‘A change is as good as a rest’ should be Jeremy Mogford’s motto, because his discerning central Oxford restaurant Gees has been transformed during its recent makeover, and yet is unmistakably the same.
The outdoor space can now encompass an increasing amount of sun loving diners, mainly around the back in a secret lush garden where Gee’s clement menu is available, and with tables also scattered down the sides of the famous greenhouse dining space there’s plenty of room when the sun comes out. (READ OUR PIECE ON WHERE TO EAT OUTSIDE IN 2023 HERE)
A large private dining room/events space next door is the other new addition to the Gees makeover, filled with happy diners that evening when I wandered past again.
The menu is suitably seasonal, thanks to new head chef Lee Parsons, but before ordering one must take in the surroundings, because Gees remains such a charming space, filled with chatty diners, comfort and colour, as it has been since opening in 1989.
We remained indoors as the rain was spitting, but the new menu was too enticing for the decor to waylay us for long, featuring some notably bulbous asparagus served with a choice of accruements to kick things off.
The asparagus was huge, juicy and gratifyingly al dente, the hollandaise and vinaigrette both so perfectly executed we kept what was left of them them for our bread.
Then one of my favourites – parmigiana – aubergine layered with tomato sauce and mozzarella, baked so that it oozes with cheese and olive oil, and an accompanying crisp side salad.
And the fish of the day – Cornish monkfish tail, braised fennel and romesco sauce for a mighty £32, a lovely summery dish although despite the vivid romesco sauce was rather monochrome in appearance and needed a bit more more seasoning.
As for the puddings, it was too hard to choose – creme catalana? The impossibly delicious sounding chocolate nemesis with crème fraiche, or the poached rhubarb and sorbet?
We settled on the orange and almond polenta cake with mascarpone cream (£9.50) and it was worth every moment of debate. Soft, juicy, light, fragrant with orange and almond, it was a delight.
And sitting back to enjoy the view, I marvelled at Gees ability for reinvention, to tap into that quintessential Oxford vibe and ensure that it is continually relevant, if not vital, to Oxford’s dining scene.
Put it this way, Gees is always a safe bet, a valid option and a glorious dining experience come rain or shine and remains one of Oxford’s best restaurants.
GEES RESTAURANT & BAR is at 61-63 BANBURY RD, OXFORD. OX2 6PE. Go to https://www.geesrestaurant.co.uk