Food & Drink

Eating Out: Veggies steal the show at Michelin-star restaurant OX

OX, Oxford Street, Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell
OX, Oxford Street, Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell
OX, Oxford Street, Belfast
OX, Oxford Street, Belfast


1 Oxford Street,


BT1 3LA.

028 9031 4121

Ever since it opened its doors and pulled the shutters up on the big windows that stare across the Lagan just before it spills into Belfast Lough, OX has done some special things with vegetables.

Those doors and windows opened a decade ago this month and while change has raged all around it – nowhere more than in the city’s dining scene – OX is still doing its thing, including making those veggies do things you never thought possible.

On the website, what amounts to a mission statement from the men behind it all, manager and wine guru Alain Kerloc’h and chef Stephen Toman, sets out OX’s stall. I can’t remember if the words have changed much since 2013 but it doesn’t feel like it and one sentence still stands out as both a threat and a promise: “Too long have vegetables played the part of a mere garnish.”

It’s not idle chat. While there is foie gras and duck and monkfish and venison, it is the veggies that steal the show, whether in supporting roles or under the spotlight. Oh, and in case you were wondering, everything else is fantastic as well.

But we’ll start with the veg, specifically the carrots on one of the two main course choices on a Friday lunchtime.

Gnarled and knobbled, they look like they could be thin smoked sausages, some uber-regional specialty from the depths of the old world only found in a cave village in the Basque country, or maybe lengths of mysterious vegetation, growing in a forest nearby.

Their glaze shimmers, a deep vermilion making them unrecognisable as carrots if you hadn’t read it on the menu. The first bite doesn’t help the identification. They’re now like lengths of toffee, chewy and sweet, almost licorice in texture but then - bam! – carrot, all of it, smacks you in the face.

They’ve been made by being dehydrated before being brought back to a different life in carrot juice and if one thing tells you what OX is all about, it’s these. The simplest thing elevated to something you honestly didn’t know existed - because you just needed someone to explain to you how it actually exists. 

Over on the other main course of duck there is a thin sheet of crapaudine beetroot, and a little barrel of smoked potato, both again packing more flavour than seems feasible into the root vegetables. 

OX, Oxford Street, Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell
OX, Oxford Street, Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell

The duck itself is soft and everything you want in the breast, while back over with the carrots, rounds of just-right firm monkfish stand up to everything going on around it – and there’s plenty. Confit onion brings some bite, while light, crisp-edged gnocchi add some ballast. A prawn bisque has the depth of the monkfish and prawns’ former home, with an almost gingerbread spiced warmth.

More veg is available in the form of a bowl of pomme puree for a fiver. Again, not a “mere garnish”, not even close. The spuds, possibly unnecessary but in truth unmissable, make for mash from another dimension. Not so much buttery potato as potato-ey butter.

We add the mash and the pre-starter snacks of a tartlet filled with foie gras mousse and red cabbage, and a puff of pastry stuffed with beer, cheese and onion to the £45 lunch menu of three courses.

Something it seems everyone filling the room this Friday has done.

The table next to has have come up on the train from Dublin to eat in the no-nonsense, sparse dining room that today lets the sun bounce off its hard surfaces but must rely the other 300-odd days of the year on the food and service to let the light in. Neither lets it down.

The veggie stars among the starters are the pickled turnip that encases a punchy venison tartare and the centre-stage celeriac and mushroom - tiny cubes and foam of the former in a dankly immersive broth of the latter, under a chunk of fungus and slivers of black truffle.

Dessert’s favourite veg, rhubarb, appears for the sweets, turned into a jam, a foam and a sheet of sugar glass, with an oat biscuit that melts away and a cylinder of white chocolate, sweetly pressing against all that tartness.

Black pepper provides the surprising counterpoint across the table, among the crunch of tuile, some soft caramel, and an outstanding banana sorbet.

While you never feel rushed, by the time a passion fruit pastille and a gaufrette wafer dusted in fennel pollen arrive with the coffee, the whole glorious thing has passed in what feels like a flash.

But still, 10 years and a Michelin star on, a meal at Ox will stay with you. And all it might take is a carrot.


Three-course lunch x2 £90

Snack x2 £10

Pomme puree £5

White lion cocktail £12

No-groni non-alcoholic cocktail £8

American x2 £10

Total £135