The Pint Shop, Oxford
To Oxford, for posh burgers and craft ale at this stylish mini-chain. Sounds blokey; is actually surprisingly family-friendly.
Already established in Cambridge, The Pint Shop opened in Oxford last year in the thick of George Street, just opposite the New Theatre. It’s certainly a challenging spot for a new dining launch – there are endless eating options already on this strip, mainly muscular chains such as Jamie’s Italian, Byron Burgers and Gourmet Burger Kitchen, plus it’s Tourist Central, so you have to fight your way through the dawdlers to get your dinner. Can Pint Shop pull it off – while simultaneously pulling me a pint?
I took my family for Sunday lunch but must admit I had reservations (and I don’t mean my table for four) – it sounded a very blokey proposition, what with the name and and the ‘Meat Beer Bread’ marketing spiel. However, I was relieved to find it wasn’t heaving with lurching rugby types on an bender, rather a smattering of other families and small groups punctuating sightseeing/shopping jaunts. Upstairs is a bar (empty when we visited), while downstairs is the large basement dining room, which seats 120. It’s a stylish, modern space, with parquet floors, leather banquettes and low-slung factory-style pendant lights. It’s about a million times less hectic than the other big-hitters nearby, providing an hour of respite from the madding crowds on the pavements outside.
Release The Chimps! No, not my children’s behaviour rather the name of the beer my husband couldn’t resist choosing from the 15 chalked up on the beer boards. I went for the more civilised-sounding Drop Hopped, and both were delicious. If craft beer isn’t your thang, there are also a whopping 105 gins (I made my daughter count them) on the drinks menu. The food is hearty, big flavoured fare, ideal for soaking up all that booze. My starter, chargrilled asparagus and leeks, goats cheese and lemon thyme toast, was basically summer on a plate.
Both main courses were excellent. My husband had what was essentially a posh kebab – devilled lamb shoulder, flat bread and chilli sauce. And that side dish was divine – new season carrots, chilli, lemon and parsley.
I went for the cheeseburger and chips, and, boy, was it good. It’s always a good sign when they ask you how you want your burger cooked, and this medium-rare beauty was the best I’ve had in a long time. Ditto the chips – not too fat, not too thin, skin-on, piping hot. The desserts aren’t the main event here, but the sundaes – banana split, rhubarb crumble or the Malt Teaser – sounded promising. I am basically Mrs Creosote but even I couldn’t squeeze one in. There was also three choices of Sunday roast, four cuts of steak and a couple of decent veggie options (cauliflower cheese soufflé and beetroot and red onion tart).
Despite the emphasis on beer, very much so. The friendly servers are attentive and patient with children, provide colouring sheets and check whether you want the children’s meals served with your starters or mains to avoid potential angry meltdowns. The children’s menu is short but sweet, with chicken and roasties, burgers, fish cake or macaroni cheese. Both my two scoffed their cheeseburgers in minutes, pausing only to give a synchronised thumbs-up, before moving on to banana splits.
OUT & ABOUT
It’d make a good pit-stop for just about anything you might to doing in central Oxford – the New Theatre is steps away, The Ashmolean Museum, Sheldonian Theatre (above) and the beauties of Broad St are a few minutes and high street shopping is just round the corner. If I’m in town with the kids on a cinema or museum mission, we tend to head to Byron Burger on auto-pilot, but I’ll definitely come back here next time. It’s also ideal for a pre-theatre snifter or bite – they’re big on the hipster snack du jour, the posh Scotch egg, and you only have to stumble a few feet across the road.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: craft beer fans, a weekend family lunch, after-work drinks, pre-theatre/gig sustenance, soaking up the booze mid pub crawl.
Not for: Refined ladies-who-lunch types – it’s not the place to daintily nibble a salad. Date night. Lunch with elderly parents. Pushchair or wheelchair users – it’s a basement dining room.
The damage: Reasonable for the city centre. Starters are around £6, mains £13, desserts £5. Sunday roast is 2 courses for £21. Children’s menu: £6.50 for a main, side of veg and drink, with desserts £2 each.
The Pint Shop, 27-29 George Street, Oxford, OX1 2AU; 01865 251194; pintshop.co.uk
Words: Kerry Potter