The Chipsmyth at Oxford Christmas Market
On the grapevine I had heard whispers of a food stall at the Christmas Market that had been drawing in the crowds and causing quite a stir. Intrigued, I headed down one grey December lunchtime to see what all the noise was about, all in the good name of market research. The Chipsmyth specialise in gourmet loaded fries - hand-cut chips with an mouth-watering smorgasbord of toppings. We're talking slow-cooked pork shoulder with barbecue sauce and homemade apple slaw - a kind of hipster hog roast; beef chilli con carne with cheese, salsa fresca, sour cream and hot sauce - the Feliz Navidad option; and then upmarket cheesy chips with Parmesan, truffle mayo, pickled pink onions and chives. For the less adventurous, or for the puritanical frite fanatic, Chipsmyth also serve plain fries, though this seems like a missed opportunity, a culinary own goal.
Yet my gaze alighted on the Ho Ho Ho Merry Chipmas, a potato-based offering of titanic proportions: chips topped with shredded turkey and sage and onion stuffing, and slathered with gravy and cranberry sauce. Though containing the same DNA as the Boxing Day leftover bap, this was an altogether different beast, some newfangled species from a distant evolutionary future. The chips themselves are glorious: golden, crunchy on the outside yet soft on the inside, and they held their mettle under duress too, with no sogginess in evidence. But the Chipmas is an ensemble cast rather than a solo effort, the cranberry sweetness playing off the poultry and the herby stuffing, the thick, flavoursome gravy a far cry from the thin gruel dispensed in chip shops up and down the land. This quality of the ingredients is what elevates The Chipsmyth above the rest - this is drunk food done well, for the sober consumer with fully-functioning tastebuds.
The whole deal is rich and hearty, almost providing another layer of insulation, and the portion size is sizeable but manageable (I did follow up with a clutch of churros, but this, in hindsight, was ill-advised). Prices range from £7 (for the cheesy chips) to £8.50 for the Chipmas special, which is fairly middle-of-the-road for street food these days, particularly on the Christmas market circuit. All in all, the Chipsmyth makes for a pleasant and filling midweek lunch, or a excellent option for weekend brunch before you crack on with your Christmas shopping.