OXFORD BROOKES UNIVERSITY lies just outside the city centre, on nearby Headington Hill. Our evening restaurant treat there was to sample ‘Feast in the Forest,’ a three course meal focused on the sorts of food you might find in the woodlands of England.

David Jefferis: At this evening display of students’ work, the meet and greet table was loaded with glasses of Blackberry Vodka and Elderflower Collins, and very good they were too, though this car-driving reviewer had a non-alcoholic version. Actually, I was saving myself for the promised Sloe Gin Nightcap to see us home. I had an idea that no one could beat the oily unctiousness of the demon drink concocted annually by a hedgerow-harvesting acquaintance of mine.

The first course (below) proved a real highlight, offering a food I’d never dreamed of, let alone eaten before. The Nettle and Sorrel Risotto balls were creamy and wonderful - unlike the inedible nettle soup I once made and poured down the sink. The balls were laid on wafer-thin slices of bark-smoked and pickled beetroot, with goats’ cheese, watercress and dandelion leaves.

I haven’t had venison for years, so the main course (header, below) was effectively like trying something new. I’m generally not too keen on rare meats of any sort, but this Roast Venison earned its keep by being melt-in-my-mouth tender. A small white pot accompanied the roast, filled with Braised Venison, reduced with (I was assured) locally-picked mushrooms and juniper berries.

The sweet (below) was (and I quote) a “sort of deconstructed cheesecake,” the crumbs laid as a ‘forest floor of chocolate soil’ with scoops of vanilla cheesecake laid on top. Oh, plus some pansies and leaves to chew on. The pansies looked cute, but I must confess, they didn’t seem to taste of much.

And then we came to the shot glass of Sloe Gin Nightcap, which was excellent. However, it didn't quite beat the oily drink that gave me such a hangover a while ago. I’m not sure if that gin was any tastier, but it sure was shudderingly strong!

Menu (above, below) included a vegetarian option.

All in all, a grand evening, which left me feeling sleek and shiny, but not fit to burst - just the way I like it. So, well done students of Oxford Brookes. I’m sure the future is bright for everyone involved in putting on the evening.

Note: One of our table guests had a longish train ride back to Reading that evening, and found that he needed ‘a little something’ when he finally got there. Kebab van to the rescue!

Photographs courtesy Sandra Ballard.

Click here to visit Brookes Restaurant.


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