmoor is clearly the inspiration.
But this Bristol partnership who also own Hyde & Co, Milk Thistle and Pata Negra pay close attention to detail, from the quality of the fit-out such as the detailed in-lays in the central bar, to the menu. And the food. It’s impressive.
The Ox Clifton, 96A Whiteladies Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2QX
0117 973 0005