As a resident of the Westgate’s rooftop, Dirty Bones (the only branch outside London) is relatively new to Oxford, and that youth seems to translate into an innovative energy which is perfectly suited to the current climate and its requirement for adaptation. We were generously invited to this classy yet relaxed eatery to discover the changes over a complimentary brunch.
The restaurant was hearteningly busy yet avoided feeling cramped, especially as my friend and I were shown to an enormous table. Aside from the customary visors, one-way system and lashings of hand sanitizer, we were impressed that every other sink in the bathroom was taped off - giving the impression that the management really had thought of everything, to enable us to forget (within reason!) about the pandemic for a while as we enjoyed this most leisurely of meals.
The attention to detail in the decor was matched by a similar level of thoughtfulness in the small but perfectly formed menu. I opted for the chicken and waffles as it’s a recognised DB signature. While I enjoy a little mixing of sweet and savoury, I was a bit skeptical as to whether buttermilk chicken would work with maple syrup, but ready to be proven wrong. In the end, the question was irrelevant, as the syrup was served in a separate pot (to accommodate the cautious and the curious alike) - I got additional mileage out of the meal by eating the chicken (topped with a glorious fried egg) first, holding back the waffle and syrup as a dessert, which felt like a bonus treat.
The meat itself was sensational - well seasoned, crispy and silkily succulent, while the waffle was a satisfying combination of sweet, chewy and fluffy. Expecting a carb overload I chose the salad as my side (with an interesting crunchiness provided by the granola - even more points for inventiveness here), but I tried some of my friend’s fries, which were drizzled in a mouthwatering smokey ketchup. I also had a taste of her avocado crumpets (an extra set of cutlery was brought over - without an eyelid batted at the request - so that this could be done in good, germ-free conscience!) which were a fun take on the classic pairing of poached eggs and hollandaise, taken to new heights with chunky guacamole and piquant hot sauce.
Dirty Bones describe their menu as New York-inspired. I have never been to New York, but the portion sizes certainly matched up to the US stereotype, so that our stomachs were well-lined as we took advantage of the generous drinks deal. While covid logistics means this brunch is not currently technically bottomless, the welcome cocktail (mine a potent espresso martini and my friend’s a pretty Top Dog) chased by two glasses of fizz was enough to ensure we were suitably merry! Yet the generosity of portion size did not mean any compromise on flavour - so the overall result was extremely pleasing on all counts.
I would be remiss not to mention the staff, who went out of their way to ensure we were welcome and looked after throughout the meal. The fact that everyone involved has taken the necessary adaptations on the chin and continued to smile while doing so is all the encouragement we should need that it’s still possible to have fun and stay safe. A group of up to 6 is the perfect size for a fun boozy brunch, and Dirty Bones is the perfect place to make that happen!