Day of the Week: Sunday, 4/28
Total Bill: $45.48 (before tip)
Breakdown: 1 pastry “basket,” 2 lunch entrees, 1 tea, 1 coffee
Verdict: A beautiful restaurant with potential.
I heard of Oxford Exchange several months ago and it’s been on my list of places to go, especially for the afternoon tea. But I was more intrigued when my BFF C told me her new boss is a foodie and loves Oxford Exchange. Then C’s hubby went out of town for a weekend and I said, girls’ brunch! So I made us a reservation for 11 on Sunday.
C and I came in through the bookstore, which is on the Grand Central side. We were both pretty in awe of how beautiful and unique the space is. Immediately and intensely, I was reminded of London, which was intentional. Having never been to OE before, we didn’t know where to check in so we had to ask an employee for some guidance (go through the coffee bar area to the retail shop and turn right). There was a brief line to check in. After giving our name to the hostess, we were shown to our table pretty quickly.
Our server came right away for our drink orders. I got a coffee ($3), which comes from Buddy Brew. C ordered a hot Earl Grey ($3.50) from TeBella Tea. My coffee came right away but our server had forgotten about C’s tea. Tea service does take a few extra minutes because they do it the English way: boil water, put it in a tea pot with tea leaves, etc. It’s a lovely presentation with a silver tea pot. Reminded me of tea at Fortnum & Mason.
After much discussion, C and I agreed that she would order the burger ($11) with regular fries and I would get the lobster BLT ($15) with sweet potato fries so we could try both. We also ordered a “basket” of breakfast pastries ($10).
The restaurant itself is beautiful. Minimalist but with a definite English flair. The courtyard is spectacular. Our server told us the glass roof out there is retractable (and cost $1m). There’s a lounge area between the coffee and tea bars. After our meal, we stopped into the ladies’ room. Even that’s grand.
I would estimate our food took 15 minutes to come. After our food arrived, we realized the pastries hadn’t come yet. They were delivered a few minutes after. We both agreed the pastries could’ve come while we were waiting for our entrees since they only had to be plated. Which brings me to why I keep putting “basket” in quotation marks. The pastries actually came on a plate. We got a large granola bar square, a generously sized biscuit, a large strawberry scone, and a monstrous croissant. But no butter or jam. I guess they want to sell them a la carte (OE sweet cream is listed on the menu at $2.50 and house preserves are shown as being $2), but for $10 I think they could throw in a little of each.
Overall, the food was delicious. My lobster BLT was really inspired. Two slices of toasted bread filled with a generous amount of the best lobster salad I’ve ever had, crispy bacon, and fresh lettuce and tomato. C doesn’t like lobster all that much but she said she would get the lobster BLT next time. My sweet potato fries were salty, sweet, and very crisp. C’s burger was juicy and had excellent flavor. I didn’t try her fries but she ate them all, so I’m guessing they were good. Of the pastries, my favorite item was the granola bar (I took the rest home and ate part of it for breakfast on Monday – it’s very filling!). The biscuit wasn’t for me. The croissant was good but not as buttery as I prefer. The scone was decent. A little too dry but it gets points for the large chunks of strawberries in it. I would say the entrees were a good value for the money but the pastry “basket” less so.
Throughout our meal, service was rough. I noticed a lot of people waiting while tables were sitting empty, which indicates to me there were not enough servers, the kitchen was backed up, or both. At one point the tea guy tried to give me a pot of tea. When I said it wasn’t mine, he said it had to be (even though I had a cup of coffee in front of me). I laughed and said no again and he wandered away looking very puzzled (maybe that was C’s tea, round 1?). After we finished eating (and it was pretty obvious since our plates were empty) we waited 15 minutes or so for our server to come by so we could ask for the check. Not the end of the world for us since it was brunch on Sunday and we were in excellent company. But hard not to feel bad for the poor schlubs still waiting for tables.
I’ve heard a rumor that OE is looking to start a dinner service. From a food perspective, I think that would be fantastic. But I hope part of the reason OE hasn’t taken that next step is that they realize service isn’t quite there yet. That being said, C and I both agreed we hope to go back with our husbands in tow, although I think I’ll skip tea service since the scone was underwhelming.