Fifteen years and counting! And he can still surprise me. Told me to put my glad rags on and took me out for dinner.
Considering we spent our actual anniversary shivering in a yurt in Cornwall, I was so over it. But come Sunday night there we were in Oxford suited and booted.
But where do you take your wife when she writes about food and reviews restaurants for a living? Gees of course, the perfect choice, especially after the week we’d had.
To be pampered and cosseted, to dress up and be handed a flute of champagne on arrival. I can’t tell you how luxurious it was to be spoilt. To settle in the elegant and relaxing interior, to be excited by a menu, a world away from our cold, wet, windy campsite in Bude.
But what made our night even more remarkable was our waitress Anna. Considering the current lack of staff everywhere, coming across a gem like her was a massive bonus. Chatty, bright and unmistakably professional she made the evening even more of a success.
And it was busy. Sundays nights are the new Saturday it would seem, couples spilling out onto the long terrace down the side and out the front. Settled inside, the windows and doors were all open in Oxford’s most famous culinary greenhouse, the weather warm and sunny.
A Bloody Mary then to celebrate – they make them so well here, concocting their own tomato juice mix – and then a plate of their moreish bread dipped in peppery olive oil.
The menu offered up some exciting and different starters – for me chargrilled peaches with spiced hazelnuts, braised chicory and rocket salad (£8.75) which arrived with a piquant dressing. More peach would have been good but it was a novel and interesting dish.
For him the chicken liver and chorizo parfait with pickled padrons and pugliese toast (£7.95). Chorizo can overpower most things, but here it was well really balanced. Why pickled and not pan-fried padron peppers we don’t know, the latter would have been preferable, but again a nice take on a classic.
Then the fillet of halibut with mussels, broccoli and a brown shrimp butter (£26.95) alongside a serving of crisp, hot, homemade fries. The fish was succulent and moist and its components came together beautifully as a whole – a real treat.
The aubergine parmigiana with gem lettuce and chicory is always a make or break dish in a restaurant. Cooked badly it’s horrendous, but here the parmigiana was sooooooo soft and seductive, oozing with cheese and tomato sauce, which contrasted nicely with the bitterness of the chicory and the crunch of the salad leaves and tiny radish slices. (£16.95). When it appeared in its tin ramekin I was unimpressed, but by the time I’d finished I was scraping it clean. Wonderful.
For dessert we luxuriated between the chocolate nemesis and the Amalfi lemon tart, finally settling on the plum and almond torte, as recommended by Anna. And she was right, softly crunchy, sticky, sharp and served with a vanilla cream with jam, just like a cream tea, it was old-fashioned and sumptuous to the last spoon.
Not a cheap night out by any means, but we relished every second while around us birthdays were celebrated, first daters blushed, couples chatted unadorned by domesticity, parents and children caught up, and us old timers enjoyed each others company all the more.
So yes as anniversaries go, it was right up there. Here’s to the next one.
Gees is at 61A Banbury Rd, Park Town, Oxford OX2 6PE https://www.geesrestaurant.co.uk