Urged to attend by their PR company a few of us found ourselves at the new Stew and Oyster in Oakwood. I’ve been to their Calls Landing pub many a time and it has proven to be a very pleasant drinkery indeed – largely helped by its riverside location and stylish, minimalistic decor. Oakwood is a bit of a trek out for a West Loiner like myself. However it’s a location I do like. On the cusp of Roundhay Park it benefits from the greenery, but is slightly more gritty and characteristic than its afluent neighbour. The friends I attended with were local lasses and both seemed concerned that there was not enough passing trade to keep the Stew and Oyster afloat. However it seemed busy enough when we were there so I don’t think they have anything to worry about.
On arrival first impressions were good. The venue boasts lots of restrored wood and exposed brick walls. It’s light and airy and welcoming. There are a few interior decor design blunders that kept us giggling – this included an unplastered wall complete with scraps of wallpaper and old wall plugs. I wish I could get away with that in my house! It takes shabby chic to the shabbier level! Also when we were there it didn’t really feel like there were enough tables and chairs – perhaps they want to keep the space for a dancefloor?
The drinks offer is good at the Stew and Oyster. I had a lovely selection of ales to choose from that seemed to change regularly throughout the night. My favourite was Slingers, a golden ale from Wharfebank Brewery that was full of fruity flavour. Later we moved on to their unique selection of gins – most of which I had never seem before. We enjoyed the Chase gin, which is by the guy who makes Tyrrels crisps and I believe it’s made from apples from his estate. Aparently gin is vodka that has been flavoured with botanicals!
As you would expect the food offer at the Stew and Oyster is… stew and oysters! This meant that the menu options were quite limited with about three stews on offer at any one time. This is a bold move as stew is something that is quite standard fare for even the most unadventurous of eaters. I went for the Thai inspired chicken and coconut milk. It was a fairly unexciting green Thai curry that I guess came from a jar (sorry if it it wasn’t!!). It was absolutely fine and edible but did not take my breath away. I could have done with a bit more spice and a homemade curry paste would have elevated it to a winning standard. My dining partners went for the beef in ale – which actually was probably the best of the night. It was rich, meaty and filling, although I think a nice dumpling or two would have finished it off nicely. My other diner was disappointed with her chickpea, bean and cauliflower curry, branding it as inferior to what she could rustle up at home on a week night. All stews were served with bread. Again, the bread was nice but if you’re going to keep it that simple then it does need to be homebaked so that it feels a bit special – or at least from a local baker! I think they do dub their bread as being homemade but it didn’t seem to be particularly artisan to me, which was a shame.
On the whole we all ate our stews in contentment. We were not amazed but at the price of around £7 each we were happy enough. I do think, as I said earlier, that there’s nothing wrong with keeping things simple, but if that’s the case then those things need to be done really well. As it happens we also enjoyed a dozen oysters between us. I do like an oyster but sometimes get a bit ill from them. I’m glad to say I haven’t been ill this time! We enjoyed ours with tabasco and shallot vinegar, which was lush.
Ultimately I enjoyed my trip to the Stew and Oyster and particularly enjoyed their ale selection. I don’t think it will become a new food destination for me, but the fare was more than acceptable for the price. And actually the pork pie platters that I saw someone else getting looked well exciting!!