Door 74 is, quite simply, an inconspicuous, candlelit gem of the Cowley road. It’s easy enough to base yourself firmly in the centre during term time, and limit your culinary adventures to the fine establishments of Cornmarket and the High Street, but Door 74 is reason enough to stray into the potential unknowns of Cowley.
Celebrated for its local food, it masters the impossible: serving a wide variety of truly excellent dishes, at student prices. A place I’d take my father for dinner, but also hang out with pals over brunch. The waiter was jolly and clearly proud to represent, suggesting the dishes he thought were done especially well. The restaurant itself is a cosy affair, and on a chilly Tuesday night was surprisingly busy. Candlelit, it had attracted what were clearly both students and locals, and all in all, the atmosphere can only be described as cute. They also managed to tailor the music perfectly – a gentle jazz tinkle, as opposed to the wholly inappropriate volume that frequently accompanies a meal out, uncomfortably forcing you to feel like a granny (I came here to chat not dance.)
The food was really something special. As well as being local, fresh and delicious, the menu boasted unusual and creative options. To start, I had basil and ricotta dumplings with a roast tomato puree and Parmesan. Although resembling little more than gooey blobs, they were positively melt-in-the-mouth, and I would have happily had an entire plate. Fortunately I resisted, as the main course was to die for as well.
I like to think that fish bones are a sign of fresh, real fish. According to this then, my fish was both, and accompanied by samphire, potatoes and onion puree, made for an exquisite host of flavours. Pudding was the perfect finale. Recommended by our chirpy waiter, I tried a ‘semifreddo’ of a dark chocolate variety, with vanilla ice cream. It wasn’t what I would usually understand a semifreddo to be: a combination of cold ice cream with what is essentially a hot chocolate mousse. Nonetheless, it was simply sublime and an ambrosial end to the perfect meal.