On a bright sunny day when both the heat and a new modicum of freedom began enticing people out, there was only one place to go for a stylish lunch, a treat, a celebration, an excuse to dress up, to remember what life was like before, and that place was Quod.
And it was exciting to just to be out, to know that it was a day worth changing out of your pyjamas for, putting on lipstick, heels, a frock, a mask for the bus, and then to walk, blithely through Oxford as if going out for lunch for the first time in four months was completely normal.
Processing up the high street and into the Mogford stalwart Oxford glass walled classic restaurant was even more of a privilege than normal.
Due to the sunny climes, the main restaurant was relatively quiet, despite some clever, and aesthetically pleasing, glass partitioning between the tables.
Instead we were led outside to the courtyard garden which was full of people laughing, talking, eating, drinking, holding hands, having romantic lunches, family get togethers, friendly meet ups, nothing unusual perhaps at any other time, but a miracle right now.
And so we sat and had such a long lunch that we got through three different serving staff.
Mind you with the food on offer it wasn’t hard. The set lunch is great value considering it boasted steak, lamb belly, fish curry and pizzetta, and that’s just the mains.
Two courses for £14.95 or three for £18.95, 12-6pm Monday-Friday, lends itself to a lazy afternoon we discovered.
But first a drink. A glass of champagne to celebrate the occasion? A Bloody Mary to assuage the appetite? A mocktail for the driver? Or all of the above….
Our poor waitress Maisie had to return time and time again to ask whether we had decided what we wanted to order, and at last we were ready.
In that time we devoured the delicious bread and butter, oil and vinegar, preparing the way for what was to come, a tantalising taste of the quality of the food here.
The gem lettuce, parmesan, croutons and soft boiled egg plate followed by a 6oz sirloin steak, homemade chips and green salad (£2.50 supplement) and then a salmon tartare with cucumber and fennel plus the cod Karachi, saffron rice, raita and poppadum, both from the set menu.
And then a starter size portion of the spinach and ricotta ravioli with a pine nut butter from the main menu, and afterwards the pizzetta of courgette, ricotta and basil from the set menu.
Throw in a bottle of the house rose and we were set.
The gem lettuce starter was all the right textures; the crunch of the lettuce, the soft egg, the toasty croutons and gratings of cheese – a perfect summer dish to kick off with. The ravioli was decadently smothered in the butter sauce, the iron depths of dark green spinach the perfect contrast. The salmon starter was pretty as a picture, and just the right size – nothing worse than overfilling before you’ve begun.
The pizzetta, served on a long thin wooden platter, was thin, crispy and flavoursome, the steak cooked just right, the fish curry resplendent with Indian spice.
And the conversation flowed, customers ebbed in and out and life carried on as normal. A blessing.
How we managed to share an Eton mess and an espresso panna cotta with hazelnut praline I’ll never know, but as I asked myself on the way back to the bus, ruminating on my quintessentially English lunch, I could not think of a better way to welcome back some semblance of normality in such a refined manner.
A truly memorable and special experience. We were certainly ladies who’d lunched.
Go to https://www.quod.co.uk to book.