It’s a big ask, converting a successful takeaway business into a bonafide restaurant in Oxford. But that’s what Gourdans has done, and then some.
You’ll have seen their French Renault van careering around Oxford selling their infamous steak frites to all and sundry.
Long harbouring plans to open their own place, Matt and Tina Jeffery’s dreams were finally realised last month when Gourdans moved into its new premises in St Clements. But can a takeaway van following be translated into a successful restaurant business and what would it be like?
READ ABOUT THEIR GOURDANS DREAM HERE: https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/the-dream-of-a-lifetime-gourdans-opens-new-steak-frites-restaurant-in-oxford/
As soon as we arrived in East Oxford, and pulled up outside, we realised Gourdans was already an unprecedented success, its guests queueing patiently outside for the second sitting, while we watched guests carousing and gorging on steak, wine and raclette, the windows misting up with fun and good food.
Not only that but Matt and Tina have replicated their signature look inside, the bar mimicking the side of a French vintage Renault van, providing an immediate wow factor. It was an intoxicating scene and one we were keen to try for ourselves.
The smoked potatoes were so novel and delicious I had to actually protect them from marauding diners
Seated in the window seat, the six of us were immediately enthralled, swept up in the giddy atmosphere of finding somewhere new and different.
But wouldn’t steak and frites alone be a bit limiting?
Luckily the Jefferys had already thought of that and extended their repertoire to include an interesting selection of cheese, fish and vegetarian dishes, alongside the extensive steak menu, to cater for all appetites and dietary requirements. What was even more clever was that each dish was as impressive as the last, the steak offering no longer taking up the whole centre stage.
It was the starters that surprised me the most, although that’s a rather formal word for what were ultimately dishes to nibble on and share before the main event. But they were absolutely wonderful; from the bread, made and baked on the premises, to the anchoiade & radishes, whipped broad beans, grilled onions & pomegranate or the terrine, toast & cornichons.
“YES, GOURDANS LIVED UP TO ITS REPUTATION FOR DELIVERING A DAMN FINE STEAK FRITES IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE”
We had the courgette fries & aioli because we saw them sailing past to another table and were unable to resist, ditto the green lentils & tomatoes, the Breton tomatoes with rocket & lovage and the deep fried ewes cheese.
The aioli that came with the delicious, battered, crispy chunks of courgette was absolutely spot on; garlicky, unctuous, silky smooth…. if I hadn’t ordered a main I’d have ordered another portion.
The deep fried ewes cheese was the same, like a less salty but moister halloumi, and generous, piping hot and crunchy on the outside with a home-made ketchup dip.
The whipped broad beans were fresh, zinging and beautifully flavoured, accentuated with lemon. We also had the Cobble Lane charcuterie board to share, the ingredients speaking for themselves.
The classic Swiss Raclette: cheese over smoked potatoes, sauerkraut, house pickles & cornichons with two Cobble Lane charcuterie choices for £12 had my name on it, although I worried that without manning the machine myself it would lose some of its attraction. Wrong again.
The smoked potatoes were so novel and delicious I had to actually protect them from marauding diners. Genius.
Served with allumettes frites and a choice of sauce included in the price it was great value for money
In fact, each additional accruement added to the dish’s overall delivery; from the sharpness of the cornichons to the nutty cheese, smoky potatoes, pickled sauerkraut and waxy charcuterie. Alpine bliss.
I know you’re all waiting to find out what the steak was like and I’ll put you out of your misery by adding that it was a coup d’etat, the icing on the cake, the dog’s bollocks, the cat’s pyjamas. Need I go on?
Yes, Gourdans lived up to its reputation for delivering a damn fine steak frites in more ways than one. The sauces – from whipped chicken butter to beef jus
creamed peppercorn, aioli, salsa verde, chimichurri, house ketchup or tartare -were all excellent.
The steaks are 28 day aged locally sourced beef. Choose from a flat iron, demi sirloin, grande sirloin (£18) and rump or the specials cut (the T-bone had sold out and the cote du boeuf was a tad steep so we’ll save it for a special occasion).
Served with allumettes (matches) frites and a choice of sauce included in the price it was great value for money.
But it was more than just the steak; the chips were just right, the side order of juicy oven baked mushrooms were decadently oily and oozing with juice. And the prices were really decent too. It was a walkover.
As for dessert, after all that, it would have to be tantalisingly good for us to manage anything at all.
It was; the creme brûlée was a masterpiece of a well done classic – sharp tap on the top and creamy depths inside. Simplicity and perfection combined.
As for the tarte aux pomme, as you can see from the photograph below, the love and care put into each slice, served with Chantilly cream and fingers of chocolate and praline with chopped nuts, demonstrated the finesse and extra mile devoted to every course.
Throw in an amazing and very personal wine list and we were entirely won over.
And then our time was up, just like that. The 10 o’clock bells chimed outside and like a plagued version of Cinderella we put on our masks and fled back into Oxford’s streets from whence we’d come.
An absolutely brilliant, fun, simple and effect way to open a new restaurant then! Or as the French would say: “Bravo”.
Gourdans is also doing deliveries from its St Clements restaurant at 49 St Clements Street Oxford OX4 1AG. Email email@example.com