Entering under an outstretched purple canopy into the small cafe area, which doubles as a welcome hall, we were encountered by an ambiance that would provide an atmospheric backdrop to any evening meal.
The decor falls between country pub and urban chic, with sleek, minimalist chairs and walls mixed in with hearty, wooden tables to generate an atmosphere capable of warming anybody’s cockles. The aesthetic is completed by a high shelf holding an array of stuffed animals that only the most keen-eyed of patrons will spot, and delicately sculpted embracing mice shakers that add a light touch to each table.
Having been directed to our seat by one of the waitresses, who were attentive and charming throughout, we began to feast our eyes on the extensive menu. It offered a wide variety of vegan, fish and meat options, although nothing was explicitly labeled as gluten-free. With everything from falafel to full-bodied steak, even the fussiest eater would’ve been able to find something to suit their fancy. The drinks menu was similarly comprehensive with £7.50 espresso martinis being rejected in favour of craft beer to uphold our fragile identity as cosmopolitan men.
We eventually settled upon chicken liver pate and sweet potato soup for a starter to be followed by duck breast and twice-cooked pork belly. With delightful company, refreshing beverages and background jazz making time pleasantly flow by, the food seemed to arrive in mere minutes.
The chicken liver pate was presented on a long plate alongside four similarly stretched slices of crisp bread, a pot of onion chutney and a perfunctory salad. The delicate creaminess of the healthy portion spread easily with its lightness contrasting excellently with the crunch of the artisan bread. While the chutney would have benefitted from an extra sourness to counteract the pate’s sweet flavour, it did not prevent the dish leaving a lovely nutty aftertaste in the mouth.
The sweet potato and butternut squash soup left you reeling. Seasoned so it tingles on the tongue, its rich veggie taste was very satisfying. Served alongside some crusty bread and a helping of butter, there was no better way to begin the evening meal. The wide diameter bowl and large plate underneath gave a reasonable portion a sense of scale that made it all the more pleasing to take in.
When the main arrived, the duck seemed slightly dwarfed by the huge pork dish it came alongside. However, the smaller portion did not correlate to a decrease in quality. Served on a bed of wilted greens and Parmentier potatoes, there were no prizes for guessing the centrepiece as it lay in elegant slices on the plate. While the texture was slightly too chewy, the flavours more than made up for it with the duck’s salty undertones being complimented by a red wine and rosemary jus that was more like a jelly in its thickness, creating an intriguing dish that left you wanting more.
The pork belly was hard and crispy on the outside with a smoked taste, while the inside was chewy and stocked with flavour. The size was impressive considering the dish’s reasonable price (typical of the whole menu). It came with black pudding mash, baby leeks, and apple cider jus. While the pudding did not add any distinct flavour to the potato, it generated an interesting texture, making it feel filling and like food fit for a Scottish lord. The baby leeks were a bit hard but complemented the dish well, and the presentation was so immaculate that you almost felt bad about tucking in!
The persuasive waitress convinced us to stretch our appetite to dessert, drawing us in with promises of a cheesecake of the day and a selection of cakes. Yet, despite these delicate offerings, we opted for the sticky toffee pudding and Atholl Browse ice cream, with every waiting second increasing the anticipation. However, tucking into it upon its arrival there was a sense of disappointment as the soft toffee sponge was covered with a bitter sauce that left a taste of burnt sugar in the mouth, meaning that, while tasty, the pudding left the only blot on an otherwise delicious meal.
The ice cream, however, was solid – that was, until it melted in your mouth, at which point it became the most wonderful gloop. Flavoured with whiskey and served with oats and berries, it gave a sweet taste of the rugged Highlands that will not disappoint, whatever your views on ice cream may be.
With reasonable prices and a position so close to the university, Urban Fox could easily become a go-to destination for students in search of a dinner out. So whether you’re going for a mates’ get-together or a first date, be sure to check it out to add a bit of class to your evening.
Image: Urban Fox stock images