New restaurant concept Wilding on Little Clarendon Street finally opened its doors this week after completing a massive refurbishment project, and we were there like a flash to try out its novel approach.
Owner Kent Barker took on the former Cafe Rouge site and transformed it during lockdown into a relaxed, sophisticated space which includes a cafe, bar, restaurant and wine shop, to cover all the bases.
We went for lunch and were stunned with the new look having visited just a few weeks before when the restaurant was still a building site. Apart from the courtyard garden outside which is still being completed, everything was ready for the big day, including the sharing plate menu.
With 50 wines by the glass and any wine in the shop available at your table, the menu is as fun and accessible.
You can order just one course to nibble on, order dishes as and when you fancy them, or opt for the full blown three course meal, its really up to you, and that I think is Wilding’s biggest selling point.
You can also wile away the afternoon as we did, nibbling and tasting, with no onus on time or formalities. It was heaven.
“The magic of Wilding is that it covers all eventualities”
So yes, we started with some top notch smoky flashfried padron peppers and a portion of frito misto with aioli while we decided.
After a Wilding Spritz (English cremant, Somerset blackcurrant and citrus) cocktail which woke us up, Kent’s business partner Sarah then helped steer us onto some wine, the first of which was orange – a first for me – and absolutely delicious (the grape skins give it its distinct flavour).
The orange wine accompanied our starters – (small plates) of grilled asparagus and hogweed salsa (£6), the potato gnocchi with aubergine, Westcombe ricotta and basil pesto (£6), and some seared scallops with sea vegetables, pickled wild garlic flower and lemon butter sauce.
The asparagus was absolutely delicious, the hogweed salsa blew our minds, certainly the best asparagus dish I’ve eaten so far this season. The pulpy smoky aubergine with the soft gnocchi was another revelation.
we were happy to have found a haven where you dictate the pace
As for the ‘butchers cut’ 50 day aged steak with homemade skin on fries and a salsa verde, accompanied by a light red wine, it made the world a better place.
The charred leek and Jersey royal filo tart with a warm vinaigrette and Puy lentils (£12) was almost deconstructed in its tower like presentation and more interesting for it, and the Napoli pizza (£13) rich with capers, olives and Brue Valley mozzarella.
We were the last to leave, the vestiges of our vanilla tart all that remained. We visited the wine shop on the way out, and departed knowing that we would be back very soon for more of Kent’s wonderful hospitality, happy to have found a haven where you dictate the pace, the food and the quantity.
Wilding is a wonderful addition to Oxford’s culinary scene, whether you pop by for a glass of wine on the way back from work, enjoy a long lunch, stop in for a coffee or book a full blown meal. The magic of Wilding is that it covers all eventualities with great style.
To enjoy Wilding on Little Clarendon Street, Oxford for yourself, book or find out more go to https://www.wilding.wine