It’s not always easy to pick your favourite Oscar. It usually comes down to a toss-up between the immortal wit of Wilde and the ingrained irascibility of The Grouch. (You might add the musical genius of Hammerstein II, though I can never hear ‘Oklahoma!’ without thinking of Ruprecht.) But for all their gifts, I wouldn’t trust any of them to cook me dinner.
Which is where Cowbridge institution Oscar’s comes in. A refurb- teal, burnt orange, beaten copper- accompanies a new menu. It goes big on classics and comfort food- pancakes, burgers, ribs, calamari: even eggs and soldiers.
The evening menu has almost too much choice: it’s rare that I can’t discount some things very quickly, rare that almost every single dish is a contender, but duck, mussels and lamb shank all tempt. A huge roasted cauliflower ‘steak’ with chimichurri comes close, too.
At the bar, Peroni and Brooklyn Lager are the most recognisable choices, but there’s an impressive showing from local brewers such as Celt Experience, Tomos Watkins and Canton’s Pipes.
A crispy chicken starter doesn’t really need the crumbled feta: it’s a lovely thing in its sticky sauce, and the cheese seems superfluous. It’s the kind of thing you could easily eat a big bowl of, perhaps with some steamed rice, the meat vibrant with star anise and chilli. It’s the kind of dish which tells you you’re in safe hands.
If the chicken was good, duck is even better. It is slow-cooked, then shredded before a tangle of flesh is flash-fried. It’s immediately moreish and would be a superb main course at double the serving size. (Alternatively, you could opt for the three mixed starters plus a side for £17 deal and just order three of the duck. I’m a simple man, and this course this has me not so much indulging my inner glutton, as pulling up a comfy chair for him to settle into.)
It’s a striking thing, the pork in my main. Teamed with sweet buttery pancakes and slathered (and that really is the only appropriate word here) in a creamy bacon gravy, it’s a rich dish and eminently memorable, the meat teasing apart with a nudge of the fork. When pork is cooked this carefully, there are few meats to touch it.
It’s one for a leisurely lunch or early evening, perhaps, leaving time for a brisk walk afterward.
Another main-sized serving of buttermilk chicken is also very good, the chicken itself beautifully done. The oozing yolk of the fried egg is sauce enough, although some barbecue served on the side might work. The subtle black pepper bite of the waffles is an unusual treat but it all risks being swamped by the sweetness- and quantity- of the tomato sauce. That’s easily remedied, though.
These are mere details and easily adjusted, though: the underlying quality of the cooking here is clearly a strength, as both chicken and pork showed a lightness and precision of touch that can be rare.
Sweet waffles deliver a massive sugar payload with just the right amount of chew from the toasted crust: by now, all thoughts of moderation are gone as the ice cream starts to melt.
So, with a little fine-tuning needed, but with some skill obviously on show, is it worth that drive from Cardiff? That’s an unreserved yes from me. Eat well, drink well, have a potter around Cowbridge; and I can’t help but think the world would be a better place if we all had the occasional potter, no? And even more so, with food like this to put a smile on your face.
Address: 65 High St, Cowbridge CF71 7AF
Hours: 11am–11pm every day except Sunday
Phone: 01446 771984
Disclaimer: I ate at Oscar’s as their guest, but this did not oblige me to write a positive review.
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.