Review: Smoke & Thyme Autumn Pop Up Restaurant
On a crisp autumn evening in October, Anna and I headed up Divinity Road in Oxford in search of the Smoke & Thyme Autumn Pop Up Restaurant. Set back inside a gorgeous stone house at the top of the road, we were warmly welcomed by Claire, the Smoke & Thyme front of house manager.
Claire joined chef Jack Greenall this year to help manage the pop up restaurant, and growing band of supporters eager to try Jack’s latest innovations. Jack set up Smoke & Thyme in his home town of Oxford after a successful stint running a pop up restaurant in London. Jack is self taught and totally passionate about ingredients, flavours and perfecting techniques. The Smoke & Thyme Blog effuses with his enthusiasm for cooking, and leaves you hungry for more.
Claire led us through to the plant lined conservatory, where we joined fellow diners at the restaurant’s bespoke ‘river table’ hand crafted by Jack’s friend using a beautifully cut piece of blue glass which flows down the middle of the wooden table.
Our seats taken, we chatted to our neighbours at the table, including a chef who had found Jack’s events through Facebook and loved the food so much, she had already booked for the November menu before she left. Chatting to strangers in this setting, might seem a bit daunting, but Anna and I have been to many communal dining events and have always sat next to lovely people, if you haven’t done it before, the Smoke & Thyme Pop Up Restaurant is the perfect place to dip your toe in the water!
Onto the food! The menu for the Autumn Pop Up changes monthly and comprises of around 4 starters, 4 mains and 3 desserts, with choices for vegetarians and dietary requirements taken into careful consideration too (you can advice on anything specific on booking).
Drinks poured, and orders taken, we started our meal with a little amuse-bouche of samphire pakoras. Lightly spiced, deliciously crispy and bursting with the uniquely sea-salty taste of samphire, our appetites were piqued.
For our starters, Anna opted for sun-dried tomato, pesto and cows curd, and I tried the soft roes on toast with sherry cream sauce. The herring roes were indeed soft and unctuous, as well as being silky and rich with the sherry sauce, totally delicious. Jack makes his own sun-dried tomatoes in a dehydrator, and the concentrated sweetness worked perfectly with the fresh bright pesto and velvety homemade cows curd.
The main courses were equally well executed, and we shared the crispy squid & leek fricasse tagliatelle and pumpkin curry with homemade naan. The squid and leek tagliatelle was delightful, however the star of the show has to go the pumpkin curry. Jack has been perfecting his curry recipe for over 10 years, and paired with the sweet pumpkin flesh it was totally delicious. Haunting notes of cardamom and coriander seeds give the sauce depth while fresher hints of ginger, garlic and thyme make for a very well rounded dish. Oh, and that handmade buttery naan!
To finish we delved into toast ice cream with honeycomb, and poached pear tart. The ice cream was rich with the flavour of buttered toast and flecked with golden shards of sweet, smokey honeycomb. Anna’s pear tart was beautifully presented with sliced red and white pears, short buttery pastry and sweet vanilla.
So, was it any good? I think we can safely say a resounding YES! The food is like nothing else you can find in Oxford, and the whole experience feels very personal, and carefully thought out. From the wine pairings to the meticulously considered recipes inspired by Jack’s travels and hours of refining, there is something really captivating about being taken on a unique culinary journey.
One of the reason we are totally passionate about independent businesses, is that you can really see the love and personality of the owners in how they put their stores together, curate their ranges and create their menus. All of this makes our neighbourhoods and communities rich and unique, and the Smoke & Thyme Pop Up Restaurant is another asset to the independent scene in Oxford.
You can still book for the November menu but be quick, it’s nearly sold out!