We'd spent a week in Bologna, "la grassa", before returning Belfast and to Ox for a Saturday lunch. We had some wonderful food in Bologna, as one might expect. After a long lunch at Ox we decided to have a digestif in The Merchant hotel, just round the corner. Book-ending our experience of Ox in this way really threw its quality into relief, and it's value for money.
Service at Ox was, as ever, exemplary, with Alain selecting superb matching wines for starters of venison carpaccio, pickled girolles, and almonds, and artichoke, iberico ham, truffle custard and onion galette. We followed this with chateaubriand. Superbly seasoned, immaculately cooked and better than *everything* we had in Bologna (and we tried some great places). Popping around the corner to The Merchant we were confronted with Aperol Spritzs for £15 a pop. These, of course, are €4 a glass in Italy as everyone drinks them. Aperol is not an expensive ingredient; neither is Prosecco. Sainsburys sell soda water for 50p a bottle. What a contrast the witless, tawdry, happed up Merchant Hotel made to Ox. Ox is an establishment where the staff *care* about what they're doing and serving. Ignore the naysayers: Ox is superb.
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