Our last restaurant mission of term saw us head beyond St Aldate’s to the Folly Bridge Brasserie. Sat on the banks of the Thames, it’s almost as if the restaurant has loosed its French moorings and is briefly stopping by to give les rosbifs of Oxford an idea of haute cuisine.
The Brasserie is certainly a world away from its drizzly surroundings, and the same goes for its food. Cultural adventurers that we are, your OxStu reviewers began with the Escargots de Bourgogne – sautéed snails in garlic butter, served in the shells – and the fisherman’s platter. Once, with the help of some unfamiliar-looking cutlery, you have extricated the snails from the shells, it’s clear that this is a dish vastly under-represented in British cuisine. These beefy morsels slip down with ease, whetting the appetite for the next course – or, for that matter, the sprawling platter opposite me. It’s a rare fisherman who nets smoked trout and crayfish pate, grilled tiger prawn, smoked salmon, and even grilled sourdough, but this dish provides enjoyable breadth for a starter, and nicely complements the house white, which is a cut above that offered by comparable Oxford establishments.
Onto the mains, and the Folly Burger was high on our hit-list as the flagship main, and it did not disappoint. An ungainly leviathan of a burger, this initially defied insertion into the mouth, but that was only because it was crammed with all kinds of delectables: in addition to the home-made chubby beef burger, the dish includes smoked cured pork belly slice, tomato fondue, Dijon mustard mayonnaise, pickles, melted morbier, and pommes frites. The pork belly is a real upgrade from the rasher of bacon you’d get elsewhere, and the pickles, tiny, densely-flavoured little things, ensure that the meat isn’t an indulgence too far. The beef bourgignon, another of the ‘plats de resistance’, was a rich demonstration of the merits of beef outside the bun, ensconced in a regal marinade of red wine, onion and provençal herbs, is served with a creamy mature cheddar, mashed potato and caramelized onions, making for an immersive kaleidoscope of flavours and textures.
After polishing off the mains, we were ready to finish, sated as we were by the substantial preceding dishes. But, stoic servants of the student gustatory press, we continued to the desserts, and, once again, were mightily impressed. Even the humble ice cream option is elevated to new heights here, arriving in magnificent, raspberry coulis-drizzled, stacked form. A fitting conclusion, then, to a meal whose most striking characteristic was its ability to reinvent and reinvest, turning the common garden snail into a garlic-infused delight, and the common garden burger into a meaty mélange of flavour.
It’ll only be if you play your cards right that you get change from twenty pounds for a starter and a main, but you can be sure that the Folly Bridge Brasserie nevertheless offers good value for students. Friendly, attentive staff ensure that the restaurant has an upmarket but welcoming feel. On a student budget, a visit here has to be a treat, but one decidedly worth indulging in.