Ox Club, Leeds

Some of Leeds best boozers and venues have sprung out of nowhere. Headrow House was one of them. Surely you can’t fit a four storey restaurant slash bar slash roof terrace on Headrow anywhere? Apparently you can, and its super! I know it’s been around for ages now, and while I’ve had drinks there more often than not, I’ve never had the opportunity to check out Ox Club. They were offering up a beer tasting evening in collaboration with The Wild Beer Co, a brewer that’s high up my list of favourites. I really liked the idea, but the set-up for the night wasn’t as I expected. I was expecting a set menu and a specific beer with each course. Instead, this was simply Ox Club’s standard menu with a list of recommended Wild Beer Co beers to choose from that go well with some of their food. Not exactly what I would describe as a pairing meal, but good beer and food combos nonetheless.

I started off with an oyster dressed with apple and a half of Ninkasi, a 9%, yet very light and fresh, saison. I’ve never understood the fuss about oysters to be honest but I thought I’d give it another go. Just chucked it down and swallowed, which was hard enough. Nothing to rave about.

The main course options were pretty far fetched. I had to go for the ox cheek, given the venue. I’d never had ox before. A pretty fatty meat, but so rich and packed with flavour, and cooked fantastically (without claiming I have any idea on how an ox cheek should be cooked). Served up with smoked mash and horseradish gremolata, it was delicious. While it wasn’t the biggest serving size, it definitely filled me up and took a while to get through. You couldn’t chow down something so rich very quickly. The suggested pairing was Wild Beer’s Beyond Modus 2016, but they had actually RUN out of it! I had a similar Wild Beer Co, beer from the bar in Headrow House instead, Modus Operandi. This was described as an American Wild Ale but was very much a Belgian sour, along the likes of Duchesse de Bourgogne, with vinegary flavours that screw up your face but the rich taste went well with the food.

I wasn’t really feeling the dessert choices at first, but had to have something to pair with the Wild Beer Millionaire, quite possibly my second favourite off the shelf dark beer. A salted caramel milk stout, it’s pretty much a dessert in its own right. I went for the suggested pairing with chocolate and olive oil cake, served with salted caramel and smoked chantilly cream. This was unreal! I was kind of put off by the prospect of an olive oil cake but it worked so well, not too greasy, just moist running through. The smoked cream and salted caramel tasted so good with it, followed by a swig of stout, yep bloody marvellous and a dish that I’d go back for.

I haven’t said anything about the actual vibe of the place. It’s not pretentious, like a lot of restaurants in Leeds can be, and follows the feel of Headrow House and their sister venues dotted around the city. Industrial, make shift decor, nothing fancy. That said, you need a fair wedge of money to enjoy yourself, the food isn’t cheap and the bill can seriously rack up. Adding wine would blow my budget quite frankly. I’d go back again, as a treat, to try something a bit out there, but would probably stick on the wide selection of beers on offer at the venue. Everyone raves about the Ox Club brunch, which again has a pretty far fetched menu (cauliflower shawarma is apparently the bomb) so I’ll try and check that out one day.

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