Brunch on saturday: Turl Street Kitchen review and French toast recipe

Brunching out...

If, like the seven million other tourists per year from home and abroad, you plan to visit the “city of dreaming spires” this summer, you’ll need a hearty breakfast to set you up for a good day’s sightseeing.

Home to one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious universities, Oxford packs a lot into each square mile, but it’s also a honeypot for charming cafes and top-notch restaurants.

Subtly tucked away on the corner of Turl Street – sandwiched between the majestic Balliol College and Radcliffe Camera, the Turl Street Kitchen sits polite and unassuming, waiting for visiting and student brunchers alike. 

Brunch on saturday: Turl Street Kitchen review and French toast recipe

Turl Street Kitchen is an oasis from the busy tourist-filled streets of Oxford

The menu is succinct, nothing one wouldn’t expect to find on a British brunch menu, with no pretentions – there’s not a bottomless bellini in sight. And yet the food is wholesome, honest, responsibly sourced and perfectly satisfying for a fair price (important in a student town).

TSK’s dining room-bar-cafe is set out much like a rustic farmhouse kitchen. It is unfussy rather than twee and homey without feeling out of place slap-bang in the middle of a bustling city.

Its charm lies in the solid, bare wooden tables, the blackboard telling visitors where today’s sausages are sourced, and other information boards that tell diners that this place is proud to be part of a community whose members do not just come here for the eggs and bacon.

That said, the menu is everything you’d want it to be. Perfectly poached eggs on top of crispy, fluffy bubble-and-squeak cakes (£6.95), Wye Valley smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on toast (£8.50) or kitchen-made granola and fresh fruits (£3.50).

A grilled kipper, lemon-and-black-pepper-butter and toast might tempt those who are yet to experience Oxford’s extensive pub scene, for £7.95.

I enjoyed tea in a decent sized mug with fresh pressed elderflower and orange juices. Breakfast at TSK is served every day between 8am and 10am – tight timing that feels a little harsh, but then again there’s history to see and rivers to punt. It also makes it easy enough to get a table on Saturdays while the majority of the student population is still sleeping. 

Perhaps it’s because the city’s landmarks – although a stone’s throw away – are not staring down upon you that the prices are so reasonable for such a tourist-rich zoo in the summer weeks. Perhaps this reviewer is too used to jaw-dropping London prices. Regardless, the Turl Street Kitchen is a great spot for hungry sightseers who want real food that does not disappoint.

Turl Street Kitchen, 16-17 Turl Street, Oxford, OX1 3DH,

Brunching in... 

Spiced banana French toast, smoked bacon, chilli labne and tamarind caramel by Peter Gordon

Banana bread

300g of banana, peeled weight, cut into chunks
300ml of milk, tepid
2 tbsp of Demerara sugar
1 ¼ tsp dried yeast
1 tbsp of coriander seeds, toasted and ground
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp caraway seeds
3 large eggs
600g of strong bread flour
1 tsp salt, fine

Chilli labne

500g of plain yoghurt, thick
1 tsp flaky sea salt
1 red chilli, finely chopped, with seeds
1 tsp ginger, finely chopped

Tamarind caramel

300g of caster sugar
1 star anise
150g of coconut cream
200g of tamarind paste

To serve

2 eggs
150g of double cream
Sunflower oil
Smoked streaky bacon

To make the banana bread, whisk the milk, sugar and yeast together in a large mixing bowl and leave to ferment for 15 minutes, until bubbly.

Whisk in the spices and eggs until smooth, then mix in the banana chunks. Sieve the flour and salt into another large bowl, then stir in the banana mixture until incorporated. Line a 2-3 litre loaf tin with baking paper and pour in the bread mix. Place the tin on a baking tray and leave to prove in a warm area until it has increased in size by 50 per cent – this should take 1-1½ hours​.

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Place in the oven and cook for 8 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 170C/gas mark 3.5 and cook for a further 20-25 minutes. To check if the banana bread is cooked, insert a wooden skewer – it should come out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out and allowing to cool completely. The banana bread is best made 2 days before serving so it can firm up a little. Store in the fridge until required. To make the chilli labne, mix together the yoghurt, salt, chilli and ginger and place into a strainer lined with cheese cloth or a tea towel. Leave in the fridge over an empty container to strain for 24 hours. The result will be a thick yoghurt spread, or labne. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until required​.

To make the tamarind caramel, add the sugar and star anise to a pan and cook over a moderate heat until dark brown and caramelised. Meanwhile, bring the coconut cream to a simmer. When the sugar has caramelised, whisk in the hot coconut cream and simmer until all of the lumps have dissolved​. Remove from the heat, discard the star anise and whisk in the tamarind. Set aside until needed​. Place the bacon on an oven tray and cook under a hot grill on both sides until golden and crispy.

To prepare the French toast, cut the banana bread into four 1.5cm thick slices. Whisk together the eggs and cream and dredge the bread through the mix to coat evenly. Heat a knob of butter and a dash of oil in a frying pan and fry the bread until golden all over. Repeat with the remaining slices.

Warm the caramel lightly in the microwave or a saucepan. Add the grilled bacon and a good dollop of the chilli labne to the banana bread and drizzle over the caramel before serving.

Recipe courtesy of Great British Chefs. Visit their site for more brunch recipes

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