Stellar private dining
I am sooooo looking forward to telling you about Oxford Private Dining. Because it’s amazing. And good value. And a really special thing to do.
The Sir Charles Napier is a fine dining pub near Chinnor that Mr Muddy and I have gone to countless times for the simple reason that it’s incredible food in gorgeous surroundings. The chef, Chris Godfrey is young – in his thirties, fresh-faced enough to be in a boy band (One Direction, I believe a vacancy has arisen?), and he’s recently left the the Sir Charles Napier to go freelance and start his own catering company Oxford Private Dining.
Private dining has a bit of a bad reputation as something that only the super-rich can afford. It’s true, if you throw a chef £1000 they’ll be able to spend the budget on some brilliant food and wine for you, but what I really like about Oxford Private Dining is that Chris is really open to the budget you have – so you can tell him you the money for whatever-a-head and he’ll tell you what he can do for you, rather than turning his nose up to heaven and directing you to his Michelin star (yep, he’s got one on repeat).
Case in point: he came over to cook for a dinner party of six at my house and we had a five course dinner (three mains, and two amuse bouch style extras) for £5o a head (he puts the average dinner party costs between £45-60 but again this is all up for discussion and dependent on the food you choose). I think that’s incredible value for a Michelin star meal, particularly as you can source your own wine without corkage, you have no taxi or babysitting fares if you’re hosting, and can even split the bill with friends instead of eating out. I know even when I cook at my own dinner parties, I come back from the supermarket at least £2oo lighter after buying the food and booze, with added entertaining angst and prep time to add on top.
Chris had come over the week before to discuss the menu with me, though when I say discuss he showed me his ideas and I agreed to all of them because he’s got a bloody Michelin star and knows what he’s doing, without me grilling him on whether the beignets add anything to the dish.
He arranged to come over at 4pm in the afternoon to prep the dinner party, and I was ready too, to start thinking about crockery, table settings etc. Um no. No. No need AT ALL. Chris had brought everything with him. Glasses, plates, bread baskets, serving platters, even the cutlery. It was all done for me and I had nothing to do except crack lame jokes for the next two hours about how little I had to do. I spent an hour – yes, 60 whole minutes – getting ready. The last time I did that I was in my twenties.
Chris came back with his waitress (who happened to be his wife which is handy) an hour before the dinner party started to finish his prep.
I was worried that things would crawl out of my oven that would give a health and safety officer nightmares for weeks, and how my bottom of the range upright Beko oven might annihilate his carefully prepared cuisine at the last minute.
But he didn’t need to use the oven at all because almost everything is prepared off site, and he brings his own little hob for the last bits. I barely knew he was in my kitchen at all, apart from the fact that I’d cleared a couple of work surfaces.
This is the menu of the evening:
You won’t be surprised to hear that each course was utterly exquisite. I can’t recommend the food or Chris enough, and there is something fantastic about just being able to concentrate fully on your guests without panicking over your under-seasoned risotto or dried-out fish. You can see from the pictures how stunning the food was. The Nyetimber English sparkly was a great addition to the canapés too – I love using local wines when I can.
I had taken the menu to Martin at Peter Osborne Fine wines in Watlington, and he’d matched wines to the food perfectly, with wines ranging from £10-£20 – so they were the quality of wines you’d get from a restaurant but without their monstrous mark up. The New Zealand Omihi Road pinot noir was particularly stunning – you can see it on the left in the photo below. Although it feels a bit counter intuitive cost-wise to go to an independent wine merchant rather than picking off the shelf in Waitrose, I’d really recommend it, as you can set your budget and you really are getting expert, one to one advise. I’ll do it every time from now on, I’m a total convert.
This is me, a bit worse for wear with Chris at the end of the night. This is what happens when all you have to concentrate on is eating and drinking! Even the washing up was done for me.
I’m definitely going to use Chris this summer for a garden party/BBQ – he told me to think between £20-25 per head for 10 people for a BBQ, with costs decreasing the more people invited. So if you’re thinking about having a party, either for a few mates or something a bit bigger, definitely give him a call, it won’t be anything less than brilliant.