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23 October 2007

The Goose

Restaurant reviews can veer off on tangents and often it seems that the food is not all that important.  Such is the preponderance of reviewers to waffle on (moi?), Restaurant magazine has a monthly rating of reviewers, ranking them by who wrote the least about the restaurants they were reviewing.

I do my best to stick to the topic at hand, but I know that I can become a little too obsessed with the cleanliness of toilets (a crucial yardstick to the cleanliness of the kitchen), the excellent staff or the ugly room.  What I have never done until today, is focus solely on one dish and really one part of one dish.  But, before I go there, I should be absolutely clear, I love The Goose.

I had been recommended to The Goose by the ever-reliable denizens of the Opinionated About food forum (registration req'd) as a Sunday lunch stop on the way back from a dirty weekend away with Silverbrowess.

We were early for our booking and were the only people there.  The room was nice enough reminding me a bit of the Fat Duck - soft colours, low ceiling, wood beams etc - and the staff were attentive.

The menu read well enough but I was particularly interested in the mushroom and madeira consomme with gnocchi.  I assumed it was made with a beef stock, otherwise Escoffier would scoff, but following a bit of confusion from our waitress, it turned out it was entirely vegetarian. I couldn't have been happier but I was cynical.  I hadn't tried a consomme in years and was convinced this would be a rather insipid dish, brown, watery and tasteless.

I was wrong. I can still taste it and I have to be honest, this review is a tad late in coming.

It arrived as perfectly clear chocolate-brown liquid, with some herbed gnocchi bobbing around.  The first flavour was a sweetness from the madeira, but it was light, not cloying, if anything it had a slight sharpness to it.  Very quickly this subsided and the mushrooms showed their strength with an earthy kick to the taste buds.  The gnocchi added some depth, with their herbs working well with the musty mushrooms and sweet madeira, but frankly I would have enjoyed a trough of the consomme by itself.

I was impressed by this dish on a number of levels.  At the most base was that it tasted fantastic.  But it only tasted so good because it had been well made and almost more importantly, well conceived.  It is rare that such care is put into a veggie dish and is indicative of the quality of the rest of the food we ate.  It also shows chef Matthew Tomkinson regards all food and every customer is sacred.

Tomkinson has not come out of nowehere, he was a Roux Scholar in 2005 and has trained with Michel Guerard at les Prés d’Eugenie.  He has clearly learnt from some of the best and for me, this soup is evidence enough that he's going to give them a run for their money.  If you listen to the rumour mongers, he's slated for his first Michelin star when the new rankings come out next year, as by then he will have been open for about a year and a half and should have been able to prove himself.  It will be well deserved.

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The Goose, Britwell Salome, Oxfordshire, OX49 5LG
Tel: +44 (0)1491 612304

What others think

The Oxford Times - ingredients sourced from the best British suppliers dominate the menu.
Tribble Tasting by Arrangement - an excellent meal from a restaurant on its way up.


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You wanted coffee in Boston? Try Coffee Delux on Newberry Street. Or even Dunkin Donuts....

Now you tell me, I'm back in the UK. One to put in the address book though. I agree on Dunkin Donuts, their coffee does live up to its hype. As it happens, the coffee in my hotel (Intercontinental) wasn't so bad afterall. Dare I admit to it, given my frequent rants, I resorted to Starbucks in a moment of desperation - as appalling as ever. Who in their right mind orders a pumpkin spice latte?

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