Bringing Tommy Banks home

A throwback to March 2021, Made in Oldstead

A great meal box designed for the height of the winter lockdown in 2021. Travelling to York not being possible, Tommy Banks brought a piece of his restaurants Roots and The Black Swan to our home in Oxford. Tommy works seasonality and local Yorkshire produce with a modern style. An approach to food that dances swiftly and elegantly between tradition and creativity.

His lockdown meal kit concept has probably been as successful as Simon Rogan’s. The thought and consideration put in its design is certainly on the same level. Well packaged components and easily identifiable. The belief on produce and seasonality becomes quickly apparent with a menu explicitly connecting the main ingredients to their origin and their devoted suppliers. Turning the page, the instructions are clear and concise, requiring minimum knowledge or experience, but delivering great and exciting results at home. We were happy to see that indications on how to properly dispose of the packaging were also provided. In fact, there was even a Spotify playlist to listen along during the meal.

For this occasion, we selected his weekly meal menu. Up to three menu options are available during the week as well as a signature menu consisting of 7 dishes for the weekend. 

We started our dinner with a veloute of Jerusalem Artichokes with a Cep Crouton and Mushroom Noisette. The soup had a delicate texture with a distinctive nutty aroma, and the sweetness of topinambur was balanced with crème fraîche. A delicious soup on its own, but it came to life with the earthy notes of mushrooms from the infused brown butter.

While savoring the starter, our main dish was already baking in the oven. Two individual Venison Pies (a.k.a pithiviers, in this case, two elegant palm-sized pies) that survived the journey to Oxford very well. Their filling, a simple mixture of ground venison, sage and rosemary, delivered punchy and gamey flavours. With 20 minutes in the oven the pastry became perfectly crispy, even on the bottom of the pie. As a side, the pithiviers were accompanied with Cow Corner Polenta, Braised Red Cabbage and Red Wine Jus. We weren’t originally great fans of polenta, but this one is a life-changing one! The creamiest and silkiest in texture with intense dairy flavours. Simply delectable. Same goes for the cabbage, perfectly braised in wine, vinegar and finely spiced, taking this humble vegetable to a different level. A delicious and satisfying main course for winter days.

To finish, Tommy Banks’ team prepared Salted Caramel and Jerusalem Artichoke Delice, Crème Fraîche and Sesame Tuile. A delice is a very adaptable type of dessert which consists of an aerated chocolate mousse. In this case, it was flavoured with salted caramel and topinambur. The delice was presented between layers of a chocolate crumble and a chocolate glaze, which combined with a little of crème fraîche and sesame cracker made an excellent bite. Being still a novelty on restaurant’s dessert menus, vegetables can create an offbeat taste sensation if used skillfully in sweets. Last year, we had a chance to try a couple of exceptional vegetable based desserts. One of them was an exceptional porcini mushroom in Ikoyi and a parsnip custard with miso ice cream in Salt.

Overall, this is beautifully balanced food, requiring low effort and delivering maximum pleasure. It feels like comfort food with an added layer of elegance and a smart touch of creativity to make it memorable.

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