Reasons To Be Cheerful II
(If you're wondering what this is all about, click here.)
#6 - The Big Bang
Fancy a change from "all that foreign muck" but annoyed that our own so-called "cuisine" is sadly all too often best described as "hearty", being stodgy and bland by comparison? Then acclaimed Jericho restaurant The Big Bang is without doubt the place to go.
Founder Max Mason’s Eureka moment was seeing the potential in the humble British dish of bangers ‘n’ mash, and he and his chefs have subsequently made it their mission to elevate it the status of a gourmet delicacy. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life, and at The Big Bang the variety of different but equally mouthwatering sausages on offer includes some which are indeed spicy. The merguez, Toulouse and chilli pork in particular come highly recommended, allied with pretty much any of the speciality mashes. Quite why you'd want to be a vegetarian when such things as sausages exist is beyond me, but suffice to say that the restaurant also offers a selection of meat-free sausages to cater for less enthusiastically carnivorous diners.
Just down from the Jericho Tavern and practically across the road from Oxford University Press's imposingly pillared stone offices, The Big Bang offers a discount to "OAPs and OUPs" - but even if you happen to work for a less favoured publisher (sniff) the meals are extremely good value for money. Like the décor, there’s no fuss or frills – the references to "jus" rather than gravy sound the only jarringly pretentious note – but it’s little wonder the Independent has labelled the restaurant the third best place in Britain to eat for under £50 and that it was one of three finalists in the sausage and mash category of Restaurant Magazine’s UK Best Dishes Awards 2007.
It’s not just your stomach and wallet that’ll thank you for visiting, though; Mason's philosophy of trying to ensure that ingredients are ethically and locally sourced – many of the sausages come from David John in Oxford’s Covered Market, while meals are washed down with Hook Norton ales and Cotswold Brewing Company lagers – means your conscience will be satiated too.
(A word of warning, though: steer clear of the recently opened second restaurant in Bristol - it's not a patch on the original. When we went on Good Friday, the food was nearly as delicious, but the choice was restrictive, the wait seemingly interminable and the service the wrong side of narky.)