Saturday 8th February, 2020 – Pompette, Oxford
Oxford is a strange city in food terms (not as dire as Cambridge, though it remains a mystery given the amount of money washing around as to why precisely there aren’t many good and/or high end restaurants in either city). However, of late Oxford has improved considerably, with the emergence of the Oxford Kitchen (post-Covid rebranded as 215) and a couple of other notable establishments. And on a sunny but chilly day, after an afternoon at the Ashmolean to see the Young Rembrandt exhibition, we were in search of a late lunch/early pre-dinner snack when we blundered across Pompette. It looked attractive, newly developed, and with massive windows letting in the late afternoon sunshine. We decided it looked to good to pass up, and having drawn a blank with the Lebanese place round the corner because by then they had no food left, and nosing in the wine shopover the road, we wandered in and asked whether we were too late, or too early, to eat. It seemed we were not.
For an establishment whose name means “slightly tipsy” you won’t be at all surprised to learn that they have a very fine wine list, withm pleasingly, a distinct emphasis on Alsace and its wines. We ordered something to drink and took a long look at the menu.
We soon decided that what we needed to soak up an afternoon glass of wine was a helping of ham and cheese croquettes. These were a good size, somewhere between a golf ball and a tennis ball in size, with a satisfyingly crispy exterior and a meltingly soft and gooey inside. They were spectacularly cheesy and I could have happily eaten another batch if we hadn’t needed to get home and do a few things later in the day; the alternative was a food-induced short-term coma on the sofa, which would mean I was unlikley to achieve anything much before Sunday, or possibly even Monday.
We followed it up with a sharing platter of ham, and capers, chunks of roasted beetroot in balsamic vinegar, mozzarella cheese and some lightly toasted garlic sourdough. All very good, very satisfying in that “fills a small gap” sort of way. And the ham was just gorgeous… It was almost impossible to get a decent photo of the plate because of the sheer luminosity of the sunlight pouring in through the huge windows, but I’m not complaining because it was lovely, especially for February.
I ended up having a chat with the sommelier, initially on the subject of WSET because I was waiting for my Level 2 results, and he was in the throes of Level 4, which involves a deal of travel and a written dissertation. While we were chatting we discovered the restaurant owners were from Alsace, so that explained a lot about the content of the rather splendid wine list. We also found that they were about to start running themed wine evenings, the next one being an Alsace-themed event. We checked our diaries and promptly signed up to attend. And on that note we paid up, looked big and headed for home before we could be tempted into a further round of food and wine.