Gee’s is fresh from a refurbishment, and it is freshness that is at the heart of the restaurant’s philosophy. A short walk down Banbury Road, it’s a world away from the identikit chains that populate the town centre. And for every once-in-a-blue-moon Pizza Express menu change, there will be countless specials at Gee’s, where the menu bears the day’s date and is never quite the same two days running.
So when we came to choose from the ‘Small Bites’ menu, we tore up our plans for beef dripping-laden sourdough when our waitress told us about the Scotch egg special. A soft-boiled quail’s egg with a golden yolk at its centre matched the strong, earthy black pudding surrounding it, and was a good tip from the waiting staff, who have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Gee’s menu. The other Bites we ordered, the wild boar prosciutto and the baby squid in chilli and parsley, also warrant mention: the prosciutto melted on the tongue like a piggy snowflake, and the squid – minute and aesthetically delightful – was pleasantly chewy, the verdant parsley and bold chilli endowing it with freshness.
Another special followed as we proceeded to the starters: duck hearts, rich, gamey and fruity, slipped down on a buttery brioche base. Alongside it, we ordered deep-fried soft-shelled crab, which arrived in a gilded batter shell, accompanied by a thick dollop of homemade mayonnaise.
It being Sunday, a roast was on the cards. A succulent sirloin of beef, which barely required a knife, arrived alongside a mountainous Yorkshire pudding and a medley of innovatively produced trimmings, but the real star of our mains was the venison chop dish. Admittedly, there was a disappointing amount of meat for £8.50, considering there were no sides, but the elusive meat was pink and rich, and the blood orange sauce was a perfect foil: tangy and bittersweet, it proved an irresistible condiment for meat, vegetables and chips alike. So striking was this sauce that the airy glass atrium in which we were eating seemed almost an orangerie.
A number of dishes in, we still felt able to tackle the dessert menu, and plumped for a chocolate espresso tart, voluptuous and subtly-flavoured, and lemon sorbet, acerbic but refreshing. When we emerged from the restaurant, we felt satisfied, but not unpleasantly replete, a reflection on meals which hit the spot without being too heavy.
Gee’s comes with our hearty recommendation. It’s a treat on a student budget, and seemed to us like the sort of place you might persuade your parents to take you. You might have to book, though – but, after our experience of the restaurant, it’s easy to see why.