EATING OUT / Why Whites will be revisited

WHITES

16 Turl Street, Oxford OX1 3DH. Tel: 0865 793396.

Open daily for lunch and dinner except Sun dinner. Set menu pounds 23.95- pounds 29.95, including wine.

Vegetarian dishes. No smoking in one room. Access/Visa/Diners/Amex.

NOW that I've been doing this column for a few weeks, I've been longing for someone in one of these restaurants to recognise my name. When I book a table by phone I always spell out the surname, give the Christian name, take every possible precaution that they don't mistake me for Davey Wall, who seems to be following me around.

I used to fantasise about what would happen next. Would they give me a free drink? Would they curtsey? Would they (even better) give me an infinitely redeemable eating token? But nothing. Never. Not a squeak of recognition from anyone. And then . . . suddenly, last Saturday, it happened.

It wasn't nearly so much fun as I'd imagined. In fact, even though nothing was said, it was no fun at all. No curtseys, nothing free; all I got was a feeling that I had to put on extra manners. I felt pressured into sitting with my shoulders back and looking delighted by the turn of every event. When my companion Peter said of his first course: 'It's all right. It's just annoying to eat. It keeps breaking up into bits.' I said: 'Ssshhh]' with pursed lips and metaphorically patted my hair-do, if you get the gist. I think we may have begun the evening talking in whispers. So, the moral of that tale, the moral of most tales in fact, is: Don't Show Off. And, if you're a restaurant critic, book in someone else's name.

Whites is an elegant couple of rooms in the middle of Oxford: big windows, high ceilings, as you would expect. And walls painted a very comforting earthenware red. Rich French tourists sat at the table beside us, dressed in the sort of clothes Jeremy Irons wore in Brideshead Revisited. They looked like French people who'd dressed appropriately for an evening in Oxford - bright tweed jackets with handkerchiefs sticking out of the top pockets. Nobody made me stare, particularly. Not an especially interesting bunch.

But the food was outstanding. It was the best I've eaten since New Year. Everything on the menu made the mouth water. Even more exciting, nothing on the menu needed to be explained. It was comprehensible, unpretentious and (it has to be said) pretty expensive. There was a choice of two set menus and a short a la carte. Both menus (we opted for the more expensive one, at pounds 29.95) used what I thought was a brilliant system. Serious wine experts might object to it; they might like to choose their own wine - and I'm sure they could. But those who like good wine and who don't really have much idea about how to order it should love the system as much as I did. A separate glass of appropriate wine was served with each of the three courses and was included in the menu price. Every glass was infinitely better than anything I would have known how to order myself.

Both menus only offered two dishes per course. But I've never experienced such difficulty in choosing. We both wanted everything. And because there were two of us and four dishes to choose from, we got it. I can't remember why we opted for the more expensive of the menus, but it certainly proved a good choice. There were mussels in spiced coconut sauce on the pounds 23.95 menu and I was sorely tempted. But perhaps I've eaten mussels on your account too often already. It was time to try something new.

So, Peter chose the irritating crumbly potted crab, lobster and foie gras. I didn't mind the crumbly element myself. In fact I thought his first course was almost as good as mine. We couldn't actually identify the foie gras in this dish, but it didn't matter. I chose the exquisite fillet of turbot with fig tapenade and winter leaves. It was slightly sweet, as you would expect, incredibly delicate. It couldn't be faulted in any way.

But there was one tiny problem. Poor waiter. There he was, knowing why I was there, and there we were in this posh Oxford restaurant and he couldn't offer us any bread. What a disaster. We'd arrived late in the evening, around 10-ish, and a fresh lot of bread was still in the oven. It didn't arrive until the main course. It didn't matter. In fact I think it made me treasure the turbot all the more. We drank 1990 Mercurey Olivier Leflaive. Delicious.

The main courses were even better, if that's possible. I had the roast breast of duck and cep butter sauce. The duck was perfectly tender, the sauce was perfectly subtle. Peter had the fillet of beef with wild mushrooms and roast garlic. Just as tender and subtle as the duck. We drank 1986 Domaine du Roudier Montagne St Emilion. Delight.

Peter went on to lick the hazelnut marquise platter clean. He said it was the most delicious pudding he'd ever tasted. In fact he was still talking about it days later. I didn't even try it, I'm afraid. I couldn't. But I drank the 1989 Chateau Piot-David Sauternes; not for any very respectable reason, because I don't even like pudding wines, but because it was free. Which might explain why I can't remember what I failed to finish for pudding. It had a lot to do with chocolate, that's for sure, and the handsome head waiter was very put out by my inability to finish it.

They forgot to give us the truffle wot came free wiv our coffee. But honestly, it didn't matter. Dinner at this restaurant is so good it's worth saving up for. We spent pounds 78 in all (we had a couple of glasses of house Champagne that weren't included in the menu price). We've already got pounds 17.30 in the Returning to Eat at White's Fund.

PS. Tragedy has struck in West London. The chef at Number One restaurant, which I reviewed very favourably recently, has returned to Thailand to do his national service. The food is now unrecognisable and my recommendation is sadly withdrawn. Sorry about that.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee