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Table 13 Review: An eye-opener to what vegetables can do

Oliver Hall reviews Georgia Gallacher's Table 13.

What Georgia Gallacher has accomplished with her first foray into the restaurant industry is truly extraordinary.  Table 13 manages to capitalise on recent booming trends of plant-based eating, a focus on food provenance, and supper clubs whilst not falling into the trap of becoming a gimmick. The focus here is on the quality of the final product and each of the nine dishes we try are stunning, brilliantly thought-out creations.  The atmosphere that she creates through hosting in her own kitchen is unique and her willingness to chat with diners throughout makes for a culinary experience to treasure.

I was lucky enough to visit Georgia in Wheatley with a friend on a Wednesday night, a special experience as  she usually only opens on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.  As we were the only two diners, we were really able to talk in detail with the young chef about the ethos behind the restaurant, how it got started, how she got started, and above all the food itself. This is why the supper club model works so well, especially when the host is as personable as Georgia:  even when fully booked there are only ever ten guests at a time.  Everybody sits at one long table and receives the dishes at the same time – Georgia was keen to highlight that this aspect of the meal was something she held dear.  She pointed out that there is something special about coming somewhere to eat where everyone has a shared interest in their food and is excited for the culinary experience to follow.  Not only is she warm and welcoming but highly professional. Having studied in hospitality and worked in front of house roles in Australia as well as several famous restaurants across London she effortlessly puts guests at ease.

Her passion is clear to see from minute one. Through each of the nine dishes there is a focus on using seasonal local produce from local producers and merchants, elevating plant-based eating beyond dishes that are vegan just for the sake of it.  Here, vegetables come into their own in ways that are hard to imagine.  Her ‘seed-to-stalk’ approach, (coined by Gallacher herself and a play on the ‘nose-to-tail’ eating popularised by St John) is about using every part of a vegetable, even those that might usually be thrown away.  Take the cauliflower dish for example: not only do you savour the main slice itself, pan-roasted in butter with garlic and thyme, but the florets are removed, roasted, and pureed to produce a stunning reduction with the leaves added as a garnish atop the Brazil nut crumble.  The fact that the menu changes every month means that Georgia is constantly thinking about the development of new dishes and as a result – no stone is left unturned at Table 13.

Not even the drinks pairing escapes this special treatment.  Working with local Oxford company L’Altre Vi, all wines are produced using low-intervention and sustainable methods in Catalonia and expertly paired with the plates they accompany.  The Oxford Artisan Distillery provides spirits and the whisky for the butter that accompanies the bread course.  

That bread course merits special mention.  The only constant on the ever-changing menu, her soda bread uses stout from a local brewer as well as honey and oats from Wesse Mill.  It was paired with a homemade whisky butter and stout reduction from that very same brewer.  Georgia is working her way around different breweries every month and as you might have guessed they are all local and all focussed on sustainable processes.

Table 13 isn’t just about lofty ideals though.  What stands out most is the food.  Time and time again, Gallacher produced dishes that were genius in their creation.  Evidently carefully planned out and developed, the use of contrasting textures and flavours surprised and delighted throughout the evening.  The first of our dessert courses is a perfect example: a Jerusalem Artichoke ice cream which was stunningly cool and smooth.  It was served atop a bitter cocoa crumble that contrasted with garnishing kumquats and Jerusalem artichoke chips to create a party in our mouths.  Sustainability and veganism are an added bonus here.  As Georgia says herself, “Table 13 is about surprising people, not lecturing them. To me, food is so much more than just sustenance – it is a source of enjoyment, creativity, fun and friendship.  This trumps all.”

Going forward, Georgia eventually plans for a restaurant beyond her old family home.  For now though she is focused on delivering this stunning and unique experience from her kitchen.  In the summer there are plans for an extra table outside, taking capacity to 20 covers each evening.  Regardless of the expansions, however, she wants to preserve the intimate feel and to continue to serve the same dishes, at the same time, with the same care dedicated to each and every guest.

So, give Table 13 a try.  At £70 for all nine courses and the drinks pairing, you are unlikely to find a better value tasting menu anywhere.  You might just have your eyes opened to what vegetables can do and what, with care and skill, they can become on a plate.  Whatever happens, I can promise that you will have an exceptionally enjoyable evening in the hands of a young chef who will surely go on to shine in the industry.

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