Monday, February 24, 2014
I love innovative, trendy restaurants that break the mold. Especially when those restaurants take the best of the UK and incorporate it into chic, Americana. Oxford Exchange in Tampa is such a restaurant. I've been to Oxford Exchange several times on various trips to the U.S. and I have never found it boring.
However, when I finally decided to sit down to a meal there for the purposes of this post, I had to take note of everything Oxford Exchange stands for and weigh it up against the merits of value and convenience versus chic and trendy.
Oxford Exchange is tucked away in a shady section of West Kennedy Blvd in Tampa, Florida. The building was built in 1891 and used to house the old Plant Hotel. The building has been many things over the last 123 years, including an arcade of shops, an insurance company and a photo studio. The interior was inspired by many UK institutions, including: The Wolseley Hotel in London, The Dining Halls at Oxford University and The Garrick Club. There has clearly been a lot of thought put into this place and even more money!
However, as great as it seems at first glance, Oxford Exchange has several shortcomings; namely the food. Overpriced and disenchanted are words that spring to mind when I recount the meal I had. You would think that the owners, having spent so much time and money designing the building, would have taken a little more time on the menu. I found it to be bland and uninspiring, with clear technical faults.
Case in point: my Pork Belly and Blue Burger with Fried Egg, Bibb Lettuce, Tomato, Smoked Paprika Aioli on Toasted Oxford Exchange Pretzel Bread. Burger Buns should be made of one thing; BRIOCHE! Anything else is sacrilege and should be stamped out. The lower half of the bun was dense, weighing at least as much or more as the Burger Meat. The Pork Belly was tough and flavorless. Pork Belly, without the Crackling is just bad Bacon and has no purpose. If you're going to use Pork Belly, include the fat as that's where the flavor is.
This was, without question, the worst $14 Burger I have ever had.
My wife's Club Salad was slightly better, but didn't warrant the $14 price tag. I can't comment on the Eggs Benedict, but I was told that it was tasty, however, a little on the small side.
The best time I've ever had at Oxford Exchange was sitting in their deep, soft, leather sofas, drinking their pricey coffee and people watching. Although, their teas are pretty exceptional too.
If you're going to Oxford Exchange and want the best experience, I urge you to skip the meal and just relax in one of their many comfy seating areas… and just watch the young, trendy, hipsters scoot by on their way to the dining room, perhaps oblivious of the caliber of food that kitchen is capable of producing if the rest of it wasn't so amazing.
Great idea, beautiful scenery, nearly flawless. Too bad about the food. I can't help but feel that if it was less trendy and brilliant inside, they would have to produce better food, or risk losing clientele.
To see my professional food photography photos visit: Taylor Young Photography