All opinion articles are independent and not paid for by any establishment
Midweek Lunch at Gee's
In a nutshell – scrumptious, pretty good value, great staff and we can’t wait to go back
Stupidly I parked way too far away from our chosen lunch venue on this particular day, so I started getting a little irritated by my dodgy hip and back before we even made it half way to Gee’s. Little did I know that there was a wealth of parking spaces up for grabs in OX2.
Putting my mild irritation at what was frankly my own stupidity aside we arrived at Gee’s in Banbury Road. My initial reaction was that we were to be dining in a greenhouse, a posh greenhouse, but a greenhouse none the less. Or maybe it was an Orangery or conservatory to a substantial house behind.
On entering we were greeted by a friendly young man wearing a floral facemark that I later discovered was part of the Gee’s uniform – quite fetching ! We were duly shown to our table in the rather grand glasshouse.
We forgot we were in Oxford and felt like we were on holiday
After ordering some drinks I immediately consulted Google to look at the history of the place. Originally this grade II listed conservatory was created to serve locals as somewhat of a garden centre, selling indoor and outdoor plants, flowers, fruit and vegetables.
Other than the greengrocers conservatory, which by now had magically transported my spirit to some enchanted Mediterranean island, there is nothing dated about Gee’s. It’s simply splendid. It’s light, airy, refined without being pompous and a lovely way to experience lunch. I should imagine at dinner there is a different vibe and maybe not so much of a glasshouse feel.
As I was the nominated driver for the day, (actually I’m always the nominated driver as I’m almost teetotal), I had ordered a mint and lime concoction that was lovely, slightly akin to all the wonderful things about a Margarita without the sins! My wife had a Watermelon and Cucumber Daiquiri (with the sins!) which she allowed me the smallest sip of – it was an incredibly grown up drink I must say, watermelon pink with a rather large ribbon of Cucumber adorning it, maybe a little too sour for me but still rather nice and indulgent.
As we waited for our starters, a sharing platter for two, we talked about how nice it was to escape Lockdown by coming out for a civilised lunch. As we talked we looked around at all the smiling, physically but thankfully not socially distanced lunch crowd who were filling Gee’s with laughter, clinks of glasses and fun. A couple of families who seemed to be celebrating their children’s successs’ at university maybe, an elderly couple with their two black labradors nestled at their feet (oh yes Dogs are allowed). It was gorgeous and felt like we were on holiday and our troubles were behind us. Being a soppy sod it almost made me quite tearful that despite everything nasty that the last year or so had thrown at us, there was still happy and lively people around that I could join.
Our starters arrived pretty promptly, served up by one of the many attentive waiters. A sharing platter of mixed Tapas including, Fishy Arancini balls, Anchovies, Seared steak, Padron Peppers, an Avocado dip, Cured meats and incredibly thin and crispy toast.
As hard as I could try there was nothing to fault on the platter. The padron peppers were cooked beautifully. The Arancini were a revelation as I was sort of expecting them to be like others I’ve had the displeasure of eating – dry, uninteresting and heavy balls of nothingness. These were completely the opposite of my expectations, they were melt in the mouth, moist and wonderfully light and tasty balls of happiness – I’d willingly have a plateful of them anytime.
My wife an I demolished the lot and this was no mean portion, certainly enough for two. It mentally took us back to many holidays in southern Spain.
After just a little while of people watching our mains arrived. A grilled Lemon Sole with Fennel and capers for my wife and a Linguine with prawns, crayfish, crab, chilli and fennel for me.
We both sampled each others dishes and I have to say I’d have been equally happy with either.
Initially when I ordered my dish I was worried that the chilli would overpower the delicate prawns and crayfish, but the subtle use of chilli was just enough to give excitement to the palate whilst still allowing the shellfish to sing their own song. It was lovely.
The lemon sole was wonderfully cooked with just enough caramelisation to make it interesting, the fennel nicely cooked and the juicy capers giving it a hint of acid. It would have been nice to have some potatoes or similar with the dish but my wife still enjoyed it very much. Maybe if we hadn’t had such a substantial starter we may have felt the need to order some chips or new potatoes.
Neither of us could manage a desert but the few that passed my eyes on the way to other tables looked very nice.
We both ordered off the ‘All Day Menu’ rather than the ‘Express Lunch Menu’. Part of this was greed on my part. I rather fancied the Risotto off the Express Menu but an experience at Jamie’s Italian in London (Jamie Oliver chain) some years back put me off. I remember looking forward to the Squid Ink Risotto with shellfish and up came the smallest portion of black risotto on the most gigantic white plate. With hardly any fish and rice the crunchier side of al dente for quite a lot of money I was bitterly disappointed. However as I watched some others have the Express Risotto I didn’t need to worry – I can’t say what it tasted like but it was pretty substantial.
Now this is a testament to how nice it was to lunch at Gee’s – As we left, sated and walked back to the car chatting about our lovely two hour Mediterranean holiday in the greengrocers I was completely unaware of the pains in my hip and back and somehow the car seemed closer than it was when I left it.
Gee’s has had somewhat of a makeover in the last few months, reopening to diners towards the end of May 22. They now have a private dining gallery and a new outdoor eating garden.
I’d love to eat there again and do another review but as my son now works there I think my opinion could be seen as a little biased.