Bia in Summertown is open, the new South Parade restaurant run by 27 year-old chef patron George Nolan, where El Rincon used to be.
Bia is Gaelic for food, a nod to George’s Irish roots, but having grown up in Oxford, the former Cherwell School pupil has a more modernist approach to food, his sharing plate menu reflecting his love of food and the dishes he wants to eat.
It’s George’s first restaurant, having crafted his skills in London, but he has youth, verve and enthusiasm on his side, as well as a stellar team he’s brought with him, including sous chef Callum Jackson, and is already making his mark on the Oxford restaurant scene.
‘yes I think we can bring something new to the table’
“It’s the food I want to cook; a sharing plate menu which allows people to eat as much or as little as they want,” he says. “We have a lot of plant based dishes, alongside the meat options, which are as seasonal and local as possible, so yes I think we can bring something new to the table.”
And George has already put in the hard work, starting as a KP in Bristol and working his way up through the ranks as a chef, before enrolling at Leith’s Cookery School, finessing his skills in numerous fine dining London restaurants, before running his own highly successful pop-ups there.
But with feelers out in Oxford, when the El Rincon site came up a few months ago, he jumped at the chance to open his first restaurant. “It’s what I have always wanted to do, since starting to cook professionally, because I’m very hands on and love the pace and the buzz of working in a kitchen and running the pass.
“I love seeing my recipes and food on the menu and the customers returning. I just relish the challenge,” George says shrugging.
‘opening my own restaurant Is what I have always wanted to do’
Think porchetta bon bon with a basil emulsion (£5.50) or baked goats cheese with a truffle and honey mascarpone (£5.50) from the small bites menu, then perhaps the ‘crying tiger’ hanger steak, salt and pepper shoestring fries and Nam Jim butter (£13.50) or compressed fennel salad, Novel orange, baby rocket and mint (£6.50) from the small plates offering, and finish with a chocolate hazelnut tart and banana ice cream (£7).
“So now it’s just about finding the right balance, which is why we have brought Stanley Righton with us as Front of House (a family friend who was running successful bars in Manchester), because his cocktails are already a big draw and customers come in for drinks, food or both.”
‘We have such a good team here at bia so it’s great to finally be open’
And while Bia is open for lunch and supper Tuesday-Saturday, every morning they are featuring a pop up cafe run by Pannekoek Cafe.
The brainchild of Alec Leslie, who is serving Dark Horse Roastery coffee, Tap Social‘s PROOF bakery and Hamblin‘s pastries, Bird & Blend teas and Skogen Kitchen‘s cinnamon buns, it means the premises has multiple offerings all day.
Having also been looking for the right premises, Alec knew it would be a perfect match when approached by Bia.
‘Everyone at bia really cares and I think that’s evident’
“Pannekoek Cafe has started quite small and we hope to expand our offering, but we already love the atmosphere here,” he says, gesturing around the intimate restaurant and bar space. “And we feel we add to the welcome and experience that Bia now offers.”
“Everyone at Bia really cares and I think that’s evident and the overriding factor in terms of welcoming customers.”
George agrees: “We have such a good team here and having been waiting for the work to be completed for a few months, it’s great to finally open Bia. It’s really exciting.”
Bia is at 38 South Parade, Summertown, Oxford. Go to https://www.bia38.co.uk