Eastgate Brasserie, previously Keepers and numerous other names, is the restaurant inside the Mercure hotel on the High Street of Oxford. From that introduction you might expect simple and boring dishes but that is far from the case here. The chef and manager serve up a diverse range of interesting dishes and some of them hit the mark fantastically. In time and with a few tweaks I’ve no doubt that this will soon become a great spot for students, families, and hotel guests alike.
We started things off from the starter menu and it was the perfect sign of things to come. The scotch egg was ok — just ok, but accompanied by a beautifully chutney and lovely pickled onions. The crab cocktail really stood out though. I had high expectations and it really is the most indulgent thing on the menu. Full of flavour, taste, and creaminess, the only shame is that the flavour of crab that I love so much does go missing. Arancini are always a nice sharing starter and these were tasty too but an abundance of cheese meant that they weren’t like those you might get in Sicily.
The main courses began with the Buttermilk Chicken Burger. This was a great example of a simple thing done brilliantly. The meat itself was full of flavour and given room to show it with simple salads and tomato filling. The onion rings weren’t too heavy on batter and the coleslaw was pleasantly crunchy. The chips themselves were slightly underdone but otherwise it was a perfect burger.
The Poussin en Cocotte is a chef’s special and certainly presents well. The meat itself is lovely and the potato bed soaked in juices and delightful — the only drawback is the slightly inconvenient serving dish!
The seabass was my standout from the evening. Served on a bed of lentils and chorizo, the flavour combinations are ideal and executed to perfection.
The house salad too is a great dish but returns to the theme of slightly overcomplicating things. It superbly pairs almonds, beans, and avocado but is served on a bizarre bed of humus that it could do without.
Finally on the savoury front, the pasta. It is a dish that always seems so simple but is so easy to ruin and unfortunately the cheese and creaminess here come dangerously close. The green pesto had great flavour on its own but the creamy sauce was just too much.
Desert wise again there were some standouts. Whilst the cheeseboard was disappointing for £12 the other two items, the Creme Brulee and the Melt-it-Down Flower pot were irresistible. The latter is full of berries and vanilla ice cream and served with a perfect warm caramel sauce. Don’t leave without trying it!
Overall, Eastgate Brasserie is certainly a step above your standard hotel restaurant. It’s well on the way to being a standout restaurant. The regular deal nights, advertised outside, will help it gain a foothold in the congested Oxford market. Pick the right dishes, and you will be sure to have a great evening.