There's a big difference between the original cosy premises on Walton Street and the new location in a rather windswept corner of the castle complex. The dining room is high-ceilinged, angular and noisy. On a fairly busy night conversation between the three of us was difficult. I can see that the restaurant is making the best of a space that isn't ideal, but this setting doesn't really go with the homeliness for which it aims in other respects: mismatched china (and teapots instead of water jugs), a stress on local suppliers, and traditional comfort food.
A breakfast menu and a few other dishes including the 'Brit of the Day' - such as shepherd's pie or a Sunday roast - are offered but sausages are the main draw here. The standard price for a portion of two with mash and vegetables is £9.49 and I doubt you'll find a more extensive selection anywhere, as they range from the classic (Cumberland, pork and leek) to the more gourmet and adventurous (lamb and apricot tagine, piri piri chicken); it's good to note that vegetarians and those on special diets are pretty well catered for too.
(sausages and mash do not photograph well)So it was a shame that we were disappointed. Two of us chose wild boar & pigeon and smoked bacon sausages, but while the first had a reasonably strong flavour and the second a clear porkiness, I wouldn't have been able to identify them more closely. Traditional Oxford sausages were, again, tasty but nothing special, and I could barely taste the garlic in my garlic and rosemary mash (we also thought that all the mashes could have been a bit more buttery, and the Administrator was unimpressed by his carrot and swede version). The accompanying peas and red cabbage were fine but lacked seasoning. On the whole, the food seemed to lack gutsiness. I don't mind paying £10 for high-quality, locally sourced sausages and mash but I'd prefer such a dish to be more decadent, distinctive...memorable, in a word.
There were a couple of large parties present when we were there and although the staff coped reasonably well with them we didn't feel especially looked after: I was surprised they didn't talk up the extensive and interesting menu and they seemed to forget about us for periods of time (they also had no record of my reservation, which didn't get things off to a great start). I really like the concept of the Big Bang, but at the moment its execution leaves something to be desired.
The Big Bang
42 Oxford Castle Quarter