Nestled in the second best ‘top floor’ in Oxford to date [Wahoo], Dirty Bones is an incongruously cosy, American style diner that offers ‘classic comfort food’, according to its website. Brand-wise, the restaurant is undeniably cool: everything from its menu to its Instagram account oozes a youthful sophistication. In the knowledge that this branch is the only one outside of London to date, we approach with high anticipation. We arrive at 7 on a Thursday evening, and are delighted to discover that Dirty Bones’ décor matches its branding: glass doors open onto a glittering bar and a funky playlist. The interior design is equally sexy, featuring wooden panels, exposed ventilation and effusive orange lighting – not unlike The Alchemist, a few doors down.
The restaurant manager – Francesco – welcomes us and walks us through the menu. He recommends the Mac Daddy – a burger with macaroni cheese, and the most popular item on the menu – the Beef Rib, the Brussel Sprouts (‘If you were blind, you would not know they were sprouts’) and the Fish Tacos (‘The best in Europe’, according to a recent table of Americans). Francesco seems very genuine in his recommendations, so we are sure to heed his advice.
In the knowledge that this branch is the only one outside of London to date, we approach with high anticipation
To begin, we order some cocktails. My EarthyEats assistant today is Davina Forth, a seasoned reviewer. I order the Top Dog which is sweet, fruity, and subtle – vodka and Prosecco. Davina drinks a Lavender Martini, which is visually stunning but a touch too perfume-esque for my taste (Francesco agrees).
We begin the meal sceptical, by ordering some imaginatively named Cheeseburger Dumplings and Mac Balls – ‘will these flavours work?’ we can’t help but wonder. Yet, where the small dishes are nominally simple, the flavours are complex. The Cheeseburger Gyoza are made on site and taste uncannily like a real cheeseburger, an illusion only enhanced by the accompanying mustard sauce and poppy seed and spring onion garnishing. The Mac Balls are equally delicious – breaded mac and cheese on a bed of sweet chilli sauce. In all, our starters prove microcosmic of the entire Dirty Bones menu; fusion cuisine that repackages tried and tested favourites in new, exciting forms.
For our main, I try the Beef Rib while Davina tackles the Mac Daddy. She reveals to me its not her first time in a Dirty Bones, and that the Mac Daddy is her all time favourite. Her comments are testament to this: a ‘unique’ burger with a ‘delicate balance of flavours’, ‘chewy in a nice way’, ‘Help I’m so full’, ‘Bun lovely and soft, offset by the toasted sesame’.
In all, I was very pleased and will be reviewing my dislike for cauliflower
In the name of interesting reviewing, it is EarthyEats policy to try the most outlandish dishes on the menu. With this in mind, we order a whole Roasted Cauliflower to accompany our meals (and some cheesy truffle fries, for balance of course). I’m not sure what we expected but we were pleasantly surprised when it arrived. Dirty Bones had roasted all of the cauliflower-ness away and replaced it with a charcoal-ly, crumbly texture and an Indian inspired sauce (madras curry powder, keffir lime, toasted almonds, plumped sultanas, capers and brown butter, the menu reliably informs me). In all, I was very pleased and will be reviewing my dislike for cauliflower. While the cheesy truffle fries were everything we had hoped for – cheesy, truffley, and fried – the Beef Rib was something else. Presented on a beautiful, long plate, atop a large, clean, bone, it was dressed in a wonderfully sweet BBQ sauce and topped with crispy shallots and spring onions. The meat was tender, and fell off the bone. My only critique (if you can really call it that) would be how large it is – the rib is almost as long as my forearm!
At this point, me and my assistant are extremely full. Like brave soldiers, however, we march valiantly onwards. We opt for Caramelised Banana Waffles, and a Peanut Butter Cookie Cup for dessert. Both were exactly as they sound; sweet, stodgy, and delicious (the waffles more so than the Cookie Cup), but our stomach capacity is only so much and we sadly fail to finish our dishes.
In all, however, we are very impressed by Dirty Bones. The food was exactly as described: classic and comforting. The service was fast and friendly, and the cocktails were as sumptuous as they were potent. At around £10 for a burger and £5 for some fries, an average meal would probably cost you around £20 – more if you want drinks. However, being an elegant new restaurant in the Gods of Westgate, the whole experience feels slightly more special than your average George Street dinner – with live DJs who perform on Friday and Saturday nights from 9pm, there are many points of attraction to make it worth it. On top of that, their cocktail hour throughout the week, Mon-Fri from 3-6pm, offers their signature cocktails for just £5, making this restaurant a great choice for students. Dirty Bones comes with a stamp of approval from the Earthy Eats team.