27 November 2020

Lockdown Takeout in Oxford: Oli's Thai, Two One Five and More

While back in my Oxford bubble for my birthday and my mum's earlier this month, I was able to experience the take-out offerings from three different restaurants. And although it wasn't quite the same as dining in, we were very impressed with all three, which serve different cuisines at different price points. And although Oxford will be out of lockdown and in tier 2 restrictions from next Wednesday, takeout for formerly dine-in-only restaurants seems likely to remain on the agenda for some time, but do always refer to the restaurants' websites or social media accounts for their most up-to-date information.


Oli's Thai

I've been wanting to try Oli's Thai for some time, but the small East Oxford restaurant (located just across from the Missing Bean roastery on Magdalen Road) only has five tables and its popularity means it's very hard to get a reservation in normal times. During lockdown, Oli's has been open for take-out only on Wednesdays to Fridays. They post the week's menu on their Instagram, and you can place an order by phone or in person. It's worth booking your slot early; we called to order on the Wednesday for Friday evening.

My dad and I headed down to the restaurant to pick up our order. There were a few other people waiting to collect, but we didn't have long to wait and 15 minutes later, we were unpacking the food at home. We started with some prawn crackers with a delicious spicy peanut sauce. We then shared three main dishes between us, which, with rice, was plenty of food. My favourite was the confit duck panang, which was rich, spicy and comforting, but the southern-style chicken curry with potatoes, and the roasted butternut squash with yellow beans and pomegranate were delicious too. The three dishes were all quite different but complemented each other well. And luckily, we ordered an extra portion of the duck, which I took back home to London with me.


For dessert we had pastel de nata style custard tarts, with some berries courtesy of my mum. The total cost for enough food for four was £80. Although I'm still keen to dine in at Oli's Thai when it's possible to do so — and when I can get a table — their take-out food was great. As I was originally supposed to be in Thailand for my birthday, this was a fitting alternative.


Two One Five

Based in Summertown, Two One Five is the successor to the Michelin-starred Oxford Kitchen. During lockdown 2, they've been offering a 'gastro takeaway' service from Wednesdays to Saturdays while the restaurant is closed. You can order from the menus on their website, which include starters, mains and desserts, along with accompanying wines and cocktails. Delivery is free within a ten-mile radius or you can collect from the restaurant.

Our food arrived on Saturday evening, and we kept it in the fridge until lunchtime on Sunday. The food is all cooked but some heating and/or finishing at home is required. To keep things simple, we shared starters and all ordered the same main course, and the provided instructions were clear and easy to follow. To help set the scene, Two One Five also included a candle to burn during the meal, and they also have a Spotify playlist you can listen to — nice touches.

We started with the whiskey-cured salmon with crème fraîche and fennel, which was very tasty, and didn't last long. Nor did the crispy pig croquette with burnt apple purée; I probably would have ordered another serving. We also ordered some bread with a moreish whipped Marmite butter.


For our main course, we ordered the confit Cotswold chicken with spiced celeriac purée and broccoli. The chicken was very juicy and the flavours of the dish combined very well, and I'm glad we also got a side of roasted carrots with garlic. The total cost for the three of us was about £80, including delivery, which was very good value given the quality of the food. Of course, our good experience means that Two One Five has also been added to my list of restaurants to visit in Oxford post-lockdown.


Gourdans 

For a more casual Saturday supper, we turned to Gourdans, a popular street-food market fixture that has a restaurant on St Clement's, just east of the city centre, that's open for delivery and take-out. We ordered three steak-frites — two 6 oz flat iron steaks, and one 8 oz sirloin — with sides of salsa verde and beef jus. Steak is perhaps a tricky dish to prepare for takeaway, but luckily, Gourdans was only a fifteen-minute drive for us and the food was still hot when we got home. If I ordered again, I'd probably go for the sirloin, but my flat iron was nicely cooked and flavoursome, and there were plenty of chips on the side.


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