Harley Young tries a six-course tasting menu at the Michelin Guide recognised restaurant
Last week, I joined my colleague Hayden on a drive into Birkenhead, under the river Mersey via the rather exciting Queensway Tunnel and into the quaint little village of Oxton.
Nestled on a short street slap-bang in the middle of the village is OXA. A fairly small, fairly understated restaurant that swaps frills for well thought-out food, and of course a bloody good chef, Andrew Sheridan, in charge of keeping things ship shape. Flying the flag on his behalf is OXA's Head Chef, Jake Smith, who ensures everything is up to the high standards you'd expect from such an establishment.
Andrew Sheridan’s OXA puts this Wirral village on the map as a hidden hotspot for expertly-crafted food
Now, despite what you might think, it’s not pronounced ‘Oxa’ like an Oxo cube. Instead, the letters are sounded out separately; O-X-A. That’s how Sheridan says it anyway. You've been told.
After only being open for a couple weeks, Michelin had already deemed the place worthy of their guide and now, eight months later, I was trying for myself. Mainly because I felt like I was missing out, but also to determine whether the notorious foodie travel guide would be popping in any time to slap one of those cute metal plaques on the outside wall sporting a star.
OXA puts this Wirral village on the map as a hidden hotspot for expertly-crafted food.
The restaurant walls are painted a warm-toned grey, there’s a couple of simple paintings and subtle earthy elements dotted around such as driftwood sculpture housing several chunky pillar-shaped candles. Tables and chairs are a smart, sleek wooden design giving off Scandinavian living vibes. There’s no showboating or ‘look at me’ necessary as OXA lets the food do all the talking.
We each chose the six-course tasting menu (£65 each), a glass of ginger ale and a ginger beer since the fridges were well-stocked and they had both options available.
There's also vegan and pescatarian menus available (as long as the kitchen are given 72 hours prior notice), as well as the option to add two extra courses (£15 extra) and a wine flight (£50 for five glasses/£60 for six glasses). All of which is very relative and reasonable for a fine dining establishment.
Our six-course taster started with a portion of plump and fleshy Gordal olives to share. Probably the fattest, most flavoursome olives I've come across in a long while. Alongside sat a small dish of candied walnuts; still slightly warm from roasting, salty sweet and incredibly moreish.
The second course was a beautiful sight to behold, like something straight out of an art gallery. The goats cheese and pickled beetroot was light and airy, presented in a wafer thin shell and garnished with a few blood-red droplets of beetroot gel which ran throughout the bottom of the cup, adding an element of surprise and extra zing of flavour to the goats cheese it was nestled under.
The whole thing was served on a bed of decorative seeds, making the dish appear even more delicate than it was. Word to the wise; don't try and eat the whole thing in one go as Hayden did. It's bitesized, as most fine dining cuisine is, but not that bitesize. Little nibbles will serve you better.
Next came the Cornish mussels with pickled celeriac in an unctuous mussel chowder broth. A delightful little dish that, with the help of the pickled celeriac, created a perfectly fishy and salty-sweet balance. The mussels were incredibly fresh and no 'beards' in sight as you'd expect from Andrew Sheridan and his team.
Served alongside the mussels was an adorable little loaf of beer and miso soda bread still warm from the oven.
'But Harley,' I hear you ask, 'surely all good bread needs good butter?'
Fear not, lovely reader. They'd thought of that, too. A little puck of heavily-salted, room temperature butter served on the side melted straight into the loaf when spread. Heaven.
For the fourth course, we were treated to a succulent, meaty disc of glazed short rib, cut thick for added bite. Alongside it was another sliver of beef, filet this time, topped with a razor-thin slither of shiitake mushroom and a dollop of swede puree. The beef sat atop of a wine and red berry reduction adding a bit of tartness to the dish. This rich course left us both eager for just a tad more.
Not as aesthetically-pleasing as the other four courses but no less tasty was the pre-dessert palate cleanser; OXA's take on the traditional British treat, rhubarb and custard, accompanied with yogurt. Hidden under a nicely-piped floret of yogurt sat a small stick of well-seasoned rhubarb. An easy going dish that nobody could fault.
Concluding the meal was another work of art; Valrhona chocolate served with salted caramel ice cream, a hazelnut brittle and drizzle of orange gel. The citrus cut through the rich chocolatey flavours very nicely and the hazelnut shards added enough texture to the palate to keep the course exciting. Quartered hazelnuts hid underneath the ice cream for extra added crunch, further complimenting the salty flavours of the salted caramel sauce.
Being a self-confessed chocoholic, this was the perfect end to a well-rounded meal in my eyes.
Andrew Sheridan’s OXA puts this Wirral village on the map as a hidden hotspot for expertly-crafted food. It might sit across the water from prestogious sister venue Restaurant 8, which you’ll find near Liverpool’s effervescent Cavern Quarter, but don’t be fooled - the newcomer is by no means the poor relation.
The same careful consideration, painstaking craft and lovingly selected produce that Sheridan and his team puts into making a visit to the 16-cover restaurant spectacular is adopted here. Just in a more casual, free-flowing setting.
If OXA doesn’t receive its first Michelin star within the next year, I’ll be very surprised. Watch this space.
OXA, 11 Rose Mount, Oxton, Birkenhead, Prenton CH43 5SG
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All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, and ALWAYS paid for by Confidentials.com and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.
If you want to see the receipt as proof this magazine paid for the meal then a copy will be available upon request. Or maybe ask the restaurant.
Venues are rated against the best examples of their type. What we mean by this is a restaurant which aspires to be fine dining is measured against other fine dining restaurants, a mid-range restaurant against other mid-range restaurants, a pizzeria against other pizzerias, a teashop against other teashops, a KFC against the contents of your bin. You get the message.
Given the above, this is how we score: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: sigh and shake your head, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: nothing's that good is it?
Gordal olives and candied walnuts 8, goats cheese 8, cornish mussels 8, glazed rib of beef 8, rhubarb custard 7, valrhona chocolate 8