In case you’ve somehow managed to miss this much-loved Bristol institution before now – The Ox is a small chain (2 in Bristol, 1 in Cheltenham) of plush restaurants, specialising in serving you some top notch meaty dishes.
Until now, The Ox has been known as probably the best place in town to get a steak – not just for the quality & taste of the steaks themselves, but also the gorgeous surroudings of the restaurants, the brilliant wine list (the cocktails and beer selections are great too) and top notch service.
Somewhat wisely, there’s been a decision to focus each of the Bristol restaurants on different aspects of what they do really well – the opulent Corn St branch being kept as the flagship location for steak and special occasions, with its basement location, low lighting and cosy corners being great for dates and intimate dinners.
The Ox Clifton however, is a slightly different beast – it has windows for a start! Not only is this place more open and airy, it has a good long bar to park yourself at, something that always appeals to someone like myself who enjoys being nosey while they eat (some of my favourite spots to eat are in the window at Pinkmans, at the bar in Bravas or facing the wood-fired ovens at Bosco).
So, the focus here is on a more casual vibe, with the attention to detail that you’d expect from this bunch. And I’m pleased to report that it doesn’t disappoint.
First up – here were the first snacks we were proffered: beef dripping popcorn. Yes – POPCORN, DRIZZLED WITH BEEF DRIPPING. Jesus, it’s like the best parts of the 1880s and 1980s married together in one indulgent bar snack.
Whilst I happily munched away on my popcorn, I perused the menu – slightly more condensed than its Corn St sister, although it does have a brunch menu and kids menu which isn’t available at the other site, which shows an extra commitment to family & group diners.
We were then brought a couple of dishes from the small plates menu (these are available as starters at The Ox Corn St, whereas in Clifton you get the option to enjoy these on their own alongside a cocktail or beer up at the bar – nice).
So, the starters: buffalo chicken wings with blue cheese sauce (£7 – spot on sauce, decent size of wings, and the blue cheese sauce was just the right consistency as well as being honky enough – if you don’t want your blue cheese sauce blue, don’t order it!) and the hickory smoked ribs, which are a bloody revelation, and I’d eat another 2 plates of these to myself if they weren’t £7 per plate.
Already very satisfied, I have to say that I was a tad concerned that I’d eaten a bit too much to really enjoy a burger. Boy, was I wrong – I really can be a bottomless pit when I need to be.
I’ll let Burger Queen Nat give you the first intro to these burgers:
We were given a mix of burgers to try – they’ve kept the burger menu very simple, with the choice of either a double cheeseburger with fries (£12.50) or fried chicken burger with fries (£12.50) and the option to add a selection of toppings such as jalapenos, confit onion, bacon and blue cheese for an extra charge. No purely veggie options from what I saw – but it’s probably worth enquiring if you’re curious.
Each burger was a hefty beast – just look at the girth on that chicken burger! The meats were clearly of a good quality, well seasoned and in the case of the chicken burger, the batter was just crunchy enough and slightly spiced without overbearing any of the other flavours of the burger sauce or other toppings (I’ve become slightly paranoid about the state of chicken burgers in this city – with the notable exceptions being Burger Theory, Smoke ‘n’ Glaze, Asado and Oowee).
Finally, we were treated to a selection of their ice creams and sorbets – my favourites being the dark cherry (frickin’ hell) and malted milk chocolate, but I think the flavours change fairly often, so ask when you pop in for the latest selection.
Are these the best burgers in Bristol? An impossible question to answer – like with most things, it’s down to what you want on the evening, and in terms of quality, portion size and general ambience of the joint, I can heartily recommend The Ox; whether you choose to sit up at their snazzy bar with a glass of wine and some of those ribs (!) or go in with a group of mates to chow down on some mega burgers.
The Ox Clifton
96A Whiteladies Road
Disclaimer: These samples were free of charge on the menu relaunch evening, but this did not affect our opinion and we were not asked to send any copy in advance. Try the burgers for yourself – we ain’t lyin’!