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Review: Ox Club at Headrow House

11 December 2015
Review: Ox Club at Headrow House
When a new restaurant opens in Leeds, there is always a buzz but Ox Club was set to make much more of a rumble. Headed up by Ben Davy, of Dough Boys & Patty Smith’s Burger Co. fame, Ox Club is the final piece in the Headrow House jigsaw, a restaurant with charm and an impressive menu. Having opened just two days prior to my first visit, I had high expectations but had prepared myself for all the small blunders that come with the opening of a new restaurant. To my happy surprise Ox Club had every culinary corner covered – it was a faultless dining experience and the venue sat in its new home like it’d been there forever. Success for Ox Club is unavoidable.

Seated in the corner of the restaurant I was able to take in the full scope of the layout and décor, all wooden and rustic with an open kitchen and gentle lighting. The only place in Leeds I could compare it with is one of my favourite dining spots, The Reliance on North Street, yet the menu and food offering was distinct (and half the price) with the focus at Ox Club being on small plates, grill options and well thought out sides. Although only a sample menu, the food offering was full-bodied and covered many divergent gastronomic areas, yet retained a signature style throughout.

Ox Club Review - Article 1

Ordering one plate each from the Grill section of the menu, my company and I were advised to share a selection of the small plates and sides to compliment our principal dish. I ordered the hake with Jerusalem artichoke, chanterelle mushrooms and ymerdrys (a rye bread topping, traditionally used to sprinkle on Ymer, a Danish type of yogurt). The fish was tender and cooked perfectly with a smoky savour and was accompanied by a velvety artichoke sauce and crispy crumbed mushrooms. My company went for the signature Hangar steak and confessed it was tender and blush pink inside, meaning the meat yielded like butter on her knife. These dishes were both complimented by a small but considered wine list and the use of super fresh and expertly sourced ingredients.

Ox Club Review - Article 2 The Hake with Jerusalem artichoke, chantarelle mushrooms and ymerdrys

Our smalls and sides included the Nocellara olives on ice, orange and bay, roast cauliflower smothered in Romesco sauce, almonds and sherry vinegar and buttery green beans topped with capers, anchovy and parsley. I have to insist the olives are a must. I can’t say for certain but it seemed like there was something in the ice, which meant the flavours seemed to be enhanced as the ice melted and the plump olives slumped into it. Having heard rave reviews about the roast cauliflower from a friend who’d been on the opening night, I was eager to try and was impressed by the complementary flavours and textures, which made this dish crazily moreish.

Ox Club Review - Article 5 Roast Cauliflower with Romesco sauce Ox Club Review - Article 4 Nocellera olives

Having enjoyed my first experience so immensely I was back two days later but this time for brunch (which is served 10am till 3pm Saturday and Sunday). Welcomed with a complementary bucks fizz I wondered how the restaurant whose hazy mood lighting had created much of the ambiance for the dining service would fare in the bright lights of the conservatory-like structure. The brew of the moment, North Star Coffee, was creating some aromatic caffeine kicks and the whole affair was very relaxed despite a bustling and busy restaurant, with the natural light making everything feel wonderfully bright and brilliant, despite the revels of Saturday night.

Like most twenty-something ladies, my love for avocados is unwavering so I was highly excited to see that amongst the Ricotta Pancakes, Brunch Cassoulet & Hanger Steak & Cheddar Eggs was Smoked Avocado & Poached eggs laid on sourdough flatbread and showered with sumac oil, tomatoes and za'atar. Anything smoked is always a winner in my book but smoked avocado takes things up a notch adding a different dimension to that familiar creaminess. Other options included Corned Beef & Kale Hash with poached eggs and chimichurri, as well as Korean Fried Chicken with fried wild rice, kimchi, pickled cucumber and eggs – this isn’t your usual Eggs Benedict and fry up affair: Ox Club is bringing the punchy brunch to Leeds and it couldn’t be more welcomed.

If you haven’t already got the message from this review, then I can tell you that I’m super excited about Ox Club. It’s rare in a vibrant city like Leeds, with such a varied dining scene, that a restaurant can open and offer something that is at once different but at the same time so familiar in the way it so easily slides into the City, exuding both character and soul. Ben and his team have done a stellar job on the food and drink offering and the front of house team were both friendly and knowledgeable – already harbouring a bustling restaurant on both my visits, it’s clear that undoubtable good fortunes lie ahead for Ox Club.

Becky Peartree is our resident food writer and is in her final year at Leeds University where she studies English Literature.
Photography by Mark Wheelwright