‘If I were The Oxford,’ announced Mrs Kentishtowner, her elbows on the table for a moment’s respite from a medium-rare steak that was anything but, ‘I’d pay a visit to the Canteen. And pronto.’
By which the good lady didn’t mean her work’s caff, but the new nearby all-day diner which is woo-ing the NW5 gastronomes.
‘The Oxford should be an old friend,’ she continued, her wrath, or exertion, now causing her forehead to glow, despite arctic temperatures outside. ‘And it’s not that I don’t love a flawed beauty’ – she glanced meaningfully across the table – ‘but it’s not really what you want from your local.’
She was referring, of course, to both the elegant interior – and her cremated bit of £17 steak. And she wasn’t alone in our party. It’s true that a couple of us, eventually, were given steak cooked to our liking, but why even ask – at these inflated midday prices – if we would be happy with an overdone piece of meat?
Still, The Oxford is worth investigating. If not quite a beauty, it’s a big sturdy Victorian boozer in prime location with high ceilings and a touch of glamour (the intimate dining booths are a winner). It’s been gastro-ized for years (since 2004). And there’s lively people-watching from the side-street terrace too.
So what we’re asking for is a a little consistency. Nothing more. After all, a recent sunday lunch with the wider Kentish Town gang was a hit – great poached eggs, spinach & fishcakes! Delicious beef roasts! – but when the place is quiet on a midweek lunch, well, there’s no excuse really, is there?
The verdict? We love the place for a large gin and tonic, and it’s buzzy enough for a laidback evening out, but we probably won’t be fondling the menu in the near future. Know your friends, Mr Oxford, know your enemies.
256 Kentish Town Road. Mains upwards of a tenner.