Previously occupied by a Hungarian restaurant, the Oxley swung a hammer thru the galley style interior and infused well thought out comfortable pub décor, with nary a fox, toad or firkin in sight. Personal space is well respected here; tables aren’t choked all the way through the narrow dining room, elbow room is kept in high regard and conversations aren’t bounced across every wall in the room. An inviting pub you can actually relax in, without the fuzzy red velour that infects most competitors.
Service is just as swish as the tasteful interior. Friendly without being obtrusive, our server didn’t hesitate to suggest her fave dishes off the British dominated menu. If you haven’t experienced proper pub food (Guinea fowl, organ meat pies) then the Oxley will certainly surprise you. Offering a wide selection of ales and lagers, the server also suggested the cask ales which are traditionally served at room temperature (gives true meaning to pulling pints). We opted for the darker cask ale ($8.50) and a bottle of Stone Hammer ($6) which we expected to match our culinary cravings.
Channeling our English roots, and caving to our pickled hankerings, we started off with the Aged cheddar and Branston sandwich ($16) with house made salty crisps (chips). For those not inclined, Branston is a popular UK condiment that features pickled rutabaga, onions, carrots, all muddled into a black mushy spread that somewhat resembles jam. Spiced with mustard, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and more, it’s definitely an acquired taste. I tend to avoid the jarred stuff, but was compelled to order it when told it was in house made. Served on white bread, with buttery white cheddar, the pickle was salty as well as sweet and the flavours combined together made it memorable. The crisps were a nice touch, served in a parchment bag ensuring a good crunch, and tucking a few in with the cheddar adds a further dimension to the differing textures.
The Fish Pie with peas ($22) was Shepherd’s pie style, with a mashed potato topping replacing the puff pastry that’s usually a feature of most British pies. This resulted in one giant heavy trough of potato, cream and five types of fish: scallops, salmon, halibut, mussels and lobster. Each fish got the special treatment; cooked individually first guaranteed that the fish still retained its natural form and didn’t turn into a mushy fish mess.
The Rib Eye ($38) served on crisped white bread with a generous slathering of stilton sitting atop green beans was an inventive take on a classic. Steak and blue cheese is always a stellar combo, and the upgrade to proper British stilton propelled the juicy medium rare steak into meat glory.
The Sticky Toffee Pudding ($8) lived up to its name. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, the steaming pudding had definite notes of molasses and brown sugar. The portion was ample and the ice cream cascaded into a melting river of vanilla, adding a lovely creamy consistency that balanced the denseness of the pudding.
Serving options from the bar, brunch or full dinner menus promises those with varying appetites will be satisfied. And with the 2012 London Olympic Games coming, I predict the Oxley’s tempting commonwealth nibbles to shine a spotlight on modern British cuisine. Just remember, it’s still Yorkville, so mind your p’s and q’s and bring a few extra quid, it’s not your average Toronto pub.
The Oxley is located at 121 Yorkville avenue and does take reservations, although not for the patio.