Food: An elegant take on traditional breakfasts.
Experience: Airy, friendly, greenhousely.
Value: Absurdly good. Change for a tenner.
Luton, 2004. A tubby 11-year-old takes his first crunching, stinging, anarchic bite of the KFC Wicked Zinger Burger. Somewhere in Heaven, an angel made of reconstituted chicken gets his wings. Fast-forward a little – Edgware, 2009, a glorious medley of Thai food with real, almost-live sushi to boot. Oxford, 2012, Brasserie Blanc’s juicy, smoky Steak Onglet.
Every so often, you have a meal which shacks up in your mind and refuses to leave, as if a Michelin-star chef is squatting in your memory palace. We’re talking about those experiences with food which are so good that sear themselves onto your memory like a brand on a pig’s buttock. Granted, these are few and far between when it comes to breakfast – give me some Golden Nuggets and I’ll be happy. Fry-ups are consistently enjoyable, but you can get a decent one in any old greasy spoon. But I’ve added Banbury Road, 2014, to my munch bank, because breakfast at Gee’s is an absolute delight.
This isn’t the first time the OxStu’s intrepid journalists have visited Gee’s, hungry for scoops, so I won’t dwell on the beautiful, greenhouse-like setting, or the friendly staff who, unbidden, refresh your jug of tap water, and know the ever-changing menu inside-out, back-to-front, and sprinkled with parsley. I’m back to sample their breakfast menu – and what a breakfast it is.
It’d be hard to improve on breakfast as a concept. For centuries, breakfast was something dull, functional – I like to think gruel, or beef dripping – right up to the point at which somebody – I like to think the Earl of Sandwich – decided that it would be much more fun to start the day with sausages! with bacon! with eggs! – and the full English as we know it was born. So, to their credit, innovators though they are down at Gee’s, they haven’t thrown the rulebook through their great big glassy window of a restaurant. Glance down the menu, and you’ll see familiar dishes like bacon baps, sausage sandwiches and eggs benedict, royale and florentine; evolution, not revolution, is the order of the day, along with that pork and fennel sausage sandwich, in which bulging, hot, herby pillars of sausage nestle between two crusty slabs of toasted bread.
The scrambled egg is superb. It’s suffused with golden yolk, and comes in generous, minutely-crenellated mounds, like a ruined Gondor viewed from above. There’s none of the wateriness that plagues college-cooked egg, and the whole thing tastes fresh and summery. The bacon roll encases stacks of thick, dark, tangy rashers in a sweet, yielding bun, and the orange juice is cool and freshly-squeezed. And then there’s the full English pizzetta – bacon, sausage, mushrooms (a breakfast of champignons), egg on a thin base.
I thought it couldn’t get any better, until we got the bill, which confirmed that all of the above dishes come in at under a tenner. I’m never buying a McMuffin again.