Dirty Bones, Oxford
Hip hop, hipster mac'n'cheese and dangerous cocktails - sounds like a job for Muddy's resident millennial, Sophie "The Hedonist" Hadj.
Back in 2014, the first Dirty Bones opened, transforming a Kensington basement into an NYC-inspired bar and restaurant. With Londoners falling for their laid-back “dude food” (big ol’ burgers and hotdogs), lethal cocktails and hip hop DJ nights, branches followed in Kingly Court, Shoreditch and Soho.
Any shrewd London mini-chain looking beyond the capital knows Oxford is where it’s at and, voilà, Dirty Bones’ first regional outpost opened in our manor last year in the Westgate. You’ll find it between Pho and The Breakfast Club on the foodie Mecca roof terrace that’s redefining the dreaded shopping mall mealtime. You can either go for food or just cocktails and a dance – there’s a bar and DJ area at the front.
On a warm Saturday evening, the restaurant was buzzing with a mix of families, groups of friends and couples. The decor is tasteful Americana with its ’60s furniture, velvet booths and dark walls peppered with framed retro photos, paintings and graphic prints. The London influence is also noticeable from the low-slung lighting and open kitchen. Think Studio 54 meets Peckham Salvage Yard.
There are DJs and live music on weekend evenings and Mr Renegade was on the decks the night I visited. His classic hip-hop, funk, and soul playlist including Drake, The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z was the perfect background music that created a cool vibe without being too imposing.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Lots of venues claim to be cocktail specialists these days with many failing to deliver, but Dirty Bones’ signature The Fab (Tanqueray gin, Cointreau, Martini Rosso, lemon, gomme syrup and egg white with a Hundreds & Thousands candy rim) and Top Dog (Ketel One vodka, Chambord, strawberry, lemon, Prosecco) were delicious and get extra marks for innovation (look at the sprinkles!). They have also perfected the sweet-sour balance making it easier to knock back quickly – just how I like it.
They describe their food as ‘indulgent but always comforting’. It’s certainly carb-loading heaven but was slightly more refined than I was expecting. I started with the fried mac & cheese balls sitting on a sweet chilli sauce which were delicious and not one bit stodgy, although the sauce was a bit overpowering for my liking.
Next up was the beef short rib in a soft taco with pickled red onions and tequila-infused charred onion and tomato salsa, accompanied by a side of truffle fries (aka posh chips) and charcoal-grilled butternut squash with crème fraîche, red chilli and toasted almonds. The meat was so tender it melted in the mouth and the sharpness of the pickled onion cut through it perfectly.
My boyfriend opted for the crispy fried chicken served on a baked waffle with a shot of maple syrup which sounds like an odd combination but is one that has gained massive cult following (my Instagram feed is plastered with the dish). His licked-clean plate suggested it works.
We were fit to burst by dessert so opted to share a salted peanut butter gelato with dark chocolate cookie chunks and honey nut brittle cup. I don’t think I even need to explain how deliciously naughty it was.
Five US-style mahoosive portions down, wearing skinny jeans no longer seemed like a good choice so, be warned, this is not for anyone on a strict diet. Or you can go the Muddy way and say to hell with it. At least you can dance off the calories.
OUT & ABOUT
Go for a bar crawl along the roof terrace and visit The Alchemist, Victor’s (where we had a mental Muddy night out) and the Cinnamon Kitchen. Or end your night on a quieter note with an indie film at Curzon cinema. Not forgetting the fantastic shopping options if you head there in the day: & Other Stories, Cos, Mint Velvet, House, Oliver Bonas, Russell & Bromley and more more more.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Refuelling the family mid-shopping spree (Hero says her kids can’t get enough of it!), although the late opening hours (until 1am on Fri & Sat) are also perfect for girls nights out and pre gig, theatre or cinema dinner too.
Not for: Formal, special occasion meals or dates. Kayne West rapping about gold diggers isn’t entirely romantic.
The damage: Small plates start at £6, mains range from £9 for a taco to £18 for a rack of ribs and desserts are all around £6. They even do a bottomless brunch on Saturday and Sunday *cue stampede of millennials* for a very reasonable £22.
Dirty Bones, 304 The Westgate, Queen Street, Oxford OX1 1TR. Tel: 01865 808040.
Words: Sophie Hadjikyriacos
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