Scrumptious scavenging on Little Clarendon

Student Life

Little Clarendon Street and the adjacent Woodstock Road are on the periphery of the trendy district of Jericho. Most modern languages students and those in the nearby colleges will be familiar with some of the shops, cafes and restaurants on the two streets, but other students based further away may rarely make the trip down to the end of St Giles’, not least because the bohemian reputation of the area hints at high prices. For anyone who does venture down the roads to eat out, though, it is possible to enjoy good food without breaking the bank. I visited three of the restaurants in the area, avoiding the generic chains, and in all of them ate satisfying meals at a reasonable price.

Pierre Victoire

9 Little Clarendon Street

A lunchtime visit to Pierre Victoire offers a nice break from the normal routine, at impressive value for money. Three friends and I ate two courses from their prix fixe lunch menu which amounted to just £8.90 each, and a dessert would only have raised the price by two pounds. The atmosphere is cosy, the restaurant is furnished with pleasant decor, and the waiters are friendly and helpful. Though the service was swift, we did not feel like we were being hurried. I hadn’t reserved a table, but this was not a problem for us; nonetheless it seemed to fill up quite quickly so it may be a safe bet to book in advance, even for lunch.

The menu had various options but was not gargantuan, a sign that the food available is fresh and prepared with care. The starters were enjoyed universally, from my flavoursome soup to my friend’s chicken pâté. We were not so wild about our main courses. The portions were a little on the meagre side: my fish came with potatoes but no vegetables, and was somewhat dry, and another friend’s confit duck leg was also lacking in accompanying veg. Given that the two courses cost less than what is often paid for one, though, we could hardly expect our plates to be filled to the brim.

Our first taste of Pierre Victoire hasn’t given us a particular urge to return soon, though the evening experience may well be different. Despite this, it is well worth trying out for anybody with a penchant for French cuisine or who simply would like to have lunch somewhere with inexpensive but generally  enjoyable food and a nice ambience.

 

Al-Andalus

10 Little Clarendon Street

I cannot wait for another excuse to return to Al-Andalus, an authentic and warm Spanish restaurant with delicious food and lots of character. Its saffron-coloured walls seem to exude Mediterranean flavour, and the staff are accommodating and knowledgeable. I went on a Wednesday – on Friday and Saturday evenings there is live Sevillana dancing. Whether that’s something you would enjoy or an unwelcome distraction, it certainly does not seem out of place in Al-Andalus’ vibrant atmosphere.

My dining partner and I chose three tapas dishes from a large selection before tucking into a vegetarian paella, and indulged in the tapas so much that we barely left any room for more. The diced potatoes with chili tomato sauce and aioli were particularly moreish, and the pieces of tortilla and the aubergine pâté also went down well. The paella took forty minutes to prepare, and the care put into cooking it was evident in its wealth of flavour. There was also a wide range of wines from which to choose – being somewhat of a philistine, I opted for a glass of the cheapest red wine, a fruity Acantus Tinto which was pleasant enough.

The bill came to around £22.50 for each of us which, factoring in the paella, tapas plates and wine, is very reasonable. We left with happy stomachs bulging against our waistbands.

 

Wok and Roll

4-6 Woodstock Road

It’s hard to think of Wok and Roll, which is perhaps more popular as a takeaway than a restaurant, without the words ‘cheap and cheerful’ springing to mind. Cheap, because a friend and I went to make the most of the enticing all-you-can-eat buffet deal for £6.99 which is available every Sunday lunchtime during term. The lunchtime deal on weekdays is £5.99 for two courses and a drink. Cheerful, because of the Chinese pop music which serenaded us as we ate and because of the buzzer which greeted us as we opened the door to enter with what sounded like “Ni hao, thanks for coming!”

Perhaps, though, this idiom doesn’t do full justice to Wok and Roll. The seating area upstairs was fairly classy in an understated sort of way: we sat down at a table by a window, with a splendid view of the St Giles’ Church graveyard! The food on offer was mostly satisfying; I had steamed vegetables, my friend had beef stew, and both of us ate the rice and the tomato and egg stir fry, topping it all off by sampling the tiny cakes offered as pudding. The meal was perhaps a little bland, and for a special occasion I would certainly look elsewhere. But the Chinese customers sitting nearby seemed to enjoy their meal, and with friendly staff and decent, inexpensive food, you would do well to keep Wok and Roll in mind if you are nearby.