Restaurant Review: The Kazbar, Oxford

Oxford Rocks The Kazbar

The Kazbar spread a sleazy smile across my face, like warm tetilla smeared across a crusty bocadillo. The shining sun lit up the riad-esque interior, flooding back hazy memories of Marrakesh. The orange washed walls, shimmering tiles and shabby chic furniture, created a unique, bohemian setting. This, combined with a zippy live band and hardworking, happy staff, produced a vibrant atmosphere that I was in no rush to escape from.

The annoyingly handsome beatnik main server provided genuine rapport throughout; his straightforward but conscientious approach was amicable without being overbearing. All The Kazbar’s Señoritas cheerfully glided around, although when one spilt an over-poured margarita over the table, her lack of resolution or even acknowledgement was irksome.

Cocktails are obligatory. I salute The Kazbar for having the rare decency to produce proper Margaritas (the drink, not the pizza). As requested, the venomous Bloody Mary didn’t take any prisoners. Sherry should also not be forgotten, magically pairing with everything in the tapas world. The Dry Amontillado was good value and perfectly sippable without food. The Manzanilla was the driest drink in the world; worth a try, but an acquired taste.

Some Kazbar dishes were better than others. The wonderfully light Smoked Mackerel Pate was the unexpected delicious highlight. The Prawns & Chorizo billed as the main event, were rather anaemic in a watery tomato sauce. The Moroccan Lamb, Beef & Harissa Sausage was the kind of tapas dish everyone wanted; ballsy (metaphorically, I hope), with a satisfyingly rich meaty flavour. The Gambas were adequate, but not inspiring. The Pig’s Cheek dutifully fell apart, with a beautiful depth of flavour. The Spiced Minced Lamb & Hummus was tasty, authentic but lukewarm. Some mysterious Latino Mozzarella substance from the specials board was divine. The well formed Membrillo Cheesecake graciously introduced two of my favourite things – Licor 43 and quince jelly. Finally, the Marrakesh Express commendably combined coffee and dessert with a delicious cinnamon finish.

The Kazbar’s squeaky clean plates spoke for themselves, my wallet didn’t feel violated, and I’m yet to review another a restaurant in Oxford with a warmer atmosphere – bravo!

The Kazbar Oxford
Review Summary

Atmosphere 10  Cost 7  Quality 7  Service 9

Find The Kazbar Oxford

Restaurant Review: Beigel Bake, Shoreditch

Beigel Bake – Brick Lane Brashness

Beigel Bake is an institution. There was a magical quality to this small piece of East London, offering authentic, no-nonsense, affordable food. Beigel Bake’s been bustling away since Shoreditch was a ditch. As Vice Magazine lamented, “I watched Shoreditch go from magical hinterland to the abattoir of culture it is today”. In the meantime Beigel Bake’s been extraordinarily industrious, open 24/7,  cranking out an impressive 7,000 bagels a day.

Honest, family-owned, working-class eateries should fuel a city. Despite London’s vibrancy, residents lament the ubiquitous sandwich chains and predatory fast-food corporations everywhere. Foodies fighting for freedom against these globalised monoliths suffer the burden of £4 loaves of bread.

But let’s be fair, Beigel Bake’s staff are outrageously rude. After my first visit to Beigel Bake, I attributed this to a stressful day, thinking nothing of it. I empathised that 24 hours in front of a perpetual line of Shoreditch hipsters could turn Mother Theresa into Robert Mugabe. The second time, the same older lady unnecessarily barked menacingly. The third I time waited patiently, and meekly pleaded: “Can I have four almond croissants please?”. The patron saint of impatience rolled her eyes so far back she toppled over. Every time, irrespective of customer’s behaviour, they are treated like a student telling their PE teacher they’ve forgotten their kit. I’d get my atonement by summoning the courage to ask for a bacon barm cake sarcastically, but I’m terrified of getting a hot cleaver hurled at me.

Regarding food, Beigel Bake’s salt beef bagel’s are the star of the show. The meat is thickly sliced, hot, juicy slabs with a mouthwatering depth of flavour. The generous fillings make queuing out onto Brick Lane worth it. The mustard packs a real punch, and the pickles are an absolute necessity. If the mustard brings too many tears to your eyes, the salmon and cream cheese is a reliable alternative. The bagels themselves vary from soft to chewy, and the mustard portion control fluctuates between a splodge and a deluge. It’s either a by-product of working so industrially or just spitefulness. On various occasions, the fillings were pelted toward the bag, rather than served on the bagel itself. However, this scatter-gun approach to bagel production was forgiven as the prices were so reasonable. It’s not all bagels; the giant croissants are the best possible way to spend 50p in Shoreditch.

Beigel Bake’s perpetual stream of jolly police officers, snap-happy Brick Lane tourists, irritated local alcoholics and cooler-than-thou shell suit-clad students, all eagerly anticipating their 30p doughnuts, is as far away as Great British Bake Off as possible – which isn’t a bad thing. To learn more about Beigel Bake, this charming short film provides a nostalgic bagel-focused memoir of the food and people of Shoreditch.

Beigel Bake Shoreditch
Review Summary

Atmosphere 10  Cost 10  Quality 8  Service 2

Beigel Bake Shoreditch London Review
Beigel Bake Hard At Work
Beigel Bake Brick Lane Shoreditch London Review
Beigel Bake Hard At Work
Beigel Bake Brick Lane Shoreditch London Review
Proper Bagels

Beigel Bake Shoreditch